Utahns are a generous lot. Ask them to open their wallets and purses just one more time for a worthy cause and they'll usually sigh, dredge up a smile and say, "Sure, glad to help."
Nevertheless, Utahns' inability to "just say no" to the seemingly endless plea for funds from charities and social welfare groups has been severely tested in this decade.If anyone thought President Reagan was kidding when he vowed in 1980 to get private business and private citizens to shoulder a much larger share of the charity burden that Uncle Sam had been carrying through the '60s and '70s, they soon learned he was dead serious.
And President Bush shows no signs of wanting to end that new "tradition" of public/private partnership.
What, then, can the person involved in "development" - the curious euphemism for fund raising - do in this age of fierce competition for the donated dollar? Same as everyone else: become more creative, try to beat the other guy to the punch and work like a plow horse.
But what of the companies themselves - the corporate entities large and small that have been asked to tote the load the federal government has put down? Not surprisingly, some have taken it up with a willing heart, others have looked away, pretending not to notice it. National studies show that 50 percent of all philanthropic dollars come from only 1 percent of the country's corporations.
What is the motivation of those who bear the load? Is it simply altruism? Hardly. According to national fund-raising expert Anita Rook, there are many reasons corporations give money. They want to:
- Improve their markets.
- Improve their public image.
- Benefit employees and their families.
- Support interests of senior management.
- Receive recognition and awards.
- Respond to peer pressure.
- Maintain community stability.
Does this self-interest somehow taint their generosity? Not a bit. Any business objective, whether charitable or profit-seeking, that is not a "win-win" situation would eventually fail or be reduced to sporadic, grudging donations to "get them off our backs" - virtually useless to ongoing charitable programs.
Still, the methods and the means vary even among those companies with a solid track record of giving. Why do they do it? How do they choose who gets their donations? We asked four diverse Utah companies to talk about their charitable programs:
The 11 Alphagraphics stores in Utah (70 employees), do more than many much larger firms, with major efforts supporting In-School Scouting, Big Brothers & Big Sisters Bowlathon, the R-UDAT Study, Easter Seals, the Salt Shakers and in-kind printing/copying donations to the Utah Symphony, Ballet West, KUED, KUER and the University of Utah Crimson Club.
But Alphagraphics Utah President Kermit Johnson was particularly inspired when he made his facsimile (FAX) machines available to Chinese students to send messages home during the recent democracy rallies in their country that resulted in the killings - and ensuing crackdown by the Beijing government - in Tiananmen Square.
Now, students are selling "Democracy for China" T-shirts at the stores to help raise funds for Faxing more messages to China. Johnson has made these available at $10 each through his office in Exchange Place and also through his drive-up window at 604 S. State. All proceeds go to the student organization.
Johnson also spends some 15 percent of his time on In-School Scouting, which he heads with Mayor Palmer DePaulis. The program brings the Scouting experience to inner city "at risk" children who are normally not exposed to Scouting programs.
The program is funded entirely by corporations and individuals, giving Johnson the chance to experience what it is like to be the one asking for money, as well as being the donor. He is currently asking Utah companies to support the project.
Tax writeoffs are a major component of corporate giving, but Johnson downplays it as a motivator. "The tax part hasn't been evaluated, that's not why we do it," he said. "Many of our donations go entirely unrecorded. We view our giving as an investment in the future (because) as Salt Lake goes, so goes our business."
In deciding where their donation dollars should go, Johnson says he and his staff have to pick and choose but usually end up backing those causes that they personally believe are important.
"We've had to establish some policies," he explained. "I get a call virtually every day from someone wanting us to make a donation, (but) we no longer will talk with telephone solicitors who are being paid to call and ask for something from us.
"The most effective way for people to approach us is one-on-one by someone we know, someone with some credibility. Increasingly, we're becoming concerned about scams."
Donating is not always a "feel good" proposition even for the donor, said Johnson. "People remember the `no' you're sometimes forced to give, more than they remember the times we've been able to say `yes.' There are several hundred good causes here in Utah, and there's always a risk of becoming myopic and thinking your cause is the only one that counts."
With 3,500 employees at its Bacchus Works plant in Magna and another 700 at its Clearfield facility, Hercules is one of the larger companies with Utah operations and is among 22 Utah corporations involved in the Corporate Volunteer Council, begun three years ago.
The group's purpose is not to donate funds but rather to find ways to match volunteers with projects - they choose three a year - and needs. Hercules has 35-40 people who volunteer on a regular basis. Community Affairs Manager Roxann Webb maintains a computer database listing employees' experience and interests that she uses to match them with community needs.
Hercules also donates to area elementary schools for new playgrounds, operates a speaker's bureau, participates in a BICEP program to inform kids about skills needed to become engineers, supports West Fest Days and local beauty pageants, donates tickets to local events, runs ads on Utah buses for a Women in Business project and donates items for KUED's auction.
"We want to help kids understand the importance of pursuing math and science," said Webb. "These kinds of community efforts help us reach those aims and, at the same time, give us a positive plus of being part of the community."
There's also a "selfish" reason, she explains. "We'd like people to stay here in Utah, to use their math and science to help our corporation."
She says Hercules receives 15-20 calls per week for donations and she has four pieces of advice for those solicitors:
- "Have more facts together about the program you want us to support.
- "Tell us what the money will go toward.
- "Don't get unreasonably upset if we can't make the donation.
- "Plan ahead. Call us at the beginning the year, rather than after budgets are set."
MORRIS/ASK MR. FOSTER TRAVEL
Morris/Ask Mr. Foster has 22 offices, 20 of which are in Utah with 375 employees. The company receives about 10 requests a week for donated trips, of which about 20 percent are approved - 100-200 free trips a year. Most donations are tickets, some are cash, and a significant portion are to charter destinations.
The travel firm as become "Partners in Education" with Northwest Intermediate School in Salt Lake City. Rick Frendt, president, estimates half of the student body has gone on a flight this past year courtesy of Morris/Ask Mr. Foster.
The students earn trips by reaching certain academic achievements. Generally, the flights are "turnarounds" where students travel to a destination and immediately return. Some have visited the Denver mint for the day, others have received free trips to Disneyland for themselves and their families.
The company's sister organization, Morris Air Service, participates with both companies sharing the cost. The program is now four years old.
"Personally, I consider this the most rewarding corporate program we're involved in," said Frendt. "We go to the students' award assembly every year and are able to feel a part of helping these kids achieve."
Other Morris/Ask Mr. Foster donations include three trips to the South Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce's "One Golden Summer" program, the Society to Prevent Blindness golf tournament, Arthritis Foundation and the High High Rugby team. A few years ago, the company donated more than $100,000 of its corporate stock to the Utah Symphony and then later bought it back.
"We're very proud of our efforts, but we don't do them to pat ourselves on the back," said Larry Gelwix, executive vice president. "We want to be recognized as being more than casually involved in the community. The publicity it generates for us is a factor, but it's not a driver. We've made many anonymous gifts without public fanfare."
Frendt and Gelwix say their company chooses projects that benefit Utah first. "We want to do things that can impact the local economy" said Frendt. "We ask people to put things in writing and give their federal identification number which helps us know they're legitimate. We also want to know details of their event and specifics of how our donation would be used."
As with Hercules, Morris/Ask Mr. Foster believes the early bird gets the donation. "It's tough when people approach you with the idea of `I need this tomorrow.' We like to be included from the first, instead of at the last minute," said Frendt.
THE GOLDEN SPOON
With eight stores in Utah employing some 100 people, the Golden Spoon frozen yogurt has been here since 1986. It also has operations in California and Nevada.
According to President Mike Glauser, the company has a broad-based program of giving. They donate free yogurt to elementary schools and "Golden Spoon dollar bills" to organizations that keep the money they raise by selling them for pep clubs, high school band uniforms and such.
The company sponsors running and bicycle races and Special Olympics as well as its own race. This year, The Golden Spoon will sponsor the former Brigham to Brigham Classic on Sept. 2 with all proceeds going to Salt Lake Valley Mental Health.
The company has also made cash donations to East High, and they are a sponsor of the Deseret News Marathon and 10K by making free products available.
According to Glauser, the company's motivation is to pay back the community for its support. Also, he has found that giving away a product is a very effective advertising tool.
"Ours is a low-ticket business. The typical customer spends about $1.50 in our store each visit. We're in a business where there's the luxury of giving away a lot of free things to people who want it. The payoff is with good relations, good will."
Total Corporate gifts:
1986 - $4.50
1985 - $4.30
1984 - $3.80
1983 - $3.30
1982 - $2.90
1981 - $2.51
Corporations can give up to 10% of their pre-tax net income.
Approximately 25% of all U.S. businesses have or report contribution programs.
Percent of PTNI (pre-tax net income) corporations give
1983 - 1.75%
1984 - 1.70%
1985 - 1.97&
1986 - 1.91%
Percent of pre-tax net income........1985
Stone, glass, clay products..........2.31%
Food, beverages, tobacco.............1.48%
Petroleum and gas....................1.53%
How it was distributed
Health and human services.............$494.1
Culture and art.......................$187.5
Civic and community activities........$279.5