The most generous companies in America

Two supermarket chains and Macy's give the biggest chunk of pre-tax profits to charity. But add it up another way, and Wal-Mart and Goldman Sachs rise to the top.

By MSN Money Partner Oct 24, 2011 11:14AM

By Susan Adams for Forbes


At a time when Occupy Wall Street is shining a light on greed in America, some companies make a point of donating a significant chunk of their profits to charity.


Example: In 2010 Kroger (KR), the Cincinnati supermarket operator, gave away 10.9% of its $589 million in 2009 pre-tax profits, amounting to $64 million.


Kroger tops an annual list put together by The Chronicle of Philanthropy. The magazine tracks corporate giving through a survey it sends to 300 of the nation’s largest companies by revenue. This year, the Chronicle compiled data on 180 companies, culled from survey results and tax forms.


In 2010, total cash donations by the group rose 13%, to $4.9 billion, a boon to nonprofits after the recession resulted in a 7.5% decline in giving in 2009.

The Chronicle helped Forbes put together two lists. The one we think is most meaningful names the companies that are most generous in their cash donations as a percentage of pre-tax profits. Kroger tops that list. According to the company's vice president of corporate affairs, Lynn Marmer, $40 million of Kroger's cash giving flows through a 15-year-old community rewards program, whereby shoppers who carry Kroger's loyalty cards name a local charity they want to support. Kroger then gives 2% to 5% (determined by local stores) of each shopper’s bill as a cash contribution to the school, church, or community group chosen by the customer.


Macy's (M) comes in second on that list; it gave away 8.1% of 2009 profits in 2010, or $41 million. The third most generous: Safeway(SWY), the Pleasanton, Calif., supermarket chain, which gave away 7.6% of 2009 profits, totaling $76.5 million.


The raw cash numbers

The second list shows companies that gave away the most cash as a raw number. Wal-Mart Stores (WMT), which donated $319 million last year, tops that roster. Given that the Bentonville, Ark., retail colossus had pre-tax profits of $22 billion in 2009, its charitable cash donations came to just 1.45% of that sum.


Wal-Mart maintains that it is also giving away products and expertise. Last year it announced a $2 billion five-year effort to fight hunger. But most of that donation will be in food and only $250 million in cash. Food and other product donations are meaningful but tough to measure, since corporations and the Chronicle survey measure product-giving in terms of fair market value, while the cost to the company of such donations is far lower. For that reason, we focused our lists on cash giving.


Second on the list of companies that donated the most cash in 2010 is Goldman Sachs (GS), which increased its contributions by more than threefold to $315 million at a time when its pre-tax profits dropped 35%. Critics have voiced skepticism about Goldman’s generosity, suggesting it may be a way to fend off the criticism of its actions during the liquidity crisis. In April, a Senate panel issued a report accusing Goldman of betting against the mortgage assets it was pitching to clients.


But Goldman officials have said that planning for the three projects responsible for its giving surge was in the works before the financial meltdown. One, a donor-advised fund that takes contributions from firm partners who then recommend charity recipients, was announced in November 2007. Goldman also has a program to help female entrepreneurs in the developing world, called 10,000 Women, announced in March 2008, and another, 10,000 Small Businesses, that aids small enterprises in the U.S., announced in December 2009.


Wells Fargo (WFC) is third on the raw cash list, with $219 million in 2010 donations. A recipient of $25 billion in government bailout money in 2008 which it repaid in 2009, last year the company boosted its giving by 8.5% over 2009. However it didn’t restore donations to the $226 million it gave in 2008, the year it merged with Wachovia.


The Chronicle also asked survey respondents about their giving plans for 2011, and most said that donations would remain steady. Of the 103 companies that responded to this query, 71 said they would keep their cash giving at the same levels as 2010.


Lynn Marmer of Kroger, which supports food banks through a hunger charity called Feeding America, says Kroger’s giving level has remained flat in 2011, though she says the company has seen a hike in demand by the food banks it supports. Kroger donates both cash and food that Marmer says is the equivalent of 125 million meals a year, to food banks. "Food stamps only provide about a half a month’s worth of food," she points out. "Food pantries have seen their volume not just double but quadruple."


Related at




I think Kroger does that with a lot of things.  On Christmas Eve last year I went through their self check out and pressed the button for $40 cash back, and forgot to take it.  By the time I realized and went back in someone else had snatched it (real Christmas spirit huh?).  The manager came up to me and said Merry Christmas, and handed me $40 out of the till.   Totally unexpected since it was my fault.  It was such an enlightenment to my faith in humanity that I put $20 in the Salvation Army pot out front and gave the other $20 to the bell ringer because she looked like she needed it. The whole exchange made my holiday a better one.
Oct 24, 2011 3:21PM
Interesting reading Walmart made $22 Billion.  Yesterday they announced they were cutting their employees' health benefits.  Charity starts at home.  Take care of your employees Walmart.
Oct 24, 2011 2:54PM
There's an independent frozen yogurt store in my community that gave away more than 20% of its pre-tax profits in its very first year in business (2010-2011).  The beneficiaries were all local groups and were primarily schools.  They may not have given away millions of dollars like the big boys listed by havasu46, but they were more generous by the % of profits measure.  Can anyone out there top this % ?  Hats off to all of the unsung, small, Mom & Pop stores out there making a real difference in their communities.
Oct 24, 2011 3:02PM

It is odd to me that people would frown on workers making a livable wage, what is there to frown about?

I work for a family owned company not a large corporation and not one person here makes minimum wage. Everyone here works hard, cares about the customer and a quality product goes out the door. If the employee does not live up to that they are let go (no union reps here).

This has worked well for the last forty years the company makes a very nice profit. Everybody benifits, the owners, employees and the customer.


When I find a business that lives up to this standard I support them even if it means a little higher price for me. I would rather have less "stuff" than buy cheap crap from cheap companies, that in my opinion does harm to our community.


Oct 24, 2011 5:19PM

I'll speak up for Kroger,  AT St. Jude Childrens Research in Memphis,  Kroger donates shopping gift cards to families that are down there with their children.  Some families are there for years on end treating their kids and Kroger's is a huge part of helping save lives.  Without such generosity on thier part the strain on the families trying to save their children

would be monumental.

Thank You Kroger, I'm a St. Jude Partent myself.

Oct 24, 2011 5:27PM

Wal-Mart, always low wages, dismal health benefits. And, why do you fund life insurance premiums for employee's - who's the beneficiary? donate your share of "pre-tax"(tax-deductible) community (P.R.) $'s.


 My mother taught me that charitable giving stats at home. You've got 100, 000 employees. Why not spread some of your $400 mil in ex-ternal givng, too the employees that helped you make it!?

Oct 24, 2011 1:51PM

I am sorry this does not warm my heart! If these same companies would stop cutting benefits (Wal-Mart) and pay their employees a livable wage then perhaps they would not need to give to so many charities. Oh but these "generous" donations are probably pretty good tax write offs. I could be wrong as I am not a corporate tax lawyer. (though the article did say these are pretax dollars)


Just pay people enough to live on so they do not have to stoop to handouts. I will not shop anywhere that does not respect their employees.

Oct 24, 2011 7:41PM
yeah i think its funny that stories like this pop up.  i have worked for walmart in the past, and my wife has worked for both walmart and kroger, and i can tell you quite honestly that whether or not they donate money to charity, both companies lag waaaay behind in employee appreciation via decent pay.  if kroger and walmart are making so much money they can afford to donate multiple millions to whatever, then they most surely can afford to give people full time hours with a wage that enables people to actually have an ok living.  but of course when it comes time for raises, these same companies would claim all kinds of reasons why there isnt money for that kind of thing.  makes me sick
Oct 24, 2011 5:19PM
Oct 24, 2011 3:40PM
Well said, 21HillsSt... I'm sure Walmart's employees are ecstatic you're giving away their good health. THEY are the ones who made you the $22 billion.
Oct 24, 2011 2:45PM

I would make sure my people are paid extremely well before I start giving the money away. Believe me you don't make much at any Grocery store. 

Oct 24, 2011 1:59PM
I've changed careers/companies a lot during my lifetime, not because I've been forced to but rather I get bored and look for something else.  But regardless, EVERY single company I've ever worked for not only made significant "contributions to community", but also encouraged it of it's employees, often on company time.  I'm not so naive to believe the company doesn't benefit in the form of "brand recognition" but it's laughable to me to see these bone headed idiots talk about "corporate greed" when they have not a clue of what really goes on.  If it weren't for the private sector and these "greedy corporations", many a charity would go belly up!!
Oct 24, 2011 5:15PM
Oct 24, 2011 7:01PM

The Kroger company focuses its charitable efforts on supporting hunger relief, health and wellness initiatives, and local organizations in the communities it serves. The company also supports our Troops. Walmart does all the same. But, what about the employees?


 I stand by Kroger because I work for them. My mother worked for Walmart making a crappy $8.50/hr. I made $9.50 doing the same thing at Kroger back home in New Mexico. Hopefully more now that I live in Texas. That little dollar makes a difference. I also get more hours. I actually like going to work because the company makes me feel like I actually matter. I've also recieved bonuses here and there.


For a 20 year old such as myself that's not bad in my book. It'll help with school.

Oct 24, 2011 8:12PM
Goldman Sachs lives out of charity: the Public took over its debts and so they can charitably distribute their bonuses to the top brasses.
Just hypocrisy.

Oct 24, 2011 6:11PM
Another company credited with giving back is Target.  Talk to the employees.  Those who have been working full time and now struggle to get 20 hours a week.  Hard to live on that when that's the only income.  Plus they cut out employee benefits.  The company profit goes up and what they give back is minimal to what they have taken away from their employees.  And if you think well why don't the employees just go get another or 2nd job....  you try to do that today.  Jobs aren't out there, especially for those more mature people.
Oct 24, 2011 8:58PM
To J L :  I also work for Walmart (For 3.5 Years)  and I always feel appreciated.  Every Year I got a .40 per hour raise, get a quarterly bonus, get 100% match on my 401K contributions up to 6% of my wages, get personal time and vacation time, & free life inurance equal to one years annual wages.  .  All this as a 66 yr old retiree cashier who never has worked more than 27.5 hours per week.  Show me another large corporation that would be willing to do this!!!  It just goes to show that because I can be counted on be at work everyday rain or shine, work hard even when I might not feel well (Bad Feet) and always smile and welcome each and every customer that comes to my cash regiter.  This is what companies appreciate.  The lesson to learn from this:  Work hard to earner your wages and you will be appreciated!!!  no one is OWED a Living Wage you have to EARN IT!!!
Oct 24, 2011 9:49PM
impressed with Krogers.  More than 10% is notable.  Stand up for Walmart all you want people but the 1.45% tells the story.
Oct 24, 2011 6:36PM
I'm so glad Kroger & these companies are sharing the wealth, I truly am.  I do wish they'd get their act together with regard to their self insured company benefits.  My sister has been in excruciating pain 24/7 for almost 4 years waiting on back surgery. They fight nearly everything. I would never have imagined that a company could get away with what they've done to her.  I swear they've spent more $ fighting this than if they had just paid for the surgery in the beginning.  Her condition keeps worsening, so everything just keeps going on & on.  I swear, if I/we ever hit the lottery, we'll both retire & spend every last penny changing the system.  I do pray no one else gets hurt @ "The Evil Kroger Empire" & has go through this ridiculous fight.
Oct 25, 2011 2:55AM

have you ever been asked to give a donation to a cause when paying for your merchandise or groceries while shopping?  just know, while it is admirable that you may do so and it probably is good for the recipients of the donations that big stores are asking you, when you give via a large store, for example Safeway groceries (they always ask), it is safeway credited in publicity and large write-offs for your donations.  Many of the donations these companies are credited with are not necessarily part of donations from true earnings but are are your donations.  If you just donated regularly from your own home to the same organization, it is you credited with it and not a third party.  They save a big chunk of money when they donate your donation when they file taxes.  With that said, I am sure they collect more money through persistantly, dilligently asking for the donations via the millions of shoppers they attract and I don't want to say anthing to detour from that.  I only wish the data pertaining to THEIR donations was broken down to reflect what others have contributed...and maybe a holiday turkey @ the end of the year, which you can choose to donate if you like, since you won't be writing it off.  Maybe some donations done in this manner are written off by the individual but my spidey senses tell me otherwise.

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