By Meera Jagannathan
Giving to social-justice and racial-equity causes surged amid global protests over police brutality last summer, but shrank back to their original levels by the end of 2020, according to a report on “corporate purpose” published the same day a jury found ex-officer Derek Chauvin guilty of murdering George Floyd.
The share of donations going toward social justice and racial equity plunged from 51% of total donation volume in June 2020 to just 5% in December, the report said, “in a trend that we see repeated all too often when a problem is no longer perceived as acute by the news cycle.”
Last June, in the immediate aftermath of Floyd’s May 25 death, a record-setting $300 million-plus in donations flowed to 64,000 nonprofits via Benevity, a Canadian company that manages employee giving and other social-responsibility functions for companies, including MarketWatch parent group News Corp /zigman2/quotes/201755982/composite NWSA +5.54% .
The $166 million in donations to social-justice and racial-equity causes represented more than half (51%) of donations that month — more than 15 times the $10 million donated the previous month, according to Benevity’s report .
“For the first time in Benevity’s history, nonprofits in these cause categories made up nearly all of the top 10 recipient organizations,” the report noted. Employee-volunteer hours through corporate-purpose programs ticked up 16% from May to June.
Corporate tech leaders like Apple /zigman2/quotes/202934861/composite AAPL +0.53% CEO Tim Cook and Google /zigman2/quotes/205453964/composite GOOG +0.73% CEO Sundar Pichai also announced their companies would match employee donations. “Many more companies engaged employees in a variety of ways, such as signing petitions and promoting learning, awareness and behavioral change,” Benevity added, as well as facilitated giving through public giving portals and corporate grants.
But the report added: “sustained action remains a challenge.”
Nearly 11 months after 46-year-old Floyd died with his neck pressed beneath Chauvin’s knee, a jury on Tuesday found the former Minneapolis police officer guilty of murder and manslaughter.
The case — propelled by bystander video capturing Floyd’s final moments — had sparked global protests and renewed scrutiny of police violence, racial discrimination and historical inequalities.
Floyd’s death, as well as the deaths of many other unarmed Black Americans including Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and Elijah McClain, also spurred donations to organizations that work to address racial injustice. (For more on how to make a difference with donations to racial-equity causes, check out MarketWatch’s guide here .)
The Benevity report highlighted plenty of positive trends too. “Corporate purpose shifted from statements to action,” and a record number of companies for the first time invested in customer-giving initiatives, it said.
Corporate giving through Benevity increased in dollars by 61% last year, and individual giving rose 67%. The number of unique donors grew 51% year over year, and people contributed 41% more dollars per donation.
Some 51% of all donations went to nonprofits working to advance racial justice and equity, including the NAACP and the Equal Justice Initiative, according to Benevity. The nonprofit food-bank network Feeding America and Second Harvest of Silicon Valley, a San Jose food bank, saw large year-over-year donation surges amid heightened food insecurity .
“People continued taking action, not only in response to major events but on a number of other personal issues and causes that required attention in what was a challenging year for nonprofits,” the report said. “And they weren’t just giving more often; incentivized by the businesses that were running successful matching campaigns, they were also giving more of their own money.”