The United States is home to some massive companies that employ vast groups of people and move millions to trillions of products and dollars. As part of their ongoing quest to gain good PR, give back and reduce their tax liabilities, many of these large corporations participate in charitable giving. They do so to the tune of upwards of a billion dollars.

The practice of corporate sponsorship and giving in the United States is almost as old as corporations themselves. In 2012, thirteen of the biggest companies in America gave over $100 million to charity, and 2013 looks to find most corporations maintaining the previous years’ giving totals over ongoing concerns about the economy. Here is a look at what is given and to whom, when it comes to some of the most notable names and businesses on the current American corporate landscape.

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Wells Fargo

Because they’re a bank and they’re heavily invested — literally and metaphorically — in the economy and real estate, Wells Fargo gives much of its corporate donations to programs and organizations that promote long-term economic health and growth in neighborhoods and communities. With community development, education, financial contributions, efforts toward affordable housing, environmental stewardship plans and support and more, Wells Fargo focuses their charitable giving efforts on local people and local efforts because they believe that only those living and working in a community can best see what that community’s needs are. They support almost 20,000 different nonprofit organizations and schools across the nation, and they give over $300 million annually. With profits in 2012 hitting just around $19 billion, their amount of giving reflects about 1.5 percent of their net. One of the main recipients of their efforts is the United Way Worldwide.

Exxon Mobil

Exxon Mobil Corporation’s main philanthropic efforts take place through its own charitable branch: Exxon Mobil Foundation. Last year, the foundation gave over $250 million around the world, almost half of which went to educational efforts. From a giving perspective, the Exxon Mobil Foundation focuses on promoting math and science education, as well as malaria prevention and economic opportunities for women. With profits around $45 billion for 2012, Exxon’s giving represents about .5 percent of their profits. Specific focuses within their main efforts include teacher training, malaria education and the development of economic opportunities for women in 90 different countries.


Walmart is the heavy hitter when it comes to sheer amount of giving. With over $1 billion given in cash and in-kind contributions, they also logged over two million hours of volunteer services in 2012 alone. Often a lightning rod of criticism when it comes to worker pay and benefits, as well as its buying practices, Walmart works hard to contribute both in the United States and abroad in these core areas:

  • Hunger relief and healthy eating
  • Environmental sustainability
  • Women’s empowerment
  • Career opportunities and development
  • Special interest and needs, like natural disasters and veteran programs


Starbucks saw an increase in their giving of almost 200 percent in 2012. Focused on being a neighbor throughout the communities they rely on throughout the world, Starbucks is committed to a profit model that includes and practices a social conscience. The bulk of their giving falls into these categories:

  • Community service
  • Community stores
  • Youth leadership programs
  • Farming
  • Diversity
  • Job creation


Target gives roughly 5 percent of its profits to charity, and the bulk of the charities that they support are education-based. From education grants to their REDcard program that lets consumers donate 1 percent of all their REDcard purchases to the K-12 school of their choice, Target works hard to promote education in the United States. In addition to their education initiatives, the retail giant also supports the United Way, public safety efforts and hunger initiatives through Feeding America.

Corporate America is a land of mighty coffers overflowing with mighty money. From education and malaria prevention to economic development and job creation, the United States’ biggest companies participate in charitable giving. Whether PR stunt or not, the truth is that billions of dollars are given every year to organizations, non-profits, people and groups whose good work might not otherwise be able to continue.

About the Author: Penny Wisher is a contributing writer and business consultant who specializes in charitable giving contributions.