Corporate Philanthropy on the Rise in Vietnam

2143370001_a8bced79be LIN Center for Community Development released the report, Corporate Philanthropy in Ho Chi Minh City: An Update on the Status of Giving in Vietnam, in December of 2009.

I finally had the opportunity to review the report. The findings do not surprise me but it does point out some rising trends in Vietnam. Unfortunately, corporate philanthropy and CSR are relatively new concepts in the region so those that are responsible for implementing strategies, formally or informally, find that they are doing so on an ad hoc basis.

The laws are changing to encourage corporate giving and with the increasing presence of multi-national corporations in the region, I can see CSR and corporate philanthropy being more institutionalized in the future. Add to this the rising awareness of philanthropy and groups like LIN that are strengthening the infrastructure of nonprofit groups, and you have an enabling environment for corporate philanthropy and CSR to thrive. The nonprofit sector, corporations, and Vietnam still have a long ways to go in their civil society development and the corporate philanthropy and CSR fields are far from mature.

Some interesting findings from the report:

* Corporate philanthropy is on the rise and that the prospects are good for a continuation of this trend in the future.

* A significant number of corporate giving programs are diffuse and appear to lack a clear focus. Corporate philanthropy is implemented with a top-down approach with decisions being made at the highest levels and implementation ed by marketing, PR or HR departments.

* Ad hoc grantmaking was common. Companies prefer to give cash (grants/sponsorship) and in-kind contributions or products or equipment. Employee volunteer programs and pro bono service is a rising trend, especially among foreign companies.

* Corporations are being publicly recognized for their efforts. In 2008, The Saigon Times weekly and The Saigon Times Daily, included the “support for community development and environmental protection” in their criteria when selecting the annual Top 40 Award for foreign-invested enterprises for excellence in business.

* Suggestions to raise the level of effectiveness of corporate philanthropy include the introduction of support services. These include corporate volunteer placement and management services and a community resource center providing information about community needs, giving strategies and best practices.

It was interesting to note in the report, when asked how much their companies gave in 2008, companies were either unable or unwilling to provide a rough estimate.

A couple of sources said that it was company policy not to share this information. Others explained that their budgets for philanthropy come from multiple sources.

Despite this lack of transparency by some companies, contributions of other companies ranged from US$30,000 to nearly $4 million.

The researchers also asked about the concept of a community foundation. Some corporations said they saw a need and value, especially as a resource and facilitator. Others doubted whether the current policy conditions in Vietnam would allow for such an entity to function properly. There were also concerns about the ability of such an organization to operate independently or produce the level of transparency necessary to operate effectively.

The report provides a general sense of where corporate philanthropy is and what is needed to encourage its growth in Vietnam. Until corporations provide reports on their giving and an entity is able to collect and analyze the data, it is difficult to evaluate the amount and impact of corporate giving in Vietnam. For those managing corporate philanthropy programs in Vietnam, they will need to rely on examples and stories from their colleagues on what to do.

Kudos to LIN for developing this project!

Download the full report by clicking here.

Photo courtesy of Lucas Jans

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