A company that practices corporate social responsibility (CSR) embraces responsibility for its actions and, through its activities, positively affects the environment, society, consumers, employees, communities, and other stakeholders. One type of CSR is philanthropic giving. The roots of corporate philanthropy in the United States date back to the rise of industry in the 19th and early 20th century, when pioneering businessmen like Henry Ford and John D. Rockefeller established a number of philanthropic foundations. Today, corporate philanthropy can involve donating funds, goods, or services to another organization or cause. For example, the local branch of a bank might donate money to fund the purchase of uniforms for a school sports team, or a health care company might donate to the city opera.
While individual philanthropists use their own resources to change the world for the better according to their interests, corporate philanthropy directs organizational resources to support a worthy cause or address a societal need. The practice is not without its critics; some complain that philanthropic CSR is not directly related to an organization's core business. For instance, many large arts organizations receive funding from corporations in completely different industries simply because their executives happen to love music and wish to support a local symphony. Although philanthropic CSR may provide public relations or branding advantages to a business, these benefits are difficult to measure and track.
A business's philanthropic activity does not occur without oversight. Since the early 2000's, corporations have sought to hold charities accountable for how they use donations. As a result, many nonprofit groups have adopted business practices for measuring their own performance. In this way, these beneficiaries of philanthropy demonstrate both a responsible use of the funds they have received and evidence of their performance relative to their mission. Companies engaging in philanthropic CSR can then use those results to measure the impact of their own efforts to support social causes.