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August 10, 2010; Source: USA Today | This very useful survey of corporate philanthropy in 2009 reveals the story in numbers that we long suspected: corporate cash giving was way down in 2009 (by 7.5 percent), balanced off somewhat, but not entirely, by donations of products and in-kind services.

Cash counts when it comes to nonprofit fiscal health, so identifying the top corporate cash donors is important. The top corporations with more than $100 million in cash donations in 2009 were in rank order: Wal-Mart ($288.1m, down 10.1 percent from 2008), AT&T ($240m, down 12.6 percent), Bank of America ($209.1m, down 2.9 percent), Wells Fargo ($202m, down 10.5 percent), Exxon Mobil ($187.1m, down 0.6 percent), Johnson & Johnson ($175.9m, down 12.0 percent), Chevron ($145.3m, down 9.2 percent), General Electric ($138.8m, up 3.8 percent), Target ($133.9m, down 3.1 percent), Microsoft ($113.0m, down 7.4 percent), and JP Morgan Chase ($104.4m, up 0.3 percent).

Some big corporate donors actually increased their reported cash donations in 2009: GE, JP Morgan Chase, Nike, Coca Cola, Eli Lilly, Morgan Stanley, Kroger, Merck, and Medtronic. Still, it was a bad year for corporate philanthropy for some corporate behemoths, notably Citigroup (down 32 percent), Pfizer (down 21.1 percent), Ford Motor Company (down 41.2 percent), Bristol Meyers Squibb (down 20.2 percent), United Health (down 17.3 percent), IBM (down 16.4 percent), and Alcoa (down 32.7 percent).

Most of the surveyed corporations say that they intend to hold steady with their giving in 2010. Will that happen? It all depends on whether the economy is on an upswing, as tortuously slow as it seems to be. With July’s economic indicators trending downward, who knows where the economy will go in August and through the last quarter of the year.—Rick Cohen