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Wal-Mart Ranks as Most Generous Company

AT&T and Bank of America round out the top three charitable donators of 2009


If your charity is looking for a large lump of cash, think about asking companies like Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT), AT&T (NYSE: T) or Bank of America (NYSE: BAC). In its yearly report, The Chronicle of Philanthropy reported the most generous companies of 2009, and the previous three headline the list.

Wal-Mart took the top spot, having donated over $288 million in cash this past year.  AT&T and Bank of America were not far behind with $240 million and $209 million donated, respectively.  Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC) and ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM) rounded out the top five.

While these companies certainly dished out the dough this past year, it is worth noting that most of these giants donated much less than they had in previous years.

Wal-Mart may have topped the list, but it gave nearly $32 million less than it had in 2008.

In fact, General Electric (NYSE: GE) was the only company in the top 10 to increase its charitable donations, giving over $138 million in 2009 — an increase of $5 million.

The Chronicle reported that cash donations declined by 7.5% in 2009, attributing the decline as a sign of the recession.

The report also included a survey on the donation habits of 102 companies, and while 54% of them reported donating less cash than in 2008, 73% predicted that their donations would remain stable this fall.

Many companies may have cut down on their cash donations, but others have begun donating products and services to make up for cash declines. Pharmaceutical company Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) donated over $2.3 billion worth of non-cash gifts, while Oracle (NASDAQ: ORCL) and Merck (NYSE: MRK) donated $2.1 billion and $886 million in products respectively.

The same survey found that 54% of the listed companies encourage their employees to donate time and volunteer, if giving money was not an option.

It will be interesting to see how these large companies rank in 2010, as the broader markets have gained momentum as of late, and companies continue to show positive earnings momentum. If corporate profits are any indication of corporate donations, various charities and foundations should be expecting larger donations than they received in 2009. The earnings per share of the top five 2009 corporate donors (excluding the 1,156% gain from BAC) are expected to grow 18% in 2010.

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