In the pressurized worlds of commerce and trading, even the most good natured and philanthropic of intentions have their price. This is especially true during times of financial tumult, and the recent economic climate has forced even the most socially responsible Wall Street firms to reconsider their approach to charitable giving. Some companies, however, are upping their charitable donations, with CitiGroup donating $121.9 million in 2011, an 11% increase over its 2010 donations. Corporate donations like this show why Wall Street remains a critical source of revenue for nonprofit ventures as we enter 2012.

SEE: The Christmas Saints Of Wall Street

Goldman Sachs: A History of Philanthropic Interests
Although major banking corporation Goldman Sachs has come under increasing fire for slashing its philanthropic donations significantly in 2011, it should be remembered that the firm has stood as one of the leading lights in charitable giving over recent years. Despite experiencing a 4.4% drop in profits during 2011, and simultaneously reducing its salary and bonus liability by 21%, the organization's decision to cut its charitable giving by nearly 75% was viewed in many quarters as being extremely disproportionate.

However, Goldman Sachs still contributed $78 million to Goldman Sachs Gives, a donor advised fund, as opposed to $320 million in 2010 to the same fund. When you also consider that the firm donated an estimated $500 million to the fund during 2009, its combined total to Goldman Sachs Gives for the previous 36 months equates to just short of $1 billion. The company has disclosed total disbursements to nonprofit oranizations of $315 million in 2010. As recently as June 2011, Goldman Sachs also secured the Premier Corporate Philanthropy Award, thanks to its long-term 10,000 Women campaign that was designed to deliver business and management education to women across the globe.

JP Morgan Chase: More Than 50 Years of Philanthropy
In terms of cultivating sustainable and long-term philanthropic interests, major banking firm JP Morgan Chase boast a significant presence. With an impressive legacy of 50 years work in conjunction with various nonprofit ventures, this international banking stalwart is also renowned for its efforts in offering philanthropic advice to a vast number of social entrepreneurs and socially responsible businesses. In essence, it has committed to a range of philanthropic interests that deliver far more than just financial assistance.

JP Morgan Chase has also been influential in developing a range of community-driven products, the most recent of which saw the firm commit $10 million in grants to underwrite a joint community product in conjunction with the Brooking Institution. The project aims to help public sector and business leaders identify and maximize their communities' greatest economic development resources. Given this and the organization's further development of its own community-giving program through Facebook, which enables the site's users to regularly select a nonprofit to receive a donation of $3 million, JP Morgan Chase is continuing to strive for social improvement in 2012.

Wells Fargo: Bucking the Trend for Philanthropic Activity
Wells Fargo has experienced mixed fortunes over the last three years, making a series of financial headlines for a variety of reasons. For example, while 2011 saw the organization face hostility from its consumers over fees, as its stock dropped by nearly 13%. In the previous 12 months, Wells Fargo had donated more than $219 million to nonprofit ventures. Not only was this an 8.5% increase on its outstanding efforts from the recession hit in 2009, but its distribution was also aimed at solving relevant social and economic issues.

By targeting nonprofit groups and initiatives that assist home owners and minority-owned small businesses, Wells Fargo has led the way in identifying the most pressing nonprofit concerns of the moment. In addition to this, it has also been one of the most prominent Wall Street firms to devise alternative ways of assisting the nonprofit sector. By utilizing financial services and products, Wells Fargo has developed its philanthropic portfolio significantly. An example of this is the firm's work with the Taproot Foundation, which helps to connect nonprofits with skilled business workers, and this type of collaboration proves that corporate firms can still interact successfully with charities once their financial belts are tightened.

The Bottom Line
Wall Street companies have developed an increasingly active relationship with the nonprofit sector over the last decade, as social awareness has increased and corporate giving has become a leading business philosophy. While financial donations alone may have fluctuated over more recent times, organizations such as JP Morgan and Wells Fargo have not only proved that philanthropy is concerned with far more than distributing wealth, but also that the concept of social responsibility remains alive and well on Wall Street.

SEE: Social Finance Careers: Creating A Better World

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