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Pfizer Led Corporate America’s Biggest Givers Last Year

July 23 (Bloomberg) -- Corporate donors kept a tighter hold on cash in 2011 even while increasing their total gifts of money and products to $17.1 billion, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s annual report.

Donations by 166 U.S. companies surveyed by the Chronicle gained 15 percent from 2010, according to data released simultaneously today by the newspaper and Bloomberg Rankings. The cash portion grew more slowly, rising 4.4 percent in 2011 after a 13 percent jump a year earlier, as companies showed more caution amid waning consumer confidence and a debt crisis in Europe, Chronicle editor Stacy Palmer said in an interview.

Pfizer Inc., the world’s largest drugmaker, was corporate America’s largest donor for a third straight year, granting $3.1 billion in gifts in 2011. The New York-based company’s total was little changed in 2011 and cash donations dropped 18.5 percent as grant partnerships ended.

“Every company is stepping back and making sure that its philanthropy is as efficient and effective as it can be,” Caroline Roan, president of the drugmaker’s Pfizer Foundation, said in a telephone interview. “We are not looking to make huge new investments, but are assessing opportunities as they come and making sure that people have access to the health care they need.”

Some companies did manage to increase their cash contributions. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s largest retailer, led the list of cash donors with $342.4 million, a 7.2 percent increase, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s data. Starbucks Corp. almost tripled its cash giving to $30.5 million last year, the Seattle-based coffee-shop operator said.

Demand Increases

Demand for aid from nonprofits has increased at a faster pace than philanthropic giving by companies, Palmer said.

“Because of the small growth, many nonprofits aren’t getting the money they need to do their jobs,” Palmer said. “They are having to look to other sources like individuals since they can no longer depend as heavily on these large companies.”

The companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Stock Index hold about $1.45 trillion in cash on their books, up from about $1.36 trillion a year earlier, according to their latest quarterly filings compiled by Bloomberg.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kelly Blessing in New York at kblessing@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Kevin Miller at kmiller@bloomberg.net

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