Newcomers to the region bring their charitable dollars with them

By Jonathan O'Connell and Marjorie Censer
Monday, August 9, 2010

The Washington area has been exceedingly fortunate -- or skilled, depending on one's perspective -- at attracting the headquarters of top American corporations in recent years. Fairfax County landed two major headquarters in 2008 (Volkswagen of America and CSC), another two in 2009 (Science Applications International Corp. and Hilton Worldwide) and learned this year that Northrop Grumman would arrive by 2011.

Governors, county executives and mayors jockeying to land company headquarters frequently cite jobs as the top reason to offer subsidies and incentives, but those sometimes amount to far less than anticipated. But there's another reason corporate relocations are considered important: the expectation that the companies will bring with them heaps of charitable dollars.

And not just dollars. Terri Lee Freeman, president of the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region, said approaches to giving can vary. For example, she said consulting firm Deloitte offers thousands of hours of pro bono expertise, providing analysis and business management expertise to local nonprofits, while Capital One, the financial giant based in McLean, has long operated a locally focused grant program through its foundation.

"We want all the companies that are here to look at this region as their home and make as much [of] an impact through their community efforts as they do from the fact that they are employing people from the region," Freeman said.

When hundreds of executives move into a region, there will always be an impact, said Steve Gunderson, president and chief executive of the Council on Foundations, an Arlington-based national association for foundations and corporate giving programs.

"It's very clear that when you bring a corporate headquarters to your community, what you do is you bring the upper-level compensated people within that company into your community, and simply by virtue of doing that you are going to have individuals engage civically and philanthropically in ways that would not happen otherwise," he said.

Here's what Washington can expect from its five newest corporate citizens, based on e-mailed responses from the companies and interviews with past and current charitable partners.

Hilton Worldwide

Hilton's community impact begins with its president and chief executive, Christopher J. Nassetta, an Arlington native. Though Hilton moved from Beverly Hills only last year, Nassetta, a former chief development officer for the Oliver Carr Co., already has deep ties to the area. He is a member of the Federal City Council, has served in multiple positions for the Arlington Free Clinic, is on the board of directors for the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts and serves on the corporate fund board for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

What won't be coming to Washington with Hilton's headquarters is the foundation established by the company's founder. The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, which made a whopping $80.1 million in grants last year, is no longer connected to the company and will stay put in Los Angeles.

Not only that, but business in the hotel industry has been no trip to the beach in recent years, which has affected the giving of chains like Hilton. Still, it has already begun making contributions to some D.C. charter schools.


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