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Corporate Gifts to Schools Rising

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The nation's largest corporations are not giving quite as generously as they have over the past few years, but more of what they give is going to education.

A Conference Board survey of 372 Fortune 500 companies released last week showed a total of $1.7 billion donated by the corporations to charitable organizations in 1986.

Their combined giving--up 3 percent from the previous year--represented an estimated 37 percent of all 1986 charitable gifts by U.S. corporations.

The 1986 increase was modest compared with the growth in giving earlier in the decade, when businesses increased contributions by as much as 26 percent annually.

But the survey also found that 43 percent of the 1986 total--$718 million--was earmarked for education-oriented programs, more than ever before and up from 38 percent in 1985.

The level of corporate support for education has always been high, but Conference Board officials say education's growing share of the philanthropic dollar is a sign of a "heightened awareness" in the business community. "This shows that major corporations these days are aware of the truly critical need for support of education, particularly on the precollegiate level," said Linda Cardillo Platzer, senior research associate for the Conference Board.

"Businesses realize that there is a whole segment of society that is not being reached because they are never getting out of high school,'' she said.

A separate report to be released by the Council for Aid to Education estimates total giving by all U.S. corporations at $4.5 billion in 1986.

Of that total, education received about $1.95 billion, the same percentage (43 percent) as reported by the Conference Board.

Jane Hammond, director of research for the council, said it estimates that, of the funding for education, 70 to 75 percent goes to higher-education programs. The rest goes to precollegiate programs, student scholarships, economics-education organizations, and various other projects.

Some statistics indicate that support for precollegiate programs is rising, however.

The Conference Board reports that 5.2 percent of the gifts to education in 1984 by companies that itemized their grants went to precollegiate programs. The percentage increased to 6.1 percent in 1986.

Ms. Hammond said these figures do not mean a loss in donations to higher education. "More money is going to education in general, on both levels," she said.--lj

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