CAPITAL REGION -- General Electric's charitable foundation is ending its practice of matching charitable contributions made by its retirees.
While the company, which has been struggling to manage its finances in recent years, will continue to match contributions from current employees, the GE Foundation has notified retirees that after April 15 it will no longer match charitable contributions made by retirees, hundreds of whom live in the Capital Region.
Through the foundation, the company donated at least $832,661 to Capital Region charities in 2019, based on the foundation's listing of recipients that received at least $10,000 that year.
The company said the foundation is re-focusing its efforts to concentrate on specific areas of interest, rather than general giving. "This change allows GE to reduce its annual funding contribution to the GE Foundation while ensuring that our important role in our communities continues," Foundation President Linda W. Boff wrote in a Dec. 31 letter to retirees.
“This decision was made after careful consideration of balancing GE’s community support with our work to return the company to a position of strength," the company said through a spokesman. "Going forward, the GE Foundation is focusing its efforts on three priorities: improving STEM education in the communities where we live and work, enhancing workforce diversity and enabling better access to quality healthcare for underserved communities.”
The foundation described the decision to stop matching retiree contributions as a "tough decision." The company couldn't estimate the financial impact of the reduced giving, though it acknowledged there will be a reduction. The company couldn't break down how many foundation donors are retirees, versus active employees.
“While we have made progress on these priorities, we have more work to do and that has required us to make tough decision to help improve our company’s financial position,” Boff wrote in the foundation's letter. “This decision was made after careful consideration of balancing GE’s community support with our work to return the company to a position of strength. I understand that knowledge doesn’t necessarily make this news easier to absorb from a personal standpoint.”
GE’s corporate matching gift program was started in 1954. Nationally, it donated $59 million in 2018. The foundation has matched donations to established charities made by GE employees and retirees above $25, up to $5,000 per calendar year.
Many organizations in the Capital Region benefit from the program. The City Mission of Schenectady was by far the largest beneficiary in 2019, receiving nearly $200,000 from the foundation. It was followed by the Ellis Hospital Foundation, which received nearly $75,000, and Proctors, which received $57,250.
Union, RPI, Siena and Skdimore colleges were all also recipients. In all, 24 charitable organizations or non-profit schools received at least $10,000 from the foundation. The foundation annually releases a list of all recipients who receive more than $10,000 annually, but doesn't list any organizations that received less than that.
GE, which has a Schenectady manufacturing campus for industrial turbines and other products and its global research headquarters in Niskayuna, employs about 4,000 people in the region -- but that's a dramatic reduction from its industrial heyday, when around 40,000 people worked at the Schenectady campus during World War II.