Last year, com­pa­nies in the pri­vate sector made more than $2 tril­lion in profit, but spent less than 1 per­cent of their earn­ings on char­i­table giving, said Curt Weeden, LA’65, one of the nation’s leading experts in cor­po­rate social respon­si­bility.

“Cor­po­ra­tions are hoarding an enor­mous amount of money that is just sit­ting there,” Weeden told more than 100 stu­dents in the Raytheon Amphithe­ater last Friday for the inau­gural address in the North­eastern Students4Giving (NS4G) Lec­ture Series. “They have become incred­ibly cheap in rela­tion­ship to cor­po­rate phil­an­thropy.”

In 2010, for example, cor­po­ra­tions awarded only 5 per­cent of the $290.89 bil­lion raised by non-​​profit orga­ni­za­tions. As Weeden put it, “When it comes to giving away money, they keep it small or not at all.”

Weeden—the former vice pres­i­dent for Johnson & Johnson, where he man­aged the corporation’s $300 mil­lion con­tri­bu­tions program—is on a nation­wide book tour in sup­port of “Smart Giving Is Good Busi­ness.”

His pre­sen­ta­tion, which was spon­sored by a gift from Johnson & Johnson, addressed the human­i­tarian con­tri­bu­tion of dozens of young phil­an­thropists in NS4G. The student-​​led ini­tia­tive is designed to foster lead­er­ship and inno­va­tion in the non­profit sector and pro­mote a campus-​​wide cul­ture of giving through service-​​learning courses, a stu­dent club and part­ner­ships with non­profit orga­ni­za­tions in the Boston neigh­bor­hoods of Mis­sion Hill, the Fenway, Rox­bury and the South End.

Weeden extolled the virtues of cor­po­rate phil­an­thropy, noting that the human­i­tarian prac­tice “enhances cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion, which in turn boosts rev­enue.” But he also explained that many cor­po­rate CEOs down­play the notion that char­i­table giving can solve the country’s job or debt crisis, which he called “the over­riding cloud that hangs over busi­ness.”

For many cor­po­rate leaders, he said, “the busi­ness of busi­ness is busi­ness.”

Weeden chal­lenged the young philanthropists-​​in-​​training to act with power, pur­pose and pas­sion. “Don’t be intim­i­dated by what you’re doing,” he said. “You are as impor­tant or more impor­tant than people in the pri­vate sector.”

He encour­aged stu­dents to head into meet­ings with cor­po­rate CEOs with well-​​researched busi­ness propo­si­tions. “Cor­po­ra­tions make deci­sions on giving based on how the con­tri­bu­tion lines up with busi­ness goals and objec­tives,” he said.

“Don’t’ beg,” he added. “Effec­tive fundraising is 90 per­cent research and 10 per­cent asking.”

Prior to the lec­ture, Weeden held a pri­vate meeting over coffee with five stu­dents in NS4G, including junior inter­na­tional affairs and human ser­vices dual major Allyson Gold­hagen.

“I love the idea of bridging the gap between non-​​profit orga­ni­za­tions and grant-​​makers,” said Gold­hagen, who also serves as a teaching assis­tant for the service-​​learning course Strategic Phil­an­thropy and Non­profit Man­age­ment. “Our phil­an­thropy pro­gram is empow­ering because stu­dents get prac­tical expe­ri­ence by making grants while making a difference.”