Evaluation of Corporate Investment in the UK found that the top 30 giving companies are likely to support projects that serve their business interests.
The report, from the Charities Aid Foundation, named Sainsbury's, whose education programme focuses on the understanding of food, and BT, which concentrates on communication projects.
Russell Prior, executive director of company services at CAF, said companies' choices for community investment tended to be driven by stakeholders, who demanded measurable results.
"If a company spends money on community investment, it wants to be able to demonstrate it has an impact," he said. "That's much easier if funding is aligned to core business."