Doctor of Philosophy
School of Management and Marketing
Cantrell, John, Factors influencing the NPO support decisions of large Australian corporations: a giving manager perspective, Doctor of Philosophy thesis, School of Management and Marketing, University of Wollongong, 2012. http://ro.uow.edu.au/theses/3745
This study uses the findings from in-depth semi-structured qualitative interviews with senior specialist managers of large corporations in Australia to discover the factors influencing decisions they make in providing support to nonprofit organisations (NPO’s) in Australia. The literature reveals there has been an increase in the corporate assistance to NPO’s in Australia, and that this corporate giving has changed over time. Corporate support of NPO’s has metamorphosed from philanthropy (giving without expectation of a return), to “strategic philanthropy” (giving where there is a direct link of benefits between the organisation and society), to being subsumed into what is currently termed corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs (having a strategic focus to objectives and activities that fulfil stakeholder expectations).
With the increasing professionalism of corporate giving demonstrated by these changes, one key actor is emerging as significant in the giving behaviour of large organisations – the manager primarily responsible for implementing NPO support decisions. This specialist manager is termed the “corporate giving manager” in this study, and the literature demonstrates the influences on the decisions they make remain largely unexplored. This research addresses the question of “What are the influences on the decisions made by the corporate giving manager in their management role of developing and implementing nonprofit support decisions?”, and this is answered through the creation and presentation of a conceptual model of the influences on the decisions of the corporate giving manager.
The dominant influences were identified through a thematic content analysis of interviews with twenty six corporate managers, with the sample size being determined on the concept of theoretical saturation. One major contribution of this research is that the analysis of these interviews reveals that the prime influence on the giving managers’ decision making is the stakeholder focus of their company’s CSR programs. This focus typically is predominately either internal, or external or a balanced combination of both. The analysis demonstrates that the corporate giving manager is the nexus in a web of corporate support, and that their role, and their influence on CSR policy is partly determined by the evolution of CSR in their company.
Other contributions of this research include providing new insights into the development of NPO support decisions of the giving managers, and therefore their corporations. Corporate giving managers use their perception of corporate motive to determine NPO fit with corporate objectives. This determination, combined with the influence of other factors, termed “micro-influences”, such as the geographic relevance of NPOs, the need for employee volunteering, the staff connectedness with an NPO and managerial values, assist the giving manager in making NPO support decisions. In addition, it has been found that large organisations initiate some support relationships. This suggests that marketing communications by the NPO, particularly those aimed at improving awareness of the NPO, will become increasingly important. Large organisations also commonly use a tiered structure to their support in order to address different stakeholders’ needs.
For NPO managers to understand the decisions of the giving manager it is necessary for them to examine sources of company information to discover the corporate objectives of, and their prime motivations for, their support. In summary, what an NPO requires should determine who they ask, and who and how they ask can significantly influence what they receive.
It may seem obvious to suggest that NPO’s should specifically adapt their support requests to meet the needs of their potential large donors but (a) many giving managers observed that this was severely lacking in many of the requests they received, and (b) the necessary adaption of NPO requests suggested by the influences on corporate decision making is significantly different to that most NPO’s would usually do. To facilitate the necessary adaption of requests, a new emphasis for NPO research is suggested when they are evaluating the potential of large corporations to support a request.
To better structure their requests NPO’s should also understand the processes large organisations use when determining which NPO will receive support and the mix of resources to be provided for NPO’s. In response to this need, a step by step approach to implementing NPO support in large organisations has been developed. This will also be useful to those managers currently in, or intending to take up role of a giving manager, especially those tasked with establishing new strategic corporate programs.