Working Paper | HBS Working Paper Series | 2013

Who Is Governing Whom? Executives, Governance and the Structure of Generosity in Large U.S. Firms

by Christopher Marquis and Matthew Lee

Abstract

We examine how organizational structure influences strategies over which corporate leaders have significant discretion. Corporate philanthropy is our setting to study how a differentiated structural element—the corporate foundation—constrains the influence of individual senior managers and directors on corporate strategy. Our analysis of Fortune 500 firms from 1996 to 2006 shows that leader characteristics at both the senior management and director levels affect corporate philanthropic contributions. We also find that organizational structure constrains the philanthropic influence of board members, but not of senior managers, a result that is contrary to what existing theory would predict. We discuss how these findings advance understanding of how organizational structure and corporate leadership interact and of how organizations can more effectively realize the strategic value of corporate social responsibility activities.

Keywords: Giving and Philanthropy; Corporate Governance; Governing and Advisory Boards; Leadership; Managerial Roles; Corporate Social Responsibility and Impact; Organizational Structure; Corporate Strategy; United States;

Citation:

Marquis, Christopher, and Matthew Lee. "Who Is Governing Whom? Executives, Governance and the Structure of Generosity in Large U.S. Firms." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 11-121, May 2011.