Article | Administrative Science Quarterly | March 2013

Punctuated Generosity: How Mega-events and Natural Disasters Affect Corporate Philanthropy in U.S. Communities

by Andras Tilcsik and Christopher Marquis


Geographic communities have been shown to affect organizations through their enduring features, but less attention has been given to communities as sites of human-made and natural events that occasionally disrupt the lives of organizations. We develop a social-normative perspective to unpack how and why major events within communities affect organizations. To test this framework, we examine how different types of mega-events (the Olympics, the Super Bowl, political conventions) and natural disasters (such as floods and hurricanes) affected the philanthropic spending of locally headquartered Fortune 1000 firms between 1980 and 2006. Results show that philanthropic spending fluctuated dramatically as mega-events generally led to a punctuated increase in otherwise relatively stable patterns of giving by local corporations. The impact of natural disasters depended on the severity of damage: while major disasters had a negative effect, smaller-scale disasters had a positive impact. Firms' philanthropic history and communities' inter-corporate network cohesion moderated some of these effects. This study extends institutional and community literatures by illuminating the geographic distribution of punctuating events as a central mechanism for community influences on organizations; sheds new light on the temporal dynamics of both endogenous and exogenous punctuating events; and provides more nuanced understanding of corporate-community relations.

Keywords: geographic communities; punctuated equilibrium; corporate social responsibility; institutional theory; Natural Disasters; Situation or Environment; Balance and Stability; Corporate Social Responsibility and Impact; Business and Community Relations; Giving and Philanthropy; United States;


Tilcsik, Andras, and Christopher Marquis. "Punctuated Generosity: How Mega-events and Natural Disasters Affect Corporate Philanthropy in U.S. Communities." Administrative Science Quarterly 58, no. 1 (March 2013): 111–148.