Working Paper | HBS Working Paper Series | 2013

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

by Andras Tilcsik and Christopher Marquis

Abstract

This article focuses on geographic communities as fields in which human-made and natural events occasionally disrupt the lives of organizations. We develop an institutional perspective to unpack how and why major events within communities affect organizations in the context of corporate philanthropy. 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' intercorporate network cohesion moderated some of these effects. This study extends the institutional and community literatures by illuminating the geographic distribution of punctuating events as a central mechanism for community influences on organizations, shedding new light on the temporal dynamics of both endogenous and exogenous punctuating events and providing a more nuanced understanding of corporate-community relations.

Keywords: Natural Disasters; Situation or Environment; Balance and Stability; Organizations; Business and Community Relations; Giving and Philanthropy; United States;

Citation:

Tilcsik, Andras, and Christopher Marquis. "Punctuated Generosity: How Mega-events and Natural Disasters Affect Corporate Philanthropy in U.S. Communities." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 13-060, January 2013. (Forthcoming: Administrative Science Quarterly, 58 (March), 2013.)