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What The Latest Research Tells Us About Corporate Giving


Corporations donate billions of dollars to nonprofits each year to effect change and increase sales and positive brand sentiment.

When companies donate, is a larger donation, and thus more money, better? Not necessarily.

Harvard Business School’s Elizabeth Keenan, Leslie John and Anne Wilson conducted a series of studies in 2020 and 2021 on this very issue. Their findings offer new insights for companies trying to win the hearts of socially conscious consumers and for nonprofits that build campaigns with their corporate partners.

In today’s episode, EFG’s Alli Murphy is joined by Elizabeth Keenan, Assistant Professor of Business Administration in the Marketing Unit at HBS, to talk about the research, their findings and her advice for corporate and nonprofit leaders.

Elizabeth has both academic and nonprofit experience. Before her doctoral studies and time at Harvard, she spent ten years in nonprofit management at the Aquarium of the Pacific.

In today’s episode, we’ll explore:

  • The series of 5 studies and why the results matter for CSR & social impact professionals
  • Why consumers care more about how companies donate than how much
  • How consumers determine a company’s generosity
  • How companies that donate a high absolute amount but a low percentage of profits can still be seen as generous
  • Elizabeth’s advice for nonprofit and corporate leaders
  • What Elizabeth found surprising about their findings

Links & Notes

Elevate Your Social Impact

  • (00:00) – Welcome to Engage for Good
  • (01:55) – Introducing Liz Keenan
  • (02:53) – What is “Pro Social Action”?
  • (03:44) – Liz’s HBS Studies
  • (08:09) – Consumer Views on Corporate Generosity
  • (10:42) – Guidance for Corporate Leaders
  • (15:35) – Advice for Non-profits
  • (20:07) – Learn More…

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Join Alli Murphy as she interviews top corporate leaders, nonprofit pros, and people who help them advance their careers and organizations. You’ll be inspired by the strategies change-makers follow to build win-win partnerships and campaigns and their actionable advice for advancing your career and developing your social impact team. Subscribe now to learn from the best and get ideas you can implement today!