Who is governing whom? Executives, governance, and the structure of generosity in large U.S. firms


Correspondence to: Christopher Marquis, Harvard Business School, 333 Morgan Hall, Boston, MA 02163, U.S.A. E-mail: cmarquis@hbs.edu


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