The champions of corporate community involvement: an exploratory two-stage study of why and how individuals impact corporate community involvement in their organisations

Black, Xavier
Ingley, Coral
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Master of Business
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Auckland University of Technology

This study explores the role of managers and manager-owners in decisions to engage the community and select particular social causes. This exploratory study aims to investigate why and how individuals impact on corporate community involvement (CCI) in their organisations. This is of significance in New Zealand as corporate philanthropic funding to the non-profit sector accounts for only three percent, which is low by international comparisons (Tennant, O’Brien & Sanders, 2008).

The role of managers and their influence on CCI has been vociferously debated, with some arguing that personal impact should be limited and CCI decisions should be made solely according to profit maximisation. This perspective has used a rational and cognitive model of decision making paired with the Expectancy or reward/reinforcement theory in motivation to argue that management rationally considers the firm and then selects the best strategic option. This study turns to contemporary psychology to propose that managers may use ‘hot’ mental processing, including making CCI decisions based on values, emotions, ideologies and their own sense of identity.

This study utilises a two-stage mixed method approach. The first stage investigated six respondents utilising a phenomenology approach to give a detailed description of each manager’s frame of reference and how this frame of reference impacted CCI outcomes. The second stage of this study progressed from a description to offering a theoretical explanation of the phenomenon, investigating the variables influencing how managers expressed their personal frame of reference in behaviour and the consequential impact on CCI decision making.

This study found that managers and manager-owners held a strong sense of values, well defined ideologies, emotions, preferences and opinions regarding social issues which constructed the frame of reference surrounding their organisations community involvement. However, the existence of the personal frame of reference did not consistently impact the visible behaviour of individuals or their organisation’s corporate community involvement. Cold or rational thinking was shown to mitigate the impact of hot processing or alternatively post-justify decisions based on hot mental processing to validate the initial decision or alter how it was communicated within the organisation. Whether the personal frame of reference impacted CCI decision-making was influenced by the depth of the frame of reference, the internal mental dialogue regarding the acceptability of effectiveness of hot or cold decision making and task, organisational, and personal variables. This study offers a critique of extant research based on rational cognitive models and offers an alternative explanation for why and how managers champion CCI in their organisations. Further, through providing a deeper understanding of the roles of managers this thesis provides recommendations for non-profit organisations strategising to target the corporate sector for funding and provides some insights into how to mitigate or encourages the use of hot mental processing within CCI decision making.

Phenomenology , Grounded theory , Corporate community involvement , Corporate philanthropy , Corporate community investment , Community engagement
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