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Who Is Governing Whom? Executives, Governance and the Structure of Generosity in Large U.S. Firms

30 Pages Posted: 22 Feb 2013 Last revised: 24 Feb 2013

Christopher Marquis

Cornell University; Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Matthew Lee

Harvard University

Date Written: January 19, 2012


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

Suggested Citation

Marquis, Christopher and Lee, Matthew, Who Is Governing Whom? Executives, Governance and the Structure of Generosity in Large U.S. Firms (January 19, 2012). Strategic Management Journal, Forthcoming; Harvard Business School Organizational Behavior Unit Working Paper No. 11-121. Available at SSRN:

Christopher Marquis (Contact Author)

Cornell University ( email )

363 Sage Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853
United States


Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Matthew Lee

Harvard University ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Wyss 203
Boston, MA 02163
United States

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