Forging effective corporate/nonprofit partnerships for CSR programs

David L. Remund (School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa, USA)
Brooke W. McKeever (School of Journalism and Mass Communications, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina, USA)

Journal of Communication Management

ISSN: 1363-254X

Publication date: 6 August 2018



The purpose of this paper is to examine how corporate and nonprofit leaders partner on public relations for corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs.


Through semi-structured interviews across the USA, and stretching into Europe and South America, leaders (n=24) from US-based corporations top-ranked for corporate citizenship, and the nonprofit organizations with which they have developed CSR programs, shared insights and best practices.


Corporate and nonprofit leaders who collaborate on CSR programs spoke independently about several essential shared values, including community-focused collaboration, fiscal responsibility, and strategic alignment. How they described their CSR partnerships reflects a mutual commitment to a distributed leadership model, which involves the need to span organizational boundaries, share unique expertise across levels and roles, and sustain long-term relationships. Consistent with prior research, this study also suggests that communication leaders in both corporations and nonprofit organizations leverage transactional (process-focused) and transformational (people-focused) leadership styles, as they work to build and foster these long-term partnerships.

Research limitations/implications

The findings pinpoint how principles of the distributed leadership model come to life across CSR partnerships and contribute to the success of such partnerships. Corporations and their nonprofit partners must mutually focus on spanning, sharing, and sustaining as they build programs together. These shared principles exemplify a distributed leadership model and help define what CSR partnership truly means.


This study looks at CSR programs beyond just the perspective of the corporation and the public, taking into account the critical role the nonprofit organization plays as a partner in some CSR programming, and within a distributed leadership model.



Remund, D. and McKeever, B. (2018), "Forging effective corporate/nonprofit partnerships for CSR programs", Journal of Communication Management, Vol. 22 No. 3, pp. 309-326.

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