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'Tis the season for giving?......or not:

December 13, 1998


WALTHAM, MASS -- Business owners who donate surplus goods to food banks are motivated by a desire to help others, and not necessarily by potential impact on the company's bottom line, according to a study co-authored by Leland Campbell, Associate Professor of Marketing at Bentley College in Waltham, Mass.; Tom Gruca, Associate Professor of Marketing at University of Iowa; and Charles S. Gulas, Assistant Professor of Marketing at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio.

In their study of why some companies give to charity and others do not, Gruca, Gulas and Campbell found that the personal attitude of a decision-maker in a key position has a stronger impact on a firm's policy on charitable giving than do business-related factors.

"Overall, altruistic motivation appears to be stronger than profit motive," said Bentley's Lee Campbell. "However, firms that don't give to charity at all tend to justify their policy for business reasons, such as lack of surplus food supplies or an inability to respond from a labor perspective at the present time."

Their study, "Corporate Giving Behavior and Decision-Maker Social Consciousness," is scheduled for publication in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Business Ethics.

The researchers surveyed 64 food distributors and producers in western Massachusetts. Nearly 60 percent of the respondents said they had donated to food banks to fight hunger locally or be good corporate citizens. About one third of the business managers said tax deductions were a factor, but that this was a lesser motivator.

Twenty-five respondents said they did not donate food to charity. Most managers who did not make donations (89 percent) said their firms did not have any surplus to give, with 28 percent saying their product reputation may suffer by identifying them with lesser quality or past-peak freshness. "Some firms' increased control of production quality reduces the availability of surplus food for donations," said Iowa's Tom Gruca. "Just-in-time inventory policies further reduce the supply of surplus."

In light of these findings, the co-authors advise food banks to focus on how a company's donation will help the so-called "deserving" needy. The study revealed a significant difference in the perceived seriousness of such problems as homelessness, hunger and domestic violence, as understood by donor and non-donor respondents in the same geographic area.

"If you can identify the decision-makers in a company, and especially the individual influencer who is aware of existing social problems, then you can make specific appeals to which they can- and will want to- respond," said Dr. Campbell. "Instead of knocking on their door for a one-time request, it would be more effective to educate those decision-makers over time. Enable them to understand current social needs and how their company can make a difference in the community, and they will respond."

BENTLEY UNIVERSITY is one of the nation’s leading business schools, dedicated to preparing a new kind of business leader – one with the deep technical skills, broad global perspective, and high ethical standards required to make a difference in an ever-changing world. Our rich, diverse arts and sciences program, combined with an advanced business curriculum, prepares informed professionals who make an impact in their chosen fields. Located on a classic New England campus minutes from Boston, Bentley is a dynamic community of leaders, scholars and creative thinkers. The Graduate School emphasizes the impact of technology on business practice, in offerings that include MBA and Master of Science programs, PhD programs in accountancy and in business, and customized executive education programs. The university enrolls approximately 4,100 full-time undergraduate, 140 adult part-time undergraduate, 1,430 graduate, and 43 doctoral students. Bentley is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges; AACSB International – The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business; and the European Quality Improvement System, which benchmarks quality in management and business education. For more information, please visit

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