Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Business Administration

First Advisor

Dr. Michael A. Abebe

Second Advisor

Dr. Jorge Gonzalez

Third Advisor

Dr. Wanrong Hou


During the past three decades, the practice of corporate philanthropy (CP), as an important dimension of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), has evolved from a morally-driven initiative to a more strategic perspective that addresses both business and societal objectives. During this time, there has been a growing scholarly interest on the relationship between organizational leadership contexts and CP. Despite the apparent significant influence of CEOs on CP, whether CEO background characteristics (i.e. CEO founder status, functional background, civic engagement, and education) influence CP has not received much attention in the literature. In addition, the effect of CEO background characteristics on CP might be constrained as the firm matures and decision-making authority is diffused among other members of the dominant coalition. In this dissertation, I focused on the important moderating role of firm age on the relationship between CEO background characteristics and the level of CP. Furthermore, the research on whether and how firms proactively engage in CP to strengthen their business and corporate strategies (such as the level of unrelated diversification and global strategic posture) is under-developed. Drawing from the key arguments of the Upper Echelons and Neo-Institutional theories, I proposed theoretically-driven hypotheses on the relationships among CEO background characteristics, CP, corporate strategies as well as firm performance. I empirically tested these hypotheses using a secondary data collected from 178 publicly-traded, large U.S. corporations between 2010-2014. The results provided mixed support for my predictions. I make several contributions to research and practice. First, drawing from the theoretical development and empirical findings, I addressed the growing scholarly interest on understanding the governance predictors (i.e. CEO background characteristics) and CP. Second, I extended the scholarly understanding of the interrelationship between CP and mainstream corporate strategies. Third, I offered a new attempt to empirically examine the link between corporate philanthropy and a specific form of corporate strategy-an unrelated diversification. Fourth, I provided managers with a promising notion that corporate philanthropy can help firms with market entry strategies. Finally, I provided insights on business legitimacy by suggesting that firms are seen as legitimate actors by multiple stakeholders to the extent they engage in corporate philanthropy.


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