The PR in CSR: Assessing Perceptions of Partnerships versus Donations in Corporate Social Responsibility Initiatives



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As Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives become more common, practitioners need evidence to help them determine how initiatives are perceived. Research indicates factors such as involvement with an initiative?s issue and the type of initiative have effects on outcomes such as perceptions of effectiveness and attitudes. A 2 X 2 between-subjects factorial experiment was conducted in which participants (N=433) were shown a CSR advertisement. After viewing the advertisement, participants were given a posttest that rated their perceptions of initiative effectiveness and their attitudes toward the initiative.

Results indicated that both types of CSR were perceived positively. However, partnerships had an indirect effect on positive perceptions of both attitudes and initiative effectiveness through long-term commitment. That is, partnerships had a positive indirect effect when participants indicated that the sponsoring corporation was invested in helping the cause for an extended period of time, as compared to one-time initiatives such as a campaign donation. Inconsistent with the hypotheses, involvement did not moderate perceptions of the corporation?s commitment and thus did not affect perceptions of initiative effectiveness or attitudes. Results suggest citizens are likely to perceive partnerships and donations in positive ways, regardless of their involvement; however, partnership initiatives have stronger positive, indirect effects on perceptions because they are more likely to indicate a long-term commitment to the cause than one-time donation initiatives.