Striking a Strategic Balance: Enhancing Corporate Philanthropy through Service Learning




Strategic philanthropy, corporate philanthropy, foundations, service learning, corporate social responsibility


Corporate giving is increasingly important to the nonprofit sector. However, corporate philanthropy has been slow to adopt insights from the sector’s decades-long experimentation with strategic philanthropy. This article explores the question of how corporate philanthropy might leverage service learning partnerships with students in university-based nonprofit education programs to enhance strategy and maximize social impact. We propose a model for strategic corporate philanthropy comprising two axes, on which the corporation can gauge whether its giving is more proactive or reactive, and technocratic or humanistic, to find a balance between strategy and rigidity. Qualitative data were collected from a service learning project between Toyota Motor North America, Master of Public Administration (MPA) students at a Texas university, and residents of an economically challenged area of West Dallas. Findings suggest that service learning partnerships can help corporate philanthropists strike an appropriate strategic balance, whereby the corporation, individuals being served, and students all benefit.

Subscribe to JNEL

Author Biographies

Steven W. Mumford, University of New Orleans

Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science

Laura Keyes, University of North Texas

Lecturer, Undergraduate Program Coordinator

Department of Public Administration

Abraham David Benavides, University of North Texas

Associate Professor, Department of Public Administration