Managing Corporate Relations

Managing Corporate Relations

Morgan R. Clevenger, Cynthia J. MacGregor
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 21
DOI: 10.4018/IJTEM.2018070102
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Managing corporate and foundation relations is a challenging and dynamic responsibility in higher education as well as inside companies. The role of corporate and foundation relations development officers (CFRs) is to orchestrate and navigate a complex resource development portfolio by finding, negotiating, acquiring, and managing inter-organizational relationships with businesses and corporations. CFRs must be intimately familiar with their own institution, organizational priorities, and key leaders to be able to create and leverage touch-points, engagement and volunteer opportunities, and mutually beneficial partnerships.
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Organizations do not operate in a vacuum but rather interact with their external environment through other organizations in inter-organizational relationships while contending with various environmental factors, such as politics, social constraints, and economies (Clevenger, 2014, 2019; Crow & Dabars, 2015; DeMillo, 2011; Morton, 2015; Rhodes, 2001). As higher education continues to face resource challenges, academic institutions have purposely engendered a variety of funding partners including corporations and foundations (Clevenger, 2014; Cohen, 2010). These significant organizational partners are forced to justify funding and engagement with academic institutions. “In an environment of receding economies, deregulation, global competition, ever-changing tax codes, and increased financial accountability, corporate philanthropy to academia has been in transition for an ad hoc activity to a long-term business strategy” (Abbot et al., 2011, p. 2). Foundations—and even governments—have also organized to be more strategic and long-term oriented to create win-win relationships to benefit the organizations and society.

Higher education fundraising professionals, partnership officers, and management typically follow the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ (AFP, 2018) formula for justifying and defining causes and include items such as “mission, vision, history, statement of community problem, goals of the campaign, objectives to meet these goals, programs and services, staffing, governance, facility needs, endowment, budget for the campaign, statement of needs, gift range chart, and named-giving opportunities” (Saul, 2011, p. 167). However, leaders of corporations and foundations also want to understand the intended impact a higher education institution and/or its programs and services make, the strategies to support those programmatic intents, and a detailed explanation of all metrics for performance, which may need to include proof of a successful track record (Braybrooks, 2015; Clevenger, 2014, 2019; Saul, 2011).

While many examples of best practices originate from a corporate interface, these concepts are applicable to any external funding partner including foundations, governments, community interest groups, and other organizations willing to partner and engage on cause-focused initiatives. (Authors’ Note: For a complete history, analysis, and discussion of the intersect between higher education and businesses, see book by Clevenger & MacGregor, 2019). Academic institutions’ corporate and foundation relations development officers (CFRs) are specialists in creating win-win relationships to mutually benefit two or more organizations simultaneously. These individuals’ roles have evolved over the years. Larger academic organizations often have teams and even customer service software used for managing various intersects with corporations, foundations, and other partnering entities (Shinkwin, 2015).

Overseeing these complex inter-organizational relationships has become a special concern for CFRs. “Inter-organizational relationships are subject to inherent development dynamics…” (Ebers, 1999, p. 31). Ebers’ (1999) explanation of these four dynamics includes “[1] the parties’ motives… [2] the pre-conditions and contingencies of forming inter-organizational relationships… [3] the content and… [4] the outcomes” (p. 31). Beyond these dynamics, organizations continue to learn how to act and to react with other organizations (Clevenger, 2014, 2019; Ebers; Meyer & Rowan, 1977; Morgan, 2006; Morton, 2015; Pfeffer & Salancik, 2003). “Many dynamics may be planned, negotiated, and controlled…” (Clevenger, pp. 464-465). Morgan (2006) said, “…organizations must develop cultures that support change and risk taking…” (p. 91).

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