Get What You Give? An Examination of Enlightened Self-Interest, Philanthropic Intent, and Engagement in Philanthropy for Small Firm Owners

  • Whitney O. Peake Western Kentucky University
  • Michael L. Harris East Carolina University
  • William C. McDowell Middle Tennessee State University
  • Phillip E. Davis East Carolina University


Prior researchers agree that small businesses are important community contributors due to their active engagement in broader social responsibility activities, such as philanthropy. Despite their purported importance to charitable giving and philanthropy, little is known about the factors that motivate small business owners’ decisions to engage in philanthropic giving. We integrate enlightened self-interest theory and the theory of planned behavior to examine how enlightened self-interest influences intentions to engage in philanthropy during start-up, which in turn impacts current levels of engagement in philanthropic activities. Our results suggest that intentions to engage in philanthropy at start-up do partially mediate the relationship between enlightened self-interest and engagement in philanthropy behaviors; thus, suggesting that entrepreneurs’ motivations grounded in enlightened self-interest influence intentions to engage in philanthropy and subsequent engagement in such activities.


Ajzen, I. (1991). The theory of planned behavior. Organizational behavior and human decision processes, 50(2), 179-211.
Ajzen, I., & Fishbein, M. (1973). Attitudinal and normative variables as predictors of specific behaviors. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 27, 41-57.
Andreoni, J. (1989). Giving with impure altruism: Applications to charity and Ricardian equivalence. Journal of Political Economy, 97, 1447-1458.
Baron, R.M., & Kenny, D.A. (1986). The moderator-mediator variable distinction in social psychological research: Conceptual, strategic, and statistical consideration. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51(6), 1173-1182.
Batchelor, J., Harris, M. L., Gibson, S. G., & Simpson, L. (2011). Comparison of ethical behavior: Individual perceptions and attitudes toward entrepreneurs. Journal of Leadership, Accountability and Ethics, 8(5), 32-43.
Bear, S., Rahman, N., & Post, C. (2010). The impact of board diversity and gender composition on corporate social responsibility and firm reputation. Journal of Business Ethics, 97, 207-221.
Besser, T.L. (1998). The significance of community to business social responsibility. Rural Sociology, 63(3), 412-431.
Besser, T.L., & Miller, N.J. (2004). The risks of enlightened self-interest: Small businesses and support for community. Business & Society, 45, 398-425.
Brammer, S., & Millington, A. (2005). Corporate reputation and philanthropy: An empirical analysis. Journal of Business Ethics, 61, 29-44.
Bucar, B. & Hisrich, R.D. (2001). Ethics of business managers vs. entrepreneurs. Journal of Developmental Entrepreneurship, 6(1), 59–82.
Buccholtz, A.K., Amason, A.C., & Rutherford, M.A. (1999). Beyond resources: The mediating effect of top management discretion and values on corporate philanthropy. Business & Society, 38, 167-187.
Carroll, A. B. (1979). A three-dimensional conceptual model of corporate social performance. Academy of Management Review, 4, 497-505.
Coombs, J.E., Shipp, A.J., & Christensen, L.J. (2008). Entrepreneur as change agent: Antecedents and moderators of individual-level philanthropic behavior. Frontiers of Entrepreneurship Research, 28(21), 1-13.
Cronk, V.M. (1988). Small Business Philanthropy. University of Wisconsin: Milwaukee. Doctoral thesis.
Déniz, M.C., & Suárez, M.K.C. (2005). Corporate social responsibility and family business in Spain. Journal of Business Ethics, 56, 27-41.
Dennis, B.S., Buccholtz, A.K., & Butts, M.M. (2009). The nature of giving: A theory of planned behavior examination of corporate philanthropy. Business & Society, 48(3), 360-384.
Faugier, J., & Sargeant, M. (1997). Sampling hard to reach populations. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 26(4), 790-797.
Fitzgerald, M. A., Haynes, G. W., Schrank, H. L., & Danes, S. M. (2010). Socially responsible processes of small family business owners: Exploratory evidence from the National Business Survey. Journal of Small Business Management, 48(4), 524-551.
Friedman, M. (1962, 1970). The social responsibility of business is to increase its profits. New York Times Magazine, 33.
Godfrey, P.C. (2005). The relationship between corporate philanthropy and shareholder wealth: A risk management perspective. The Academy of Management Review, 30(4), 777-798.
Green, M.K. (1992). Fairness in hierarchical and entrepreneurial firms. Journal of Business Ethics, 11(11), 877-882.
Hair, J. F., Black, W.C., Babin, B. J., & Anderson, R. E. (2010). Multivariate data analysis (7th ed). United States: Pearson Hall.
Hambrick, D.C., & Mason, P.A. (1984) Upper echelons: The organization as a reflection of its top managers. Academy of Management Review, 9(2), 193-206.
Hayes, A.F. (2013). Introduction to Mediation, Moderation, and Conditional Process Analysis. New York, NY: Guilford Press.
Heckathorn, D.D. (2011). Comment: Snowball versus respondent-driven sampling. Sociological Methodology, 41(1), 355-366.
Humphreys, N., Robin, D.P., Reidenbach, R.E., & Moak, D.L. (1993). The ethical decision making process of small business owner-mangers and their customers. Journal of Small Business Management, 31(3), 9-22.
Jenkins, H. (2006). Small business champions for corporate social responsibility. Journal of Business Ethics, 67(3), 241-256.
Katz-Stone, A. (1998). Philanthropy can help bottom line. Baltimore Business Journal, 15, 33-34.
Keim, G.D. (1978). Corporate social responsibility: An assessment of the enlightened self-interest model. Academy of Management Review, 3(1), 32-39.
Krueger, N.F., Reilly, M.D., & Carsrud, A.L. (2000). Competing models of entrepreneurial intentions. Journal of Business Venturing, 15(5-6), 411-432.
Lepoutre, J., & Heene, A. (2006). Investigating the impact of firm size on small business social responsibility: A critical review. Journal of Business Ethics, 67(3), 257-273.
Madden, K., Scaife, W., & Crissman, K. (2006). How and why small to medium size enterprises engage with their communities: An Australian study. International Journal of Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Marketing, 11(1), 49-60.
Maignan, I., & Ferrell, O.C. (2004). Corporate social responsibility marketing: An integrative framework. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 32(1), 3-19.
Martins, L., Eddleston, K.A., & Veiga, J.F. (2002). Moderators of the relationship between work-family conflict and career satisfaction. Academy of Management Journal, 45(2), 399-409.
Matten, D., & Crane, A. (2005). Corporate citizenship: Toward an extended theoretical conceptualization. Academy of Management Review, 30(1), 166-179.
McGee, J.E., Peterson, M., Mueller, S.L., & Sequeira, J.M. (2009). Entrepreneurial self-efficacy: Refining the measure. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 33(4), 965-988.
Nell, G., Winfree, P.L., & Sherk, J. (2008). Free-market philanthropy: The social aspect of entrepreneurship. Center for data analysis: Report #08-07.
Niehm, L. S., Swinney, J., & Miller, N. J. (2008). Community social responsibility and its consequences for family business performance. Journal of Small Business Management, 46(3), 331-350.
Nilsson, J. (2008). Investment with a conscience: Examining the impact of pro-social attitudes and perceived financial performance on socially responsible investment behavior. Journal of Business Ethics, 83(2), 307-325.
Pepin, J. (2005). Venture capitalists and entrepreneurs become venture philanthropists. International Journal of Nonprofit Volunteering Sector Marketing, 10, 165-173.
Podsakoff, P.M., Mackenzie, S.B., Lee, J.Y., & Podsakoff, N.P. (2003). Common method biases in behavioral research: A critical review of the literature and recommended remedies. Journal of Applied Psychology, 88(5), 879-903.
Porter, M.E., & Kramer, M.R. (2002). The competitive advantage of corporate philanthropy. Harvard Business Review, 80(12), 56-69.
Post, J.E. (1996). The new social contract. In J.E. Houck & O.F. Williams. (Eds.) Is the Good Corporation Dead? Social Responsibility in a Global Economy (pp. 49-63). Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.
Preston, C. (2008). Most small companies make charitable donations, survey finds. The Chronicle of Philanthropy. Accessed May 29, 2015 from:
Princeton Survey Research Associates Inc. (2001). BBB wise giving alliance: Small business giving survey. Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance: Virginia.
Ricks, J.M. Jr. (2005). An assessment of strategic corporate philanthropy on perceptions of brand equity variables. Journal of Consumer Marketing, 22(3), 121-134.
Saiia, D.H., Carroll, A.B., & Buchholtz, A.K. (2003). Philanthropy as strategy: When corporate charity “begins at home.” Business & Society, 42, 169-201.
Salaman, L.M. (1992). America’s nonprofit sector: A primer. New York: Foundation Center.
Schindehutte, M., Morris, M., and Brennan, C. (2003). Entrepreneurs and motherhood: Impacts on their children in South Africa and the United States. Journal of Small Business Management, 41(1), 94-107.
Seifert, B., Morris, S.A., & Bartkus, B.R. (2003). Comparing big givers and small givers: Financial correlates of corporate philanthropy. Journal of Business Ethics, 45(3), 195-211.
Seifert, B., Morris, S.A., & Bartkus, B.R. (2004). Having, giving, and getting: Slack resources, corporate philanthropy, and firm financial performance. Business & Society, 43(2), 135-161.
Shaw, B., & Post, F.R. (1993). A moral basis for corporate philanthropy. Journal of Business Ethics, 12(10), 745-751.
Sinclair, M., & Galaskiewicz, J. (1997). Corporate nonprofit partnerships: Varieties and covariates. New York Law School Law Review, 61(3&4), 1059-1090.Smith, J.R., & McSweeney, A. (2007). Charitable giving: The effectiveness of a revised theory of planned behavior model in predicting donating intentions and behavior. Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology, 17, 363-386.
Sobel, M. E. (1982). Asymptotic intervals for indirect effects in structural equations models. In S. Leinhart (Ed.), Sociological Methodology 1982 (pp. 290-312). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Solymossy, E. & Masters, J.K. (2002). Ethics through an entrepreneurial lens: Theory and observation. Journal of Business Ethics, 38(3), 227–241.
Spreen, M. (1992). Rare populations, hidden populations and link-tracing designs: What and why. Bulleting Methodologie Sociologique, 36, 34-58.
Stroup, M.A., & Neubert, R.L. (1987). The evolution of social responsibility. Business Horizons, 30, 22-24.
Sulek, M. (2010). On the modern meaning of philanthropy. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 39(2), 193-212.
Tietz, M.A., & Parker, S.C. (2014). Charitable donations by the self-employed. Small Business Economics, 43, 899-916.
Tourangeau, R., Rips, L.J., & Rasinski, K. (2000). The Psychology of Survey Response. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.
United States Small Business Association (2012). Understanding the charitable giving tax deduction – what can your small business writeoff?
Van der Linden, S. (2011). Charitable intent: A moral or social construct? A revised theory of planned behavior model. Current Psychology, 30, 355-374.
Varadarajan, P.R., & Menon, A. (1988). Cause-related marketing: A coalignment of marketing strategy and corporate philanthropy. Journal of Marketing, 52(3), 58-74.
Wang, H., Choi, J., & Li, J. (2008). Too little or too much? Untangling the relationship between corporate philanthropy and firm financial performance. Organization Science, 19(1), 145-159.
Warburton, J., & Terry, D.J. (2000). Volunteer decision making by older people: A test of a revised theory of planned behavior. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 22(3), 245-257.
Wilhelm, M.O. (2006). New data on charitable giving in the PSID. Economics Letters, 92(1), 26-31.
Williams, R.J. (2003). Women on corporate boards of directors and their influence on corporate philanthropy. Journal of Business Ethics, 42, 1-10.
Young, D.R., & Burlingame, D.F. (1996). Paradigm lost: Research toward a new understanding of corporate philanthropy. In D.F. Burlingame and D.R. Young (Eds.) Corporate philanthropy at the crossroads (pp.158-176). Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press.
How to Cite
PEAKE, Whitney O. et al. Get What You Give? An Examination of Enlightened Self-Interest, Philanthropic Intent, and Engagement in Philanthropy for Small Firm Owners. Journal of Small Business Strategy, [S.l.], v. 25, n. 2, p. 79-96, oct. 2015. ISSN 2380-1751. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 24 mar. 2018.
Special Section

Most read articles by the same author(s)