Which Philanthropy Impact Model is Right for You?

“If business could stimulate social progress in every region of the globe, poverty, pollution, and disease would decline and corporate profits would rise.” Mark Kramer, Founder & Managing Director of FSG

The 2016 CyberGrants User Conference was filled with some of the most amazing organizations and people all focused on making our world a better place. One of the greatest parts of conferences like these is the opportunity to walk away with new ideas worthy of implementing within your own organization.

Mark Kramer’s session highlighted a particularly interesting side of corporate social responsibility. Organizations focused on doing good are interested in seeing the impact their contribution is making. Often a complicated feat, the hope is to better understand what will make the most influence in the future.

Kramer dove into this by presenting four very distinct CSR impact models and how those strategies affect philanthropic efforts in business.


Based on the company or employees interests, a clustered model focuses on charities and causes that fall within a specific grouping. A company in the medical industry may value environmental sustainability, research for geriatric ailments and support the arts in schools. Though all very different, the company will generally select programs that fall within those clustered options because they support the value statements of their organization.

Why it can work
If an organization works primarily within one industry, a model like this one can be highly effective. From choosing the nonprofits to selecting the approach to participation, companies or foundations can select market specific causes that will resonate with employees. Additionally, the organization will be able to focus on fostering relationships with nonprofits or those that help provide pieces of the program.

A CSR w/ a clustered impact model can more easily predict causes that resonate w/ employees.Tweet This!

Why it might not work
The cluster approach has a tendency to fall into patterns. If every year a company hosts a food drive in November and a fundraising run in March, employees will grow to expect both and instead of marking their calendar months in advance, they gloss over advertisements, forget to donate or fill out participation forms. On the other side, your grant or donation will continue to benefit the same group or industry, which cuts down on the opportunity to influence new or more diverse populations.


Just like the name would suggest, the confetti model is less focused. Programs with a confetti model generally respond to local or stakeholder needs which leads to the company supporting a wide range of issues via many approaches. This model for foundations usually means a large number of grants, but for smaller amounts.

Why it can work
Opposite of the clustered approach, a diversified CSR program supports a wide range of causes and in turn affects a wide range of cultures and issues. These companies and foundations will probably receive a wide variety of partnerships, business opportunities and publicity from their program participation. Their employees will have access to various skill-building opportunities because the program will use multiple approaches to community involvement or giving.

Diversified CSR programs can affect a wide range of cultures and issues.Tweet This!

Why it might not work
These programs are scattered by nature, so the organizational parts might be a little tough. If the company doesn’t have a solid process in selecting the organizations they work with or strategizing the program structure, communication to employees or quality of participation can suffer. Like confetti, if there is too much in the air, it can be difficult to focus on one piece very well.


This focused initiative is created with the idea of making a program that spans over multiple years and uses assets that range from funding and volunteering to core business.

Why it can work
Companies who develop concentrated programs really have the ability to affect their own future within a community or industry. The program will allow the company or foundation to understand the ins and outs of a very distinct area of need, which will lead to a structured approach that will answer multiple issues or needs. For instance, the company or foundation is in a STEM-based industry, so the program supports advancing STEM education for women and bringing technology to schools in low income sectors of the community. Though STEM defines the concentration, it can be expanded to more than one cause, affecting the climate of an industry or cause.

Why it might not work
The concentrated focus is very strategic and often calls for the right organizational structure to nail. Resources like a subject matter expert or team of people devoted to managing and maintaining corporate social responsibility might be necessary to support the intricacies of the program.

Ecosystem Change

The ecosystem change crosses sector barriers to make large impacts on a specific area of society. The most collaborative of approaches, in ecosystem change, multiple companies support a cause from various directions and with their varied assets to make powerful changes. This is probably the most dynamic method of CSR, because there is a team of organizations who can tackle big issues head on.

Why it can work
Teamwork almost always leads to more innovation. The companies or brands will have their own set of skills or expertise that can be capitalized. Imagine what 3 large corporations with market notoriety can do for education if they work together to affect multiple levels of need compared to one corporation. There will be more diverse ideas to answering more pain points, all the while more opportunity to collect funding and manpower.

Imagine what 3 large corporations with incredible mindshare can do if they work together…Tweet This!

Why it may not work
The ecosystem change can be scaled down to meet the needs of smaller businesses and community focused change, but this strategic initiative can become complex and call for constant nurturing. Additionally, meeting the compliance requirements and other standards set forth by one corporation can be difficult. Now imagine 2 or 3. The ecosystem of change is one that demands planning and buy-in, so many organizations might do more for their cause by simply working closely with a nonprofit or charity. Ecosystem change demands both a catalyst and a commitment to lack of ego.

In the end, no matter what organizational impact model you follow, doing good is still doing good. If your organization is ready to change the world, download our guide to Managing a Successful Long-Term Giving Program.


Long-Term Giving


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