The main purpose of this research was to investigate the communicative decision-making that takes place within the relationship between corporate donors and Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs) recipients. An extensive literature review, and empirical research indicated that factors such as reputation, legal considerations, relationship and stewardship, among others, influence a corporate body’s (also “[the] corporates”) decision-making regarding which NGOs to fund. The literature review also showed that the decision-making had a criterion, processes and structures that contribute to the final decision.
A phenomenological approach of enquiry was used for this study. The qualitative research method used in this research is phenomenological as it attempts to understand participants’ perspectives and views of social realities in investigating communicative decision-making in the relationship between corporates and NGO recipients.
The study also takes a socio-constructivist approach which looks at social reality as subjective and co-constructed through people’s experiences. It emphasises the role of qualitative methods as a means to interpret, explore and discover new concepts and constructs.
In-depth interviews were conducted in the empirical phase of the research, with a semi-structured administered interview schedule as the research instrument. The exploratory nature of the study provides a valuable means to determine the dimensions of the relationship between corporate donors and NGO recipients; to ask questions about this relationship; to seek new insights; and to assess the phenomenon in a new light.
The sample includes sixteen field studies, in which eight CSR managers from organisations providing funding to specific NGOs were interviewed about the strategic and communicative decision-making processes present in their relationships with the NGOs. Eight programme managers from the NGOs that are funded by these organisations were also interviewed. The aim was to determine the nature of strategic and communicative decision-making in the relationships between the relevant actors. Thematic analysis was conducted on transcribed interview data. The data for this study were analysed by means of both non-automated (manually) and automated content analysis, for which Leximancer software was used.
Some of the findings agree with the literature review, which showed that reputation, legal considerations, relationship and stewardship, influence a corporate’s decision-making regarding which NGOs to fund. Furthermore, the findings show that corporates fund according to their strategy which determines the criteria for funding and that the decision-making process is conducted through decision-making structures.
The traditional view of the relationship between corporates and NGOs is that of donor and passive recipient, but findings from this study opine that stakeholders like NGOs can be active participants and collaborators in the value creation process, and as such can be co-creators of development solutions, together with the corporates that fund them. The study aims to highlight these dynamics.
The research also highlighted the importance of a two-way symmetrical communication relationship between these strategic partners. With this in mind, the findings recognise NGOs who are recipients of corporate funding as strategic stakeholders and also highlight the strategic and communicative decision-making processes and structures in the relationship between corporate donors and their NGO recipients.
The study builds De Beer’s (2014) integrative strategic communication model and sees communication as a fourth dimension of responsibility next to socio-cultural, economic and environmental dimensions. Communicative decision-making values feedback and dialogue and seeks communication about decisions through dialogue, conversations, co-creation, co-orientation and through two-way symmetrical communication in an integrated and strategic way. The dialogues are in different forms and in some cases corporates find themselves having to interact and engage in dialogues with different stakeholders on numerous issues and platforms in today’s digital age. Some of the platforms such as social media are outside their control as people can comment and tag them and others without their control. Lastly, the research also indicates that the communicative aspect of the decision-making process is important and can be regarded as a catalyst for the relationship between the corporates and NGO recipients. From this perspective, it is vital that the decision-making criteria regarding funding should be communicated to the NGOs at every level of the decision-making process.