Experts in the field of corporate social responsibility (CSR) have advocated for some years now that in order to succeed in this new era of business continuity, corporations must swiftly move away from disconnected philanthropic giveaways to a type of CSR that is integrated in business strategy and linked to core business objectives and competencies.

One good example of a “disconnected” philanthropic initiative is the Ford Motor Company’s support for breast cancer research. Every year, Ford Motors, through its Foundation, donates over $100,000 to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Research Fund.  While the cause itself is an incredibly important one, CSR experts believe that because there is very little linkage between Ford Motors’ core business objectives and competencies to breast cancer research, Ford Motors should consider ceasing its philanthropic support for this cause.

From a strategic CSR standpoint, discontinuing their financial support would make sense, but where would that leave the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Research Fund?  A $100,000 short every year? If all companies suddenly decided to become more “strategic” with their CSR, wouldn’t that abruptly leave a lot of nonprofits in an even dire financial situation?  Moreover, will it not take a long time before all companies finally discover their most “strategic” philanthropic partners and beneficiaries?

The simple solution for nonprofits may be this: stay ahead of this trend. If your nonprofit is currently receiving philanthropic dollars from a large corporation that engages in a business that has little or no relevance to your nonprofit’s mission or cause, you may be wise to begin looking to other places for funding.  Ford Motors may come to realize very soon that a more strategic way to invest its philanthropic dollars is to support research in alternative-fuel vehicles, climate change, or gasoline independence.

These causes are much more aligned with the firm’s core competencies. Once Ford Motors comes to this realization and pulls its financial support, the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Research Fund will have to be ready to pursue alternative funding sources to make up for this new shortfall.  Thus, nonprofits will need to be much more cognizant of how and from whom they receive their corporate contributions dollars to ensure that they continue to keep their organizations financially supported in the years to come.

Jesse Nishinaga is a 2010 MBA candidate at the Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley

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