Foundations, Fundraising, Corporate Social Responsibility

Photograph of Habitat for Humanity project

Corporate Social Responsibility

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) refers to operating a business in a way that produces an overall positive impact on society. It means conducting business in an ethical way and in the interest of the wider community. Corporate social responsibility is about integrating the issues of the workplace, the community and the marketplace into core business strategies. Organizations are devoting real time and money toward various CSR initiatives including environmental sustainability programs, alternative energy ideas and improving the quality of life of the workforce and families in the society at large.


Foundations can be a corporate entity or a private foundation that derives its grant-making funds primarily from the contributions of a profit-making business.


Philanthropy derives from Ancient Greek, meaning “to love people.” Philanthropy is the act of donating money, goods, services, time and/or effort to support a socially beneficial cause, with a defined objective and with no financial or material reward to the donor.

Finding Internships

Jobs are rarely posted as “corporate social responsibility adviser,” therefore there is not one specific career path. You could start in this field by obtaining an internship in the public relations department at a pharmaceutical company, or work at a government agency in policy, or spend a summer working for a niche CSR consulting company.

CSR opportunities may exist in a variety of sectors including in private, public and non-profit organizations.

  • Private Sector: CSR type positions may be located in a functional area such as public affairs public relations, legal, compliance or accounting within an organizations. CSR consulting firms are also growing due to the increase of public awareness and corporate focus on the importance of CSR.
  • Public Sector: CSR career options in the public sector might include opportunities in the government at organizations like the World Bank, the UN or USAID. Many have their own corporate governance and public affairs initiatives.
  • Nonprofit Sector: Opportunities exist in a variety of nonprofit organization including national labs, think tanks, professional associations and academic institutions (including Harvard’s Business School for Social Enterprise).

Many foundations require extensive experience or an advanced degree when hiring. However, there are many opportunities that can help you acquire the skill sets you need to work at a foundation. If you are interested in grant making, consider volunteering on a grant making committee for a foundation. If you are passionate about a cause, volunteer your time at a local charity or a nonprofit that specializes in that area. This allows you to not only support a cause you are interested in but it is also a great way to network. If fundraising is of interest, consider volunteering as a Crimson Caller at Harvard, where student callers spend their time fundraising for the university.

Finding Jobs

Often times there is not a direct career path when it comes to foundation work, as employees tend to have a wide range of experience and backgrounds. Entry-level positions will often depend on the position and the foundation. Generally speaking, foundations often seek applicants who can write clearly, execute proper judgment, and be creative yet analytical thinkers. In addition, some foundations seek foreign language fluency, field experience and/or a graduate degree. 

Careers in corporate social responsibility cover a variety of outcomes, ranging from business ethics to green business to sustainable development. Corporate-driven initiatives are usually implemented by traditional business divisions, such as operations, marketing, or finance. Because social enterprise combines the principles of for-profit businesses with the social mission of not-for-profit organizations, any experience in either sector that gives you the opportunity to build your skills and knowledge is relevant. CSR job profiles generally fall into three categories: CSR specialist, foundation officer, or consultant. In addition to high profile “socially responsible” strategies, many large companies also establish a charitable foundation as part of their overall CSR effort.

Since there is no ideal career path, it will be important to gain transferable skills and knowledge. You may need specific degrees or background for certain positions (i.e. law degree for some human rights positions, etc.).

Whichever area you find yourself most interested in, become as informed as possible about the current events in that field. Many positions are filled through referrals, therefore networking is important. Get involved in Harvard student groups, connect with Harvard alums through Alumni Directory and LinkedIn, go to networking meetings, and consider joining a professional association.