Companies' community investment policies are complex, opaque and difficult to penetrate, according to research commissioned by Charities Aid Foundation.
The report Getting engaged: achieving closer working relationships between companies and local communities is based on interviews with community leaders across the UK.
Businesses, the research reveals, are only perceived to be interested in funding schemes that provide positive media opportunities rather than supporting schemes tackling harder issues such as asylum seekers and young offenders.
Community leaders acknowledge their own shortfalls, most notably regarding businesses as "the enemy" and producing sub-standard business plans. They are, however, generally positive about corporate involvement.
The report was published in the run-up to National Giving Week, the CAF-organised event to promote giving that takes place from 18 to 24 October.