Corporate Motivation and Response

Expand your corporate relationship base and sharpen your "ask" for support by learning about donors' motivations. Click "Overview" to begin.


Person with binocularsTo progress through this course, use the navigation bar on the left side of the page. You can also click on the section titles, which are found at the bottom of each page.

Before getting started, download these printable tip sheets to help you identify corporate partnership opportunities:



Welcome AmeriCorps VISTA Community Members!

We hope that this online fundraising course will help guide your approach towards soliciting charitable funds from business leaders. This course works to expand your corporate solicitation skills to help you speak their language when presenting your proposal.  You will gain insights on why and how businesses respond to requests for support, and how you can match your program needs to their business goals. 

Learning Objectives

At the completion of this course, you will have:

  • Articulated the value of a program using business terms.

  • Described at least one motivation for business to support nonprofit organizations.

  • Identified at least one major way a corporation or business can respond to requests for support from nonprofit organizations.

  • Created an action plan to identify and approach companies for contributions and partnerships.

You have progressed through 20% of the course


Before beginning this 30-minute course, we ask that you to take the quick pre-assessment quiz to identify what topics you already know, and those where you will be able to build new knowledge. 

Corporate Social Responsibility

Three people in front of a building greeting each otherCompanies understand that corporate social responsibility (sometimes known as CSR) is integral to a positive reputation and brand identity.  However, while CSR activities continue to contribute to social progress, social problems seem as intractable as ever.  

Businesses and Nonprofits

When you hear the words “corporation,” “business,” or “nonprofit”, what images surface? Consider the following traditional views of business and nonprofit values:

Serves its self-interestsIs altruistic
Profits at all costAddresses social problems
Is destructive to culture and environmentIs a watchdog to evils of business
Controls resourcesStruggles to survive financially
Achieves measurable resultsSlowly progresses complex problems

Nonprofits are being challenged to be more business-like and results-oriented. For-profit businesses are being challenged to become more socially responsible in their day-to-day business practices.  The result has been a blurred line between the stereotypical distinction between nonprofits and businesses.

Both businesses and nonprofits want to meet their goals, employ hard working people, and constantly look for innovative strategies to stay ahead of the curve. In order to create mutually-beneficial alliances, distinctions between these types of organizations must be acknowledged and navigated.



Three Days in the Life of a CEO

In order to think like a business or corporation CEO, try to understand the usual pace of their day. This schedule is a real-life example of three days in the life of a CEO:

April 6th 
10:00 AMPitch T. Rowe Price
12:00 PMInterview 1st CareFirst IT candidate
2:00 PMInterview 2nd CareFirst IT candidate
3:00 PMGirl Scouts Award Event at Community College
April 10th 
8:15 AMFirm’s bi-weekly conference call
10:00 AMLorraine Campbell (Heart Association)
12:00 PMLynne Troup @ Petit Louis Restaurant
2:00 PMDoctor’s appointment
April 24th 
8:15 AMFirm’s bi-weekly conference call
1:00 PM - 4:00 PMMeet with branch execs at Hutchinson’s office
5:30 PMGBC Leadership Reception @ Mercy Hospital
6:00 PMWomen’s Volunteer Initiative Reception at Melanie Sabelhaus’ home

Question markTHINK ABOUT IT...

After reviewing this schedule, consider the following questions:

  • What surprises you about this CEO's schedule? Is it the same as, or different from, what you expected?

  • How might this information affect your next approach to a business or corporate leader in your community?

Thumbnail for [node:title][user:name][comment:title] TIP: Consider the Human Side

Have you considered the personal interests and obligations of your business and corporate contacts? Visualizing the CEO’s perspective before asking for support will make your contact more likely to understand the social change mandate of nonprofit work. This extra step will likely lead to a serious response to your request for support.

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Business Motivation

person standing behind a graphCEOs and their corporate staff work to make their business successful day-to-day by:


  • Making a profit 

  • Positioning the brand to attract greater market share

  • Establishing and following clear corporate objectives

  • Responding to stockholders

  • Maintaining a productive workforce

  • Building good will in the community

Question markTHINK ABOUT IT...

What else from a company’s perspective would you add to this list?

Motivation for Giving

Two people holding large puzzle piecesWhen considering philanthropic and community investment endeavors, corporations and businesses are looking to:

  • Enhance company revenues and reputation

  • Sell more goods and services

  • Build customer and employee loyalty

  • Further distinguish themselves from competitors

  • Clearly connect their gifts and activities to business objectives 

  • Focus on philanthropy that will achieve measurable results

  • Connect to the partnering nonprofit's audience and stakeholders through gifts and support activities in order to broaden customer base

Question markTHINK ABOUT IT...

What are some other motivations that should be included in the above list?

LightbulbTIP: Trends in Philanthropy

Corporate charity used to be based on the “social responsibility” of companies to their communities. Today, companies support endeavors that fit closely with their business’ objectives. Given the considerations listed above, how would you articulate the business opportunities available to companies that invest in your program?


Getting to Know Business Leaders

Two people talking

Now that you have reviewed what a CEO’s day looks like and considered what motivates business leaders to engage in philanthropy, you need to find out more about the business leaders in your community and plan a successful approach.

The following steps will guide you through the necessary research you can conduct to prepare your best approach for soliciting businesses to support your program:

1. Identify business leaders to approach in your area.

  • Begin with the CEOs, business leadership, and others with whom you already have an established relationship through board members, vendors, sponsors, volunteers, etc.

  • Identify prospective small businesses and mid-sized corporations to approach.

  • Include any large national or international corporations that do business in your area.


2. Research each company and identify the following points:

  • Corporate mission

  • Brand identity in the community

  • Target customers

  • Community “good will” reading

  • Business objectives

  • Employee base


3. Focus your research by gathering information about the business leadership and staff.

  • Who has the company given to in the past?

  • What boards, community initiatives, and other activities do the CEO, business owner, or gifts manager participates in?

  • Who makes decisions about fund or in-kind giving?

Notepad and pencilYOUR TURN: Cultivate a Connection

Think of a contact or local business leader who is a prospective supporter. Complete the Cultivating a Connection worksheet to begin your business research.


Six Corporate Responses

Person walking through the door of a business, waving hello to another person inside.There are six major ways corporations and businesses can respond to requests for support.

Continue reading to consider each response. Determine what type of relationship would be most appropriate for your program and for the corporation or business you plan to approach.

Before getting started, download the Relationship Opportunities worksheet to assist you in your planning efforts.

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Responses for New Relationships

These first three responses are usually most appropriate for introductory or newer corporate / nonprofit relationships:



Corporate philanthropy includes direct contributions to an organization or a cause, such as cash contributions, grants in exchange for public acknowledgement, and listings in marketing material.

In larger companies, this is usually accessed through a corporate foundation.

Example: ReadMore Bookstore provides Start Early! Children’s Literacy Program with a grant to purchase tables and chairs for children's tutoring sessions.



Corporate sponsorship includes In-kind support or sponsorship to offset costs of special events or campaigns in exchange for high visibility..

In larger corporations, this support is usually coordinated through the marketing or public relations department.

Example: ReadMore Bookstore sponsors the Start Early! Annual Literacy Dinner event by underwriting the cost of volunteer tutor meals.



Support for this response may include policies that provide time off and encouragement for employees to volunteer in the community and use their expertise to benefit nonprofits.

In larger corporations, these efforts might be coordinated by a community relations or human resources department.

Example: ReadMore Bookstore encourages its employees to participate in a day of service by reading to children in the Start Early! Children’s Literacy Program.

Notepad and pencilYOUR TURN: New Relationship Opportunities

Think about your newer corporate relationships. What type of business/nonprofit relationships would be appropriate for your program? Use the Relationship Opportunities worksheet from your packet to determine how to apply these new and introductory opportunities to your program’s needs.


Responses for Existing Relationships

The next three relationships are most appropriate between businesses and non-profits where trust has been built and a foundation exists to support more sophisticated endeavors:



Cause-related marketing includes donating a percentage of revenue from the sale to a nonprofit initiative in exchange for generating increased sales and other related corporate objectives.

Example: ReadMore Bookstore donates 5% of the sales revenue from "Children's Book Day" at the store to Start Early! Children's Literacy Program.



Cause marketing - also known as “cause promotion” - cause marketing is the support of social causes through paid endorsements or promotions in exchange for including the nonprofit logo on the corporate materials, products, and services.

Example: ReadMore Bookstore pays Start Early! for use of the Children's Literacy program logo to promote quality children’s books in their stores. Or, a tagline promoting the Children's Literacy program appears at the bottom of ReadMore Bookstore print advertisements.



Corporate social marketing is the support of behavior change campaigns. This is different from other corporate social initiatives because the focus of the involvement is on changing behaviors for the sake of improving public health, safety, the environment, or another cause.

Example: ReadMore Bookstore and Start Early! Children's Literacy Program partner to create a "Read More to Learn More" campaign that will encourage parents of young children to read with their children at least once a day. 



Many businesses find opportunities to integrate social causes into workplace policy or environment. Socially responsible business practices include investments or encouragements that further a cause. One frequent example occurs when a company adopts “green” practices, such as instituting a recycling program, reducing power consumption, or other internal initiatives. 

Notepad and pencilYOUR TURN: Current Relationship Opportunities

Think about your existing corporate relationships. What type of business/nonprofit relationships would be appropriate for your program? Use the Relationship Opportunities worksheet from your packet to determine how to apply these opportunities to your program’s needs.

Action Planning

Person standing next to a chartYou’ve researched potential supporters and begun identifying ways to foster a successful partnership. It is now time to begin planning these partnerships. Developing a plan prior to making contact will ensure that you are as confident as possible.

With whom can you make contact within the next three months? Begin with business leaders located or operating within your area.

To begin planning, take the following first steps:

  1. Define your request for support. Will you ask for a financial contribution, volunteers, or an event sponsorship? Be sure to describe your support request in detail.

  2. Record research on the corporate interests of your prospective business supporter. How does your request align with the business’ mission and brand? How will this partnership benefit this business?

Telling Your Story

Before you can tailor your message to your audience, you need to be able to articulate your story through a clear and consistent message.

As you think about your message, organize your thoughts about your company’s mission. To help you get started, think about how you would answer the following questions:

  • What condition, social concern, or issue does your organization address?

  • What are its most important programs?

  • What are its most significant accomplishments?

  • What are its most pressing challenges?

  • What do you want to accomplish this year?

Notepad and pencilYOUR TURN: Craft a Message

Use the Craft Your Message worksheet in your packet to collect your thoughts and develop your message.

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The Elevator Pitch

Remember the CEO's appointment schedule you reviewed? By getting to the point early in your meeting, you will earn the gratitude of your prospective business supporters. Develop a crisp, concise, and compelling “elevator pitch” with talking points that describe:

  • Your organization's mission

  • What you do better than anyone else

  • What you need from your corporate supporters to grow and continue to succeed

Notepad and pencilYOUR TURN: Matching Business Motivation

Use the Matching Business Motivations to Your Program worksheet in your packet to articulate your concise request for corporate support and plan your approach to secure it.


Course Summary

Course summary iconIn this course, we reviewed the primary motivations behind business support for nonprofits. We also looked at how you can match your program needs to business and corporate goals using communication and cultivation techniques that greatly increase the likelihood of a contribution.

Now that you’ve completed this course, you should have:

  • Articulated the value of your program using business terms

  • Described at least one motivation of corporations to give to nonprofit organizations

  • Identified at least one of the six major ways that corporations give to nonprofit organizations

  • Created an action plan to identify and approach companies that are good matches for contributions and partnering

Additional Resources

Thumbnail for [node:title][user:name][comment:title] Additional VISTA Campus Resources







Test Your Learning

Congratulations - you've completed this course! Test your learning with this brief assessment. 

The Fine Print

This material is based upon training and technical assistance supported by the Corporation for National and Community Service.

The Corporation for National and Community Service is a federal agency that helps more than 5 million Americans improve the lives of their fellow citizens through service. Working hand in hand with local partners, CNCS taps the ingenuity and can-do spirit of the American people to tackle some of the most pressing challenges facing the nation. CNCS invests in thousands of nonprofit and faith-based groups that are making a difference across the country.

Campaign Consultation, Inc. has extensive experience in helping people acquire the confidence, skills, and resources to design and advance “out of the box” strategies for goal achievement. Since 1998, Campaign Consultation, Inc. continues to serve as the training/ technical assistance provider for all areas related to resource gathering for the Corporation for National and Community Service. 

Copyright © 2014

Campaign Consultation, Inc.

All rights reserved

Campaign Consultation, Inc. grants permission for photocopying, for limited or internal use, by participants of training events provided by Campaign Consultation. This consent does not extend to other kinds of copying for general distribution, for advertising or promotional purposes, for creating new collective works or for resale. Requests for permission or further information should be addressed in written form to:

Director of Operations

Campaign Consultation, Inc.

1001 N. Calvert Street

Baltimore, Maryland 21202

T.410.243.7979 F.410.243.1024

Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Corporation for National and Community Service. 

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