Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




One of the methods employed by corporations to create a favorable relationship with its publics is to use philanthropy to not- for-profit organizations such as the arts. From a communication point of view, this action may be looked upon as a gesture between the corporation, the recipient, and the publics which involves messages both sent and received. Research on this communication gesture is important because arts organizations need to know how the process works in order to help secure philanthropic dollars. Corporations need to understand the results of the process so that they can more effectively achieve the goals for their philanthropic programs. According to Erving Goffman’s (1959) impression management theory, individuals and groups of individuals working together, as in a corporate setting, seek an enhanced image by their actions. What is the message they hope to send by giving publicly to the arts? Who do they expect the message receivers are? What are the reasons, goals, and incentives for corporate philanthropy to the arts? These are the questions this research seeks to help answer.

The research was narrowed to a local study involving one public art museum in one community. The people in charge of philanthropic decisions at twelve corporations/businesses were interviewed by the researcher over a three-week time frame. The researcher chose to use a qualitative approach to data gathering.

Answers to the questions could be categorized into three areas: they give philanthropic gifts to support art, they give to support their community, and they give to enhance their public image. There were reasons, incentives, and goals for philanthropic gifts to the arts for each category.

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Psychology Commons