The American Cancer Society (ACS) is one of the country’s largest and most influential non-profit organizations, with over two million volunteers and a budget of nearly half a billion dollars. In recent years, ACS has faced increasing challenges in negotiating with corporate and community-based sponsors and health care partners. These negotiations have a significant impact on ACS’s bottom line.

To build the negotiation capacity of people throughout the organization, ACS hired CBI to provide a one-day negotiation skills training course for ACS Executive Managing Directors from regional offices all over the country. This one-day course catalyzed an organization-wide commitment to building the negotiation skills of all ACS staff and volunteers.

Following the initial training course, CBI developed a negotiation course that was carefully tailored to the ACS context, and then taught a team of internal ACS trainers to deliver the course on a continuing basis.


Working closely with ACS senior staff, CBI develops a custom negotiation training curriculum and teaches eleven internal trainers how to lead one-day workshops on this curriculum.

To develop the curriculum of ACS's tailored workshop, CBI worked closely with ACS Board members and senior income development staff. Once complete, CBI presented the training to income development staff and volunteers from around the country.

After this initial run, CBI and ACS decided to split the curriculum into two separate courses: a one-day basic negotiation skills course for volunteers and staff taught by a team of internal ACS trainers at regional and field offices; and a two-day advanced negotiation course taught by CBI senior practitioners once a year in Cambridge, MA. The two day advanced course was open to ACS staff and volunteers who had already taken the basic course, and who face especially difficult negotiation challenges.

The one-day course builds negotiation skills by integrating theory and practice. It includes:

  • An introductory negotiation game that highlights the challenge of building and maintaining credibility in a negotiation
  • Instruction in the Mutual Gains Approach to negotiation
  • A negotiation role-play tailored to ACS that challenges participants to apply the Mutual Gains Approach
  • A strategy clinic that gives participants an opportunity to think through negotiation issues they face in their daily work, with coaching from trainers and support from peers

ACS selected a group of eleven internal trainers from around the country to teach these one-day courses. To prepare them, CBI brought all eleven trainers together for a  two-day, intensive train-the-trainer workshop. Teams of two trainers took turns presenting the Mutual Gains Approach; briefing, running, and debriefing the negotiation role-plays; and facilitating a strategy clinic. During the workshop, CBI practitioners played the part of participants, and offered advice and coaching in a stop-action format. CBI also provided the trainers with detailed teaching notes on how to highlight the course’s lessons during each of the lectures and debriefings.


Following CBI's train-the-trainers workshop, ACS trainers conduct numerous one-day trainings workshops and received positive responses from the volunteers and staff who attend.

With training and ongoing support from CBI, the team of ACS trainers continued to deliver negotiation skills workshops throughout the organization and around the country. Working in pairs, several ACS trainers have conducted one-day training workshops for other ACS volunteers and staff. These workshops have been held during divisional and national conference events, and conducted as single, stand-alone trainings. ACS received positive feedback from the volunteers and staff who attended the trainings.