Engaging global givers: A mixed-methods study of international rural development nonprofit organizations’ online communications presence

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2016-05

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Abstract

The fast-paced, ever-changing and growing realm of social networking has caused organizations to begin incorporating virtual communication strategies into their public relations plans. The use of social media channels helps nonprofits reach key stakeholders and attain goals because these channels provide affordable and easily accessible virtual communications. Understanding how and why practitioners use online media is necessary so that analyses may be conducted to indicate areas of improvement. Previous studies have explored the budding concept of communicative functions present in nonprofit organizations’ messages. However, none have explored the influence of message characteristics and combinations of communicative functions on stakeholder response, engagement, and advocacy. Grunig’s (1984) four models of public relations, The Theory of Relationship Management, The Excellence Theory, and the three social networking communicative functions of nonprofit organizational communication on social media served as the frameworks for the study. Through a mixed methods approach of two quantitative analyses and qualitative interviews, this study addressed a gap in the literature as to how and why international rural development nonprofit organizations (IRDNPOs) are using social media to disseminate messages, facilitate dialogue, encourage mobilization, and boost stakeholder engagement. Overall, the organizational presence and practice of social media varied between organizations and the interactive features of social media were not fully utilized to generate dialogue with key audiences. This study provides theoretical and practical implications to enhance our understanding of nonprofits’ social media use and provides insight for nonprofit public relations practitioners. The findings from this study also informed the development of a theoretical model for organizational success on social media.

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Keywords

Rural development, Nonprofit, Social media, Online media, Theoretical model, Content analysis, Mixed methods, Quantitative, Qualitative, International

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