Nonprofit External Communications: General Management, Public Relations, or Fundraising Tool?




External Communications, Social Media, Nonprofit Museums


In the nonprofit sector, effective communication with stakeholders is pivotal for promoting a good reputation, gaining financial resources and, eventually, pursuing an organization’s mission. Although nonprofits increasingly use and diversify their communication channels, such as social media platforms, existing research falls short of explaining how nonprofits institutionalize their different communication strategies. Drawing on institutional theory, this study attempts to bridge this research gap by exploring how nonprofits invest in their communication channels, both non-social media and social media communications, using a sample of U.S. nonprofit museums. The results of the study provide empirical evidence that nonprofits do not treat their non-social media and social media communication channels in the same way. In particular, a significant positive association between advertising expenses and social media channels indicates that nonprofit museums institutionalize their social media communication as the main function of public relations. Further theoretical and practical implications of the results are also discussed.

Author Biographies

  • Jiwon Suh, The University of Texas at Arlington

    Jiwon Suh is an Assistant Professor of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Arlington. Her research interests include organizational behavior, performance and accountability, HR management, cross-sectoral and cross-national comparison, and communication and marketing in the public and nonprofit sectors.

  • Trang Hoang, University of Nebraska at Omaha

    Trang Hoang is an Assistant Professor in the School of Public Administration at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, where she teaches graduate-level courses in public and nonprofit budgeting, human resources management, and research methods. Her primary research interests include public pensions, municipal fiscal health, and nonprofit financial management. She has recently published in Public Administration Review, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, and Social Science Journal.

  • Imane Hijal-Moghrabi, University of Texas Permian Basin

    Imane Hijal-Moghrabi is an Assistant Professor of Public Administration at the University of Texas Permian Basin (UTPB). Her research interests include change management and innovation, performance management and budgeting, government ethics, and HR-related topics. Her work appears in Public Performance & Management Review, Review of Public Personnel Administration, Public Integrity, Administration & Society, Public Organization Review, Public Administration Quarterly, and International Journal of Public Sector Management.






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