Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Leadership Studies

Dissertation Committee

Hans Schmitz, PhD, Chair Lea Hubbard, PhD, Member Marie Lockton, EdD, Member


comparative analysis, social media, Facebook, advocacy, (public) audience engagement, nonprofit or not-for-profit organization, 501(c)(3), philanthropy


This dissertation examined the Facebook activities of seven small nonprofits in Los Angeles to understand their social media use and audience responses. Prior research has distinguished three broader engagement strategies used by Nonprofit Organizations (NPOs), including information provision (awareness-raising), action-related messaging (mobilizing), and community-building efforts (organizing). These strategies can play essential roles in drawing in audiences, but also in moving individual supporters toward greater levels of engagement by increasing donations or becoming more engaged champions for the cause. A qualitative and quantitative analysis of organizational Facebook messages and audience responses was conducted over 3 months. The NPOs included in this study were 20/20 Mom, Citizens for Los Angeles Wildlife, Community Trust Foundation, Invisible People TV, NAMI Glendale, NAMI Westside Los Angeles, and NAMI Urban Los Angeles. Organizational messages were coded for their intended goal (including information, action, and community-building) and contents (i.e., event-related, mission-focused, and advocacy). Audience responses were analyzed to identify the distribution of likes, shares, and comments. Additionally, a random sample of 76 supporter messages posted was qualitatively analyzed to identify their core intent with regard to information-sharing, mobilization, and community-building. The findings revealed that smaller NPOs primarily employed information and action-related messages, with an emphasis on events, while community-related messaging was much less frequent. Information-focused messages aimed to educate the audience and reinforce the NPOs’ perspectives on social issues. The analysis showed a high frequency of incorporating both information and action elements into messaging. Community-building messages were much less frequent, they typically consisted of event announcements and recognition of contributions, and directing audiences to other groups and networks. With regard to audience responses, a combination of information and action-focused organizational messages tended to receive above-average response rates when compared to other types of messaging. A sentiment analysis of audience responses revealed a dominance of expressing positive views, but also a significant presence of negative sentiments. In contrast to organizational messaging, the audience responses featured a primary focus on community-building. By prioritizing community-related messaging and fostering a sense of belonging among their supporters, smaller NPOs can cultivate an active and engaged user community for advocacy purposes.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access


Leadership Studies