Social media tools, as the advanced technology, have penetrated into nonprofit management field prevalently. Nonprofit organizations adopt social media tools, such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Pinterest for attracting potential supporters, raising advocacy, and running fundraising campaigns. Social media tools break the limitation of time and space through the Internet. They change the way of how people communicate and interact with each other. The philanthropy industry hopes that social media tools could bring them the new opportunities to engage with their stakeholders, such as donors, volunteers, and customers. However, since this technology is still developing, the studies of using social media in nonprofit field are still at the infant stage. Many nonprofit practitioners are confused and questioning the effectiveness of adopting social media for civic engagement. The dissertation aims to examine how to adopt social media advantageously for helping nonprofit organizations to engage with their stakeholders. Therefore, this study uses a mix of methodology to examine how social media tools could help nonprofit organizations to gain a stronger relationship with their stakeholders. Also, the study explores in more details about the content that nonprofit organizations have sent on their social media platforms. To develop the theoretical framework, this study used social capital and social exchange theory as the guidance. To observe and examine the strategy of using social media in nonprofit organizations, the study is inspired and adopts the social media typology from Lovejoy and Saxton's (2012) research and the communication models from Lewis, Hamel, and Richardson's work (2001). The study proposed that to gain a stronger relationship with the stakeholders, nonprofit organizations should apply a well-designed comprehensive strategy with multiple goals on their social media platforms. This strategy should consider more about the stakeholders' desires and needs and allows the organizations to communicate with the stakeholders effectively. Also, the study also argues that the content that an organization presents on its social media would impact on the stakeholders' interaction greatly. The study targeted on the art/culture/humanities nonprofit organizations in the United States (n = 195). Data was collected directly from the targeted organization's social media platforms (Facebook and Twitter). The regression analysis was conducted to investigate what strategy that nonprofit organization used could gain a high engagement from their stakeholders. A content analysis was also conducted to explore what posts and tweets could influence how stakeholders react. The results indicate that most nonprofit organizations realize the importance of adopting social media, but a few of them still have not embraced the benefits of the technology essentially. Comparing with the activities on Twitter, both nonprofit organizations and their stakeholders were more active on Facebook. On social media, the primary goal for most nonprofit organizations was to disseminate the information. But sending out the information can be an effective strategy. If a nonprofit organization could combine their values/missions/programs with the hot spot on social media, it can promote the stakeholders' engagement greatly. Building a dialogic content on the organization's social media is still overlooked. But no evidence in this study shown that initiating a dialog would receive a high engagement from the stakeholders. The results of this study also show that a nonprofit organization delivered the posts or tweets more frequently does not necessarily mean it would receive a higher interactivity from its stakeholders. The organization's size (the annual budget) does not influence how nonprofit organizations used their social media tools to interact with their online stakeholders. Overall, the study explored how art/culture/humanities nonprofit organizations used their Facebook and Twitter to interact with their online stakeholders. The study helps both the researchers and the practitioners to understand the strategies of using social media tools in nonprofit organizations. It also reveals several practical examples to illustrate what kind of social media content could attract or discourage the online stakeholders' engagement. The study is also a good benchmark report for nonprofit practitioners to evaluate their social media usage.


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Graduation Date





Bryer, Thomas


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Health and Public Affairs

Degree Program

Public Affairs; Public Administration









Release Date

May 2017

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)