In the spring of 2013, I did an independent study on human trafficking. As I studied the subject and learned more about the nonprofits addressing it, I observed that while some rose to fame and success, others doing very similar work remained largely unknown. In particular, I noticed that with the public recognition came greater financial support. I wondered what it was that set these nonprofits apart and caused people to give to them financially. I was especially drawn to this question because of my own interest in working in a nonprofit some day. I wondered how I, as an individual working in a nonprofit, would be able to communicate my goals and mission to the public in a way that resonated with them. That led me to conduct a content analysis of the top social service nonprofits’ websites.
For my content analysis, I am examining the branding image of the top social service nonprofits from 2013. Branding image, the mental image people form about an organization, is typically studied in terms of for-profit businesses. However, some studies have developed frameworks to study nonprofits. Based on these past studies, I developed my own coding framework that could be applied to nonprofit websites. Creating the coding framework – a series of multiple choice and yes/no questions regarding the websites’ content – was a difficult task and it went through many revisions before it was finished. When it was finally ready for use, I selected the organizations from The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s “Philanthropy 400,” including all nonprofits categorized as social service organizations, 28 in total. With the framework developed and the sites selected, I was able to collect data from each site, focusing only on their homepages.
I am now in the stage of analyzing the data I have collected. My goal is to understand what image successful nonprofits seek to represent through their websites homepages. Through this, I hope to identify what qualities are most heavily emphasized in their homepages and what areas they may need to improve.