Rhetorical Strategies for Non-Profits

By Dylan Elliott

About two weeks ago I attended a film seminar held by the Building a Better Wilmington Campaign (BBWC), which is a nonprofit organization focused on encouraging students and their ilk to volunteer here in Wilmington in order to foster a sense of community. I thought that they would be a great topic considering my interest in their cause; after all, I have always been one to value the importance of community in… well… communities. It’s very easy to forget in our increasingly globalized internet world that there’s also a world right out our front door that has its own problems. So in an effort to lend a hand to those who are busy lending hands, I’ve decided to research the most effective rhetorical techniques for small nonprofit organizations. With any luck I might be able to find some useful Rhetorical techniques the BBWC can use.

First off, I was going to start off by analyze the rhetoric used in the BBWC’s website. Unfortunately the BBWC, doesn’t have its own website, at least not one that I could locate. They do however have a Facebook page and a volunteer page on the main UNCW website. Here they have links and tabs devoted to the specific aspects of their organization. Such as their head organizer Dr. Jeffrey L. Brudney, the inaugural holder of the Betty and Dan Cameron Family Distinguished Professorship of Innovation in the Nonprofit Sector at UNCW. He is also the Editor in chief of Nonprofit and Volunteer Sector Quarterly, “the premiere journal in nonprofit studies worldwide” (BBWC). The fact that their leader is so experienced and respected In his field no doubt adds a great deal of credibility to their campaign. In addition to general information they present, they also have tabs for things you’d expect from a program such as this, such as information on how to volunteer with them.

One draw back to their lack of a webpage would no doubt be that their design opportunities are limited to pictures and logos along with the already uniform UNCW theme. What they do have they display well however, such as their volunteering resources page which displays strong images of volunteering in America along with statistics. At first, I thought their lack of a website might be detrimental to their cause, but it actually might be a smart move. Because all their information is located on a site with a decent amount of traffic it saves them a little time trying to build their own audience. I’ll have to look more into this.

Chao Guo and Gregory Saxon in their article for the Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly Journal did a study around social media based advocacy and the steps a nonprofit would take to attract and get results from an audience. Here they narrowed the steps of advocacy down to three, for which they made a pyramid diagram. The three steps were reaching out to people, keeping the flame alive and stepping up to action( Guo & Saxon 70).

For good measure, here is the diagram:


Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 6.22.28 PM


According to Guo and Saxon, These are the minimum number of steps, or “stages,” an organization uses to mold their rhetoric. Though I’m sure this isn’t the only way to go about making a marketing strategy. It’s also very vague. I imagine that when coupled with specific examples from my readings such as social proof an organization might actually be able to effective marketing strategy.

The next source I found really interesting was Funding Source, Board Involvement Techniques, and Financial Vulnerability in Nonprofit Organizations by Matthew M. Hodge and Ronald F. Piccolo. In this excerpt the authors focus on the vulnerability of resources for nonprofit organizations. Because the funding they receive is typically from donations instead of revenue from sales, nonprofits are often at the mercy of the laws that regulate their nonprofit status. To cope with these problems, many nonprofits use something called resource dependence theory. A relatively simple practice, “resource dependence theory explains how an organizations survival and strategy depends on its relationship with foreign institutions” (Hodge, Piccolo 172). At its simplest form, it could be said resources affect a company’s plan of action. It seems rather obvious, but when you consider much of nonprofit resources stem from private contributions and government grants it becomes easier to see how these external factors might be of significant importance to a nonprofit.

Works cited

“Building a Better Wilmington Campaign.” Campaign Leadership: BBWC: UNCW. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Sept. 2015.

Guo, Chao, and Gregory D. Saxton. “Tweeting Social Change: How Social Media are Changing Nonprofit Advocacy.” Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly 43.1 (2014): 57. ProQuest. Web. 24 Sep. 2015

Hodge, Matthew M., and Ronald F. Piccolo. “Funding Source, Board Involvement Techniques, and Financial Vulnerability in Nonprofit Organizations: A Test of Resource Dependence.” Nonprofit Management and Leadership 16.2 (2005): 171-90. ProQuest. Web. 24 Sep. 2015.

This entry was posted in Research Blog and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s