Date of Award

Spring 5-2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Communication Studies



Committee Chair

John Meyer

Committee Chair Department

Communication Studies

Committee Member 2

Charles Tardy

Committee Member 2 Department

Communication Studies

Committee Member 3

Steven Venette

Committee Member 3 Department

Communication Studies

Committee Member 4

Casey Maugh-Funderburk

Committee Member 4 Department

Communication Studies

Committee Member 5

Alicia Landry


Key factors emerged for communicating with volunteers and staff in the nonprofit sector using a mixed methods approach in two phases. Phase I sought to explain volunteer satisfaction through the development of a new model that included motivation, identification with the nonprofit organization, attachment to the nonprofit organization and its mission, and the impact of interpersonal relationships formed between staff members and volunteers. Findings indicated that the model was an accurate predictor of volunteer satisfaction, and all variables were significantly correlated to volunteer satisfaction. Phase II sought to discover the communication patterns used by internal stakeholders of the nonprofit organization in the maintenance and recruitment of volunteers. Observations and interviews with the 11 internal stakeholders resulted in three overarching themes: people in the organization were uniquely friendly, spiritually driven, and involved in meaningful work. Further analysis revealed strategic and intentional communication patterns, especially during recruitment of volunteers. Patterns included message framing, specific language, and storytelling.

Several theories helped to explain the interactions found in this dual perspective study. First, stakeholder theory (Freeman, 1984) was used as a lens to understand the findings holistically. Observations and interview transcripts revealed that internal stakeholders must manage communication between and among various stakeholder groups to ensure successful operation of a nonprofit. Self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 1985) was used to analyze both quantitative and qualitative data about volunteer satisfaction. Results indicated that internal stakeholders attempted to satisfy volunteers in the following three areas: competence, autonomy, and relatedness. Data analysis revealed that time spent volunteering increased satisfaction, motivation, identification with the organization, attachment to the organization and its mission, and interpersonal relationships formed between volunteers and staff members of the nonprofit organization. Finally, communication accommodation theory (Giles, 1973) explained the messages used by internal stakeholders in the maintenance and recruitment of volunteers. Results indicated that messages were intentional and strategic as staff members sought to satisfy both current volunteers and future volunteers. The study results and discussion prove useful for stakeholders of nonprofits seeking to recruit new volunteers and satisfy current ones.