Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Social Work

First Advisor

Timothy Davey


Social media has proliferated throughout the nonprofit sector over the last five years and organizations use these new tools in a variety of ways. Little research is available on the use of social media within nonprofit human service organizations (HSO) specifically. This study is one of the first of its kind to explore how and why human service organizations are using social media. The aim of this study is to understand the current status of social media use among nonprofit human service organizations by exploring and describing the social media platforms in use, associated practices with social media, the frequency of use, general satisfaction, and plans for the future use of social media. A cross-sectional research design was selected and a survey instrument was created for the study. Data were collected from 125 nonprofit human service organizations in the Richmond, VA metropolitan area that were identified from a sampling frame of nonprofit organizations. The current status of social media use among nonprofit human service organizations is that HSO’s initially adopted social media to engage the community. Although many HSO’s continue to do this, promoting the HSO’s programs and services has also become a top priority. This is primarily done using Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to share organizational newsletters and other information with their online community at least twice a day. On average, human service organizations have been using social media for more than five years and most plan to continue using social media in the future. Although HSO’s report using social media less than ten hours a week, they are generally satisfied with the outcomes, but admitted more assistance is needed. This study establishes a foundation for HSO’s to discuss the uncertainty of the future and to identify goals and strategies to help the HSO move forward. Increased understanding of why and how to use social media will also help HSO’s to determine strategies for using social media that can add to the sustainability of the organization. Additional implications for HSO’s and suggestions for future research are also discussed.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

May 2012

Included in

Social Work Commons