Date of Award

Summer 2012

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Communication

First Advisor

Sarah Bonewits-Feldner

Second Advisor

Jeremy Fyke

Third Advisor

Scott D'Urso

Abstract

With nonprofit organizations expanding due to a weakened economy and a growing population, there is an increased need for volunteers to staff and support these organizations. Since most nonprofits operate with limited finances, these organizations have to generate and retain a group of effective and committed unpaid organizational members. In this study, I argue that the best way for nonprofits to cultivate efficient and dedicated volunteers is to use communication tactics that encourage members to identify with the organization. I also argue that if volunteers strongly identify with an organization, they are more likely to continue contributing their time and effort to the organization, leading to lower volunteer turnover rates and stronger relationships between the organization and volunteers. In order to discover the ways in which volunteers express identification, I conducted in-depth interviews with volunteers from a Midwestern animal welfare organization. From the interviews, three major themes emerged, including: ways in which participants expressed organizational identification, the organizational struggles participants encountered, the organizational challenges facing identification, and within this final theme, the impact of organizational communication on identification. The results present interesting findings because participants expressed being so identified with the Midwestern Animal Society that they expect to receive information and responsibilities typically given to employees and desire to have personal relationships with employees so as to receive more communication and maintain a more intimate relationship with the organization.