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Beyond policy patrons: A ‘MADE’ framework for examining public engagement efforts of philanthropic foundations on Twitter


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This study conceptualises four mechanisms—Mobilisation, Advocacy, Dialogue, and Education ('MADE')—through which foundation actors engage the public on Twitter. We analysed stakeholders targeted and message contents of more than 16,000 tweets collected from 299 Twitter accounts of U.S. community foundations during two 12-month periods. We found evidence that foundations tend to serve as 'a knowledge hub' to educate the public. Notably, the 2020 sample suggests lessened dialogic messages yet increased mobilisation and advocacy messages amid the COVID-19 pandemic and political movements. This study reveals foundations’ intermediary and shifting roles in engaging the public in times of normalcy and crisis.
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Beyond policy patrons: A ‘MADE’ framework
for examining public engagement efforts of
philanthropic foundations on Twitter
Viviana Chiu Sik Wu
To cite this article: Viviana Chiu Sik Wu (2021): Beyond policy patrons: A ‘MADE’ framework for
examining public engagement efforts of philanthropic foundations on Twitter, Public Management
Review, DOI: 10.1080/14719037.2021.1982328
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Published online: 21 Sep 2021.
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Beyond policy patrons: A ‘MADE’ framework for
examining public engagement eorts of philanthropic
foundations on Twitter
Viviana Chiu Sik Wu
School of Public Policy, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst, MA, USA
This study conceptualises four mechanisms—Mobilisation, Advocacy, Dialogue, and
Education ('MADE')—through which foundation actors engage the public on Twitter.
We analysed stakeholders targeted and message contents of more than 16,000 tweets
collected from 299 Twitter accounts of U.S. community foundations during two 12-
month periods. We found evidence that foundations tend to serve as 'a knowledge
hub' to educate the public. Notably, the 2020 sample suggests lessened dialogic
messages yet increased mobilisation and advocacy messages amid the COVID-19
pandemic and political movements. This study reveals foundations’ intermediary
and shifting roles in engaging the public in times of normalcy and crisis.
KEYWORDS Public engagement; foundations; Twitter; advocacy; COVID19
Foundation actors are arguably among the most resourceful civil society institutions
for shaping and influencing public policy and policy communities around the world
(Anheier and Leat 2018; Ferris 2009; Harrow, Jung, and Phillips 2016). For decades,
researchers have characterized foundations as hidden patrons who provide resources
to citizen groups (Walker 1983; Nownes 1995; Lowry 1999). While a growing body of
research has contributed to our understanding of foundations as policy intermediaries
(Reckhow 2016; Tompkins-Stange 2016; Ferris 2009; Bushouse and Mosley 2018;
Williamson and Luke 2020), the intermediary roles of philanthropic foundations in
fostering bottom–up engagement with the public remain unexplored.
Recent years have witnessed escalating policy and scholarly debates whether and
how philanthropic foundations represent public interests and community needs rather
than simply advancing private values and commitment (Reich 2019; Frumkin 2006a;
McGinnis Johnson 2016). To that end, scholars have consistently argued that public
engagement plays a crucial part in maintaining the public benefits and legitimacy of
charitable gifts, potentially reshaping the power dynamics among donors, foundations,
grantees, and the wider community (Ostrander 2007; Eikenberry and Breeze 2019).
CONTACT Viviana Chiu Sik Wu
This article has been republished with minor changes. These changes do not impact the academic content of the
© 2021 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
However, prior research on their policy roles has yet to pay much attention to
foundations’ interactions with the public in the online space. This article represents
a focused effort to address this gap.
As the modes and means of public engagement have become diversified, public and
non-profit organizations increasingly use social media to partake in public discourse and
policy advocacy (Agostino and Arnaboldi 2016; Gordon and Mihailidis 2016; Mergel
2013). While online engagement does not substitute traditional offline engagement, the
networking and dialogic affordances of social media enable policy intermediaries and
entrepreneurs to tap into vast and diverse networks of public stakeholders instanta-
neously at a much lower cost (Guo and Saxton 2018). Such networks embody ‘diffused
stakeholders’ and ‘issue publics’, who might not be otherwise visible, salient, or identifi-
able in traditional offline settings (Rainie and Wellman 2012; Guo and Saxton 2020).
Given that philanthropic foundations have been emerging as critical policy actors in
many countries, examining their roles to engage public constituents through the social
media space can provide valuable insights into how philanthropic actors advance
public interests and policy change from the bottom up. We thus ask: How do founda-
tions attempt to engage public stakeholders on social media? To answer this question,
we began by reviewing the extant literature and drawing on inductive analysis to
conceptualize four mechanisms through which foundation actors can engage public
stakeholders on social media, ranging from (1) Public Mobilization, (2) Policy
Advocacy, (3) Public Dialogue, to (4) Public Education (‘MADE’). To further develop
the MADE framework, we employed a two-stage analytic approach combining quan-
titative and qualitative content analyses to examine two-year Twitter data from 299
active Twitter accounts of U.S.-based community foundations spanning
1 September 2016 to 31 August 2017 and 1 January 2020 to 31 December 2020. The
first stage involved classifying the messages based on the ‘who’ – three stakeholder
groups of foundations, including donors, non-profits, and the wider community.
The second stage involved an inductive analysis of tweet messages to theorize key
public engagement mechanisms based on a random sample of 500 community-
oriented messages in the two sample years.
The study offers important theoretical and empirical contributions to the literature.
In light of the debates on the accountability and publicness concerns of foundations, it
sheds light on the undertheorized roles of philanthropic foundations in engaging
public stakeholders, extending a growing body of research that suggests foundation
actors are more than policy patrons, and emerging as catalysts for change in commu-
nities (Reckhow 2016; Wu 2021a). Second, it evidences and contrasts the shifting roles
of community foundations to mobilize, advocate, discuss, and educate the public on
Twitter in times of normalcy and crisis before and during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Third, this study makes an empirical contribution by presenting a multi-stage process
in analysing ‘thick’ social media messages in terms of stakeholders and purposes. As
the debates surrounding foundations’ policy roles and public accountability continue
to unfold, this study urges future research in this direction and serves as a reminder to
pay attention to the online space of foundations as policy intermediaries to engage the
2V. C. S. WU
Literature review
The policy roles of foundations and accountability conundrum
While foundations are traditionally characterized as hidden patrons who provide
resources to citizen groups (Walker 1983; Nownes 1995; Lowry 1999), a growing
body of research has identified that foundations partake in the policy process as
policy intermediaries in many countries (Reckhow 2016; Tompkins-Stange 2016;
Bushouse and Mosley 2018). They act as ‘boundary-spanning groups to provide
a translating function between principals with different values and perspectives’.
(Gandara, Rippner, and Ness 2017, 702). However, foundations’ policy influence
faces no shortage of scrutiny. At the centre of the debate are the accountability and
publicness concerns whether foundations represent public interests and community
needs (Frumkin 2006b; Reckhow 2013; Reich 2019). Foundations are often criti-
cized for being unaccountable, donor-directed, non-transparent, particularistic,
paternalistic, and deficient in democratic values of justice and equality
(Hammack and Anheier 2013; Mosley and Galaskiewicz 2015; Anheier and Leat
2018). On this, scholars have attempted to offer at least two political and economic
rationales for these challenges. Since philanthropy tends to be supply- or donor-led,
wealth and power asymmetry between donor and recipients makes philanthropic
accountability difficult if not altogether absent (Ostrander and Schervish 1990;
Ostrander 2007). On top of power asymmetry, scholars have argued that the very
constitution of self-sufficiency relieves them from the chronic signals and incen-
tives to be publicly accountable, and as a result, they suffer from the ‘benign
fallibility syndrome’. Thus, elitist preferences may be reflected, for example, in
the way foundation grants support values and issues favoured by the wealthy and
are insulated from the pressures of democratic accountability (Reich 2019;
Ostrander 2007; Salamon 1987).
Rising call for public engagement in the philanthropic eld
While philanthropic gifts are often claimed to confer public benefits, foundations
tend to be run by the few for the many. The crux of translating monetary gifts to
public interests involves foundations responding to community needs and gaining
public trust and legitimacy in the authorizing environment (Ostrander 2007;
Moore 2000; Leonard 1989). To this end, recent academic and practitioner-
oriented literature has increasingly turned to the concept of public engagement
in hopes of democratizing control and access to philanthropic resources, placing
greater power and voice with public stakeholders who are outside the foundations
(Gibson 2017; Ostrander 2007; Carman and Hefner 2012). Following Nabatchi and
Amsler (2014), this study defines public engagement as ‘a variety of in-person and
online methods for bringing people together to address issues of public impor-
tance’ (p. 65s). Public engagement is a key step for policy entrepreneurs and
intermediaries to rally for community-led policy change. As Majone (1990, 160)
suggests, ‘ . . . the most basic prerequisite of public deliberation is that the members
of the community agree to focus the debate on some issue of general interest.
Before the dialectic of conflicting positions can unfold, there must be widespread
agreement about the nature of the central problems then facing the community’.
Empirical research that explores foundation roles in public engagement is largely
absent, in part due to the nascent development and the lack of access to foundations’
interpersonal communication. Across the global philanthropic landscape, scholars
increasingly look to community foundations, a type of place-based public foundations,
which have begun to incorporate public engagement in foundation work and gran-
tmaking decisions (Bernholz, Fulton, and Kasper 2005; Gibson 2017; Williamson and
Luke 2020; Guo and Lai 2019; Jung, Harrow, and Phillips 2013). The growing
momentum towards engaging public beneficiaries is manifested though their roles to
mobilize and advocate for social change as well as to convene policy conversations and
involve the public in grantmaking decisions and strategies about how to better their
communities (Harrow, Jung, and Phillips 2016; Wu 2021a). In 2021, the Foundation
Center reported that 2,236 community foundations distributed $64.4 billion in grants
around the world, with the majority of 1,058 foundations found in the USA and the
rest in Europe, Asia, Oceania, South Africa, and South America (Candid 2021). While
institutional environment and regulation of foundations differ across countries, com-
munity foundations are a breed apart from private foundations, generally enjoying
more favourable tax treatment than private foundations.
Unlike private foundations,
community foundations are fiscally supported by public donations and in theory face
public accountability to the communities they serve, not just to the donors (Wu 2021a;
Jung, Harrow, and Phillips 2013; Ostrander 2007). Because of their peculiar public
character, they have to some extent dodged the taint of self-aggrandizement that has
shadowed foundation philanthropy (Hall 1989). However, with the rise of donor-
advised funds that allow donors to influence grantmaking priorities, there are mount-
ing concerns about their ability to stand for public interests (Wu 2021a; Ostrander
2007; Easterling and Millesen 2015). Fostering knowledge of foundations’ public
engagement with communities becomes even more critical for understanding, and
when necessary, reshaping the power relations among donors and public beneficiaries
to ensure the public aspect of philanthropy (Nickel and Eikenberry 2009; Ostrander
Mechanisms of public engagement on social media
Social networking through social media has become a common routine for citizens and
organizations in a network society (Castells and Cardoso 2005; Castells 2010). To date,
social media have become more deeply ingrained in millennials’ daily lives than in
older generations in the digital era (Lee 2020; Paulin et al. 2014). While social media do
not displace the forms of engagement that take place in offline and other settings, the
public space afforded by social media presents an open avenue, as well as new empirical
data to explore various means and mechanisms of public engagement unique to the
social media environment. Intrigued by these interactive platforms, researchers have
started to study social media use among public and non-profit organizations.
Notwithstanding their important contribution, much of this research focuses on the
adoption of social media (e.g. Mergel and Bretschneider 2013; Campbell and
Lambright 2019), and evaluating engagement outputs through metrics such as
retweets, shares, and favourites (e.g. Xu and Saxton 2019; Agostino and Arnaboldi
2016). By comparison, fewer studies have qualitatively examined the concrete mean-
ings conveyed in social media messages, and little attention has been given to how
foundation actors are using social media for public engagement in hopes of advancing
4V. C. S. WU
change. One of the exceptions is Lovejoy and Saxton (2012), who proposed the
Information-Community-Action (ICA) framework that identified three key commu-
nicative functions in the non-profits’ tweets: Share information, build a community,
and mobilize action. While the ICA framework distinguishes various message func-
tions from a communication lens, the theoretical construct is distinct from and hence
not directly transferrable to inform and characterize messages related to public
engagement that ‘brings people together to address issues of public importance’
(Nabatchi and Amsler 2014).
Given that the intermediary roles of philanthropic foundations in fostering bottom-
up public engagement remain underexplored, a central theoretical task of this paper is
to draw on inductive analysis to conceptualize how foundation actors engage the
public on social media. To start with, we review two distinct bodies of research that
examine the policy roles of foundations and how social media can be used for public
engagement. In bridging the two, we propose the MADE framework (Figure 1) as
a base from which to understand how foundations might involve the public in
addressing important public issues through Public Mobilization (M), Policy
Advocacy (A), Public Dialogue (D), and Public Education (E).
(1) Public Mobilization (M)
Extant research suggests that foundations are positioned to coordinate action and
activity to advance particular policy goals (Bushouse and Mosley 2018). On that, the
connective power of social media for building ties, however weak, is well-suited for
Figure 1. The MADE framework.
foundation actors to broker diverse stakeholders and bring about collective and
connective action for policy change (Paulin et al. 2014; Pond and Lewis 2017; Vicari
and Cappai 2016). In particular, social media enable personalized engagement that
leads actions and content to be distributed widely across loosely organized social
networks (Lance and Segerberg 2012; Turunen and Weinryb 2019). The social net-
working features enable policy intermediaries and entrepreneurs to tap into and
mobilize vast networks of stakeholders at a much lower cost, particularly ‘diffused
stakeholders’ and ‘issue publics’ who might not be otherwise visible, salient or identifi-
able in traditional offline settings (Saxton, Ren, and Guo 2020; Tremayne et al. 2006).
(1) Policy Advocacy (A)
Another way foundations can bring people together to address public problems is
through policy advocacy across varied stages of the policy process (Ferris 2009).
Specifically, Bushouse and Mosley (2018) identified four intermediary roles of founda-
tions, which include funding networks of advocates to propose or endorse policy ideas,
orchestrating action to elevate policy frames, encouraging others to advocate, and
coalition building with other organizations to exert political influence on decision
makers. Social media-based advocacy allows foundation actors to engage the citizens
by broadcasting their policy visions and exerting public influence extensively beyond
geographical boundaries (Guo and Saxton 2014; Gupta, Ripberger, and Wehde 2018).
A growing line of research suggests that social media platforms are popularly used for
policy advocacy, ranging from galvanizing public attention to policy issues, influencing
policy frames, and advocating policy changes (An, Wu, and Guo 2017; Guo and Saxton
(1) Public Dialogue (D)
Crowd-sourcing citizen inputs plays an important role in co-production and generat-
ing ideas in the early stage of the policy process (Brandsen and Pestoff 2006; Liu 2021).
As Tompkins-Stange (2016) observed, foundations’ policy influence goes beyond the
traditional way of shaping legislative outputs. Foundations also engage in various
online and offline policy activities such as convening and changing public conversa-
tions about policy issues (Wu 2021a). Social media may thus serve as a convening tool
for foundations to create dialogue between stakeholders and civil society actors
(Lovejoy and Saxton 2012). The dialogic engagement complements monologic inter-
action, enabling two-way conversation between and across stakeholders in the
(1) Public Education (E)
Just as advocacy efforts can be made to create ‘echo chambers’ that direct targeted
messages at legislators and other policymakers, public education efforts on social
media space can draw widespread public attention and quickly convey important
ideas in the minds of citizens (Feezell 2018; Ferris 2009). Knowledge is the acumen
for catalysing public problem-solving. As Phillips et al. (2016) pointed out, ‘the greatest
asset of a community foundation is not the size of its endowment, but its knowledge of
community and ability to use this knowledge for positive change’ (66). By relaying
6V. C. S. WU
policy knowledge released by research reports and news through social media, founda-
tions can instantaneously inform citizens of the severity and urgency of a policy issue.
Their roles to foster public knowledge and policy innovation are particularly salient
during the agenda-setting stage of policymaking and in the time leading up to
legislative votes, elections, or ballot initiatives (Phillips et al. 2016; Bushouse and
Mosley 2018). Aside from the traditional top-down, insider approach, social media
enable a more transparent and non-hierarchical way of knowledge interaction between
foundations as intermediaries and their policy stakeholders such as knowledge com-
munities, legislators, grantees and the public (Noland and Newton 2015; Bernholz,
Skloot, and Varela 2010).
In sum, this review of existing research serves as a conceptual guide to inform our
investigation of foundations’ public engagement efforts on Twitter. Nonetheless, we
lack empirical evidence that exemplifies and corroborates the framework in the extant
literature. Through analysing Twitter data inductively, we further bolster the frame-
work to understand how community foundations attempt to bring people together to
address issues of public importance on Twitter.
Data and method
Data mining and collection with Twitter API
Compared to offline settings, social media platforms such as Twitter have an open
Application Programming Interface (API), which enables scholars to gather data on
the platforms’ public communication activities. While Facebook and Twitter are the
two most commonly studied social media platforms (e.g. Lam and Nie 2020; Guo and
Saxton 2014; Campbell and Lambright 2020), access to Facebook data was highly
restricted at the time of conducting this research.
This study examines community
foundations’ use of Twitter for public engagement. Following prior studies, Twitter is
well suited for analysing online engagement and advocacy, and broadly serves as
a proxy for overall social media use (e.g. Guo and Saxton 2018; Lovejoy, Waters, and
Saxton 2012; Svensson, Mahoney, and Hambrick 2015).
The study uses U.S.-based community foundations (CFs) as the study population.
The study subjects were first identified from the list of community foundations on
the Council on Foundations website ( between 2017 and 2018. Through
manual verification and screening out irrelevant and dormant organizations, the
complete list contains 956 community foundations in the U.S. At the time of data
collection, a total of 299 CFs had a unique official Twitter account, although not all
were active on Twitter. It is worthwhile to note that the sampled foundations with
Twitter presence on average were older and had larger assets, grants and contribu-
tions, incurring more lobbying expenses than those that were not on Twitter
(Table 1).
After identifying their Twitter profiles, a customized Python programming lan-
guage was used to collect community foundations’ public tweets. To respect Twitter
user privacy and the intellectual property of Twitter, we conducted data mining in
compliance with the terms set by the Twitter API through an authorized academic
developer account. We conducted two rounds of Twitter data collection in 2017 and
2021 respectively. The first dataset includes 50,536 original tweets (i.e. non-retweets)
sent by 266 foundations between 1 September 2016 and 31 August 2017. We then
repeated the same data collection process in 2021. The second dataset consists of
30,900 original messages sent by 200 community foundations between 1 January 2020
and 31 December 2020.
Two-stage analysis procedures
For the purpose of this study, we employed a two-stage process to identify and examine
public engagement messages through stakeholder analysis (who was targeted) and
inductive analysis (what was communicated) as shown in Figure 2. We created
a random stratified sample of 20% of the original tweets for stakeholder analysis, followed
by an inductive analysis of 500 randomly sampled public engagement messages. In
particular, we argue that distinguishing the stakeholders targeted and deciphering the
actual texts being communicated is crucial to understanding how foundations attempt to
interact and engage the public on social media (here, on Twitter). While social media
engagement might be construed generally as interaction and communication on social
media, our analysis showed they do not signify or fall within the conceptual tenets of
public engagement per se (Nabatchi and Amsler 2014). Additionally, while using metrics
of likes and retweets can quantify and proxy for the reach of message audiences, social
Table 1. Organizational characteristics of community foundations by Twitter Presence.
Community Foundations on Twitter Community Foundations not on Twitter
Statistics N Mean SD Min Max N Mean SD Min Max
Age (as of 2017) 297 31 19 0 101 643 26 15 1 112
Total Assets
297 2209 8027 1 125,639 643 408 1257 0 26,914
Grants (US$100,000) 297 228 1154 0 18,264 643 36 158 0 2974
Contributions (US$100,000) 297 260 986 0 14,625 643 49 195 0 3915
Lobbying Expense (US$) 297 5370 45,825 0 750,000 643 201 2641 0 59,937
A total of 940 community foundations’ IRS 990 records for 2017 were found on the National Center for Charitable
Statistics (NCCS). Since two foundations on Twitter did not have 990 data for 2017, resulting in N = 297.
Table 2. Stakeholder analysis results across 2017, 2020 and the full samples.
2017 Sample 2020 Sample Full Sample
Stakeholders Purposes Count % Count % Count %
Donors Fundraising 1630 16% 1585 26% 3215 20%
Non-Profits Grantmaking 2055 20% 1816 29% 3871 24%
Community Relationship Building 4502 45% 1046 17% 5548 34%
Public Engagement 1609 16% 1659 27% 3268 20%
Nebulous NA 300 3% 74 1% 374 2%
Grand Total 10,096 100% 6180 100% 16,276 100%
Table 3. Content analysis results of public engagement messages across 2017, 2020 and the full samples.
2017 Sample 2020 Sample Full Sample
Count % Count % Count %
Public Mobilization 20 8% 65 26% 85 17%
Policy Advocacy 37 15% 63 25% 100 20%
Public Dialogue 78 31% 34 14% 112 22%
Public Education 115 46% 88 36% 203 41%
Grand Total 250 100% 250 100% 500 100%
8V. C. S. WU
media messages present rich textual data that convey the contexts and meanings
pertinent to inform the types of social media engagement, such as public engagement.
Hence, this study focused on deciphering Twitter messages to explore public engagement
mechanisms on Twitter. The initial analysis revealed that Twitter messages target diverse
stakeholders and serve distinct purposes, warranting a two-step analysis process to
identify and dissect the nuanced meanings embedded in messages.
Stakeholder analysis of Twitter messages
Drawing on the notion of online stakeholder targeting, the first step of analysis
involved analysing the tweets based on the three key stakeholders served by commu-
nity foundations: charitable donors, non-profit organizations, and the community at
Step 1: Stakeholder Analysis
Step 2: Inductive Analysis
Random sampling of 250 public
engagement messages by 76 CFs
The full list of 956 community foundations (CFs)
Data collection of 299 CFs’ Twitter
accounts via Twitter API
2017 Dataset
50,536 original messages
sent by 266 CFs
(Sept 1, 2016 - Sept 1, 2017)
2020 Dataset
30,900 original messages
sent by 200 CFs
(Jan 1/2020 Dec 31, 2020)
20% stratified sampling of
10,096 original messages
20% stratified sampling of
6,180 original messages
1,659 public engagement messages
1,609 public engagement messages
Figure 2. Two-step coding procedures on Tweet Messages.
Figure 3. Ten most common terms for manual classification.
10 V. C. S. WU
large (Graddy and Morgan 2006; Leonard 1989; Saxton and Guo 2014). These stake-
holders correspond to the three primary roles of a community foundation as a funder
who reaches out to donors, a grantmaker who offers grants to non-profits, and
a community leader who catalyzes community change (Magat 1989; Wu 2021a). One
experienced coder analysed the messages based on a stakeholder classification scheme
proposed by Saxton and Guo (2014) in which community foundations’ tweets are
targeted at one of the primary stakeholders for several strategic purposes: First, Donor-
oriented, which includes tweets for fundraising and providing service to
donors; second, Non-Profit-oriented, which includes tweets that address funding
opportunities, grant-writing, managerial needs of charitable organizations and gran-
tees’ works; third, Community-oriented, which includes tweets for community events,
volunteering opportunities, and sharing information about community needs. Based
on this coding scheme, we assigned a single code donor-oriented, non-profit-
oriented, or community-oriented – to each tweet according to the primary stakeholder
targeted and related purposes.
Inductive analysis of public engagement messages
In the second step, we analysed the data inductively to identify theoretical con-
structs and conceptual categories pertinent to public engagement. Due to the large
size of the text data, we randomly sampled 250 community-oriented public engage-
ment messages from the 2017 sample and the 2020 sample respectively for in-depth
analysis (n = 500). Two coders conducted open and axial coding to analyse the
sampled messages (Corbin and Strauss 2015; Sloan and Quan-Haase 2017). After
creating codes that described the first 100 tweets, we then compared our codes and
created a preliminary codebook for coding the rest of the tweets while adding new
codes as they emerged. We then constructed linkages between the codes through
axial coding, which resulted in a high-level codebook of four thematic categories
and 10 sub-themes of engagement practices (Corbin and Strauss 2015). Based on
the codebook, we repeated the content analysis procedure to analyse the second
sample. Newly coded messages were compared to those previously coded to ensure
reliability and consistency across the two samples (Williamson, Given, and Scifleet
2017). Differences in codings, when discovered, were resolved through discussion
until consensus was achieved. At this point in the analysis, we considered coding
additional data but concluded to have reached saturation (Corbin and Strauss
Stakeholder analysis results
While being informed by Saxton and Guo’s classification described above, the early
rounds of coding revealed two new categories engendered from community-oriented
messages, namely, ‘Relationship Building’ and ‘Public Engagement’ themes.
Eventually, we classified the stratified sampled tweets into four categories that
described the primary stakeholders and purposes of tweet messages (see Table 2): (1)
donors for fundraising purposes (n = 3,215, 20%), (2) non-profit grantees for gran-
tmaking purposes (n = 3,871, 20%), (3) community stakeholders for purposes of
relationship building (n = 5,548, 34%), and (4) community stakeholders for public
engagement purposes (n = 3,268, 20%), with two percent nebulous tweets that did not
contain interpretable text, such as a URL link.
Typical examples of relationship building messages are motivational quotes and
seasons’ greetings, appreciation towards the public or specific stakeholders, sharing
community news and organizational announcements. For instance, Community
Foundation of Washington County in Mississippi wrote that ‘My heart goes out to
all the people affected by Hurricane Harvey . . . ’ Madison Community Foundation in
Wisconsin replied to a new follower ‘Thank you @UserID for the follow! Be sure to
check out our website to learn more about us . . . ’
Messages coded as ‘Public Engagement’ entailed communication directed at invol-
ving the community for improving community well-being or addressing public pro-
blems. These messages ranged from providing policy information on pressing
community needs, disseminating civic education opportunities, convening civic dia-
logue, such as discussion forums, advocating policy ideas and issues, promoting
political and collective action such as voting and protests, as well as volunteering
and civic action (see Appendix 1 for the codebook for message classification). Another
defining feature was that messages coded under public engagement identified or spoke
to specific policy issues. For instance, Miami Foundation broadcast a community event
to address youth violence, ‘Tonight: final #TogetherForChildren community meeting
at South Dade Regional Library to address youth violence’. The Boston Foundation
weighed in on immigrant communities, ‘Immigrants & their families, have made & will
continue 2 make Greater Boston, Ma & the U.S.A thrive! #sharedfuture . . . ’ Figure 3
displays ten most common terms for stakeholder classification.
Results from inductive analysis of public engagement messages
A closer examination of the 500 public engagement messages from the 2017 and 2020
samples (Table 3) led to the development of four mechanisms and 10 practices through
which community foundations engage with the public on Twitter. The following
section discusses how the community foundations we studied engage the public on
Twitter, with illustrations and thematic proportions of the four mechanisms(see Tables
4 and 5).
(1) Public Mobilization (M)
Mobilization involves the engagement mechanisms of securing community-based
support, calling public members to act, and rallying resources to exert policy influence.
The 2017 sampled tweets showed a very limited mobilizing role played by community
foundations; only eight percent of tweets (N = 20) were classified in this category.
Nonetheless, the mobilization messages mounted to 26% (N = 65), i.e. more than
tripled in the 2020 sampled tweets.
The data revealed multiple ways that the sampled community foundations mobi-
lized public action, including calling for political participation (such as voter registra-
tion, census and voter mobilization), civic participation (such as volunteering for
community service), social movement (such as protests and marching) and driving
behavioural change (such as #PublicTransitDay, supporting black-own businesses).
For instance, the Brooklyn Foundation (@BklynFoundation) encouraged citizens to
12 V. C. S. WU
participate in the census, ‘Have you filled out your census yet? 10 minutes is all it takes
to #makebrooklyncount and ensure our communities get their fair share of represen-
tation and resources for the next decade . . . Similarly, Northern New Jersey
Community Foundation (@NNJCF) sought to mobilize voters for the 2020 presidential
election, ‘Vote today in the general election. Polls are open in New Jersey from 6 a.m. to
8 p.m . . . . #vote #generalelection’. To pledge support to black-owned and black-
operated businesses, North Valley Community Foundation (@NVCF) tweeted, ‘Let’s
support our community, check out this list of black-owned and black-operated busi-
nesses right here in butte county to support . . . #blacklivesmatter #juneteenth #wear-
eresilient #buttestrong.’ These messages point to foundations’ mobilizing roles to call
for public to act on social causes and policy issues.
(1) Policy Advocacy (A)
The second public engagement mechanism that emerged from the analysis corre-
sponds to policy advocacy, which involves proposing or endorsing ideas, visions and
priorities that foundations see for the community, and coalition building with other
organizations to exert political influence on decision makers. We found that advocacy
was little used in the 2017 dataset, but more prevalent in the 2020 dataset. It might be in
part due to the fact that 2020 was not only an election year during a global pandemic, it
Table 4. Content analysis of public engagement messages (1 September 2016–31 August 2017).
Category Example Freq (%)
Public Mobilization (M) 20 8%
1. Political
Cfectnews: November 1 is the deadline to register to vote online or by
mail before Election Day (11/8)! Click for all the . . .
2. Social Movement Miamifoundation: 4.29: ‘March for jobs, justice and climate’ Miami
People’s Climate March with @ UserID.
3. Behavioural
Miamifoundation: ‘Are you on board with #PublicTransitDay? Join
hundreds of Miamians pledging to ride transit on 12.9 . . . ’
4. Civic Action Miamifoundation: @UserID weighs in on driving civic engagement in
#ourmiami – vote, volunteer, share your stories.
Policy Advocacy (A) 37 15%
5. Endorse or Propose
Policy Ideas
Tsff: ‘Housing is looked at as a profitable good, not as a basic right’.
@UserID @UserID #affordablehousing
6. Coalition Building Nycommtrust: Victory! Our grants backed increasing NY’s age of criminal
responsibility to 18. NY Assembly passes #RaiseTheAge
Public Dialogue (D) 78 31%
7. Crowdsourcing
public ideas
Miamifoundation: How can we ensure all Miamians live within a 10-min.
walk of a park? Host a #MyMiamiStory conversation, spark ideas
8. Convene public
CommFound: Join us for A Public Affair on @UserID on 7/24 @ 8:35 re:
our county’s educational achievement gap & the role of ELPASO.
Public Education (E) 115 46%
9. Civic education KBCFoundation1: Come to our Citizen Science lecture this Thursday
10. Policy information cfsww: The types of homeless people had changed . . . so too might
have the conditions that put them on the streets.
Total 250 100%
was a year, among other things, marked by the rising call for racial justice and equality
in the U.S. The results showed that the advocacy messages went up from 15% (N = 37)
to 25% (N = 63), although it consistently ranked as the second smallest category of the
four engagement mechanisms in both years.
As the results have shown, Twitter served our studied foundations as a public
channel for broadcasting their visions for social and policy change and their attempts
to steer public awareness and government policies. For instance, the San Francisco
Foundation (@TSFF) tweeted, ‘Housing is looked at as a profitable good, not as a basic
right’. The Boston Foundation (@bostonfdn), ‘Immigrants & their families, have made
Table 5. Content analysis of public engagement messages (1 January 2020–31 December 2020).
Category Example Freq (%)
Public Mobilization (M) 65 26%
1. Political
NNJCF: ‘Vote today in the general election. Polls are open in New Jersey
from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. for information, go to . . . #vote
2. Social Movement BklynFoundation: ‘This weekend, join the #census2020 march for
#racialjustice! The census isn’t just a numbers game, it is what guides
resource allocation in NYC and across the country. Join @UserID this
Sunday, August 2nd, at 1:30 pm to demand resource justice and to
3. Behavioural
NVCF: ‘Let’s support our community, check out this list of black-owned
and black-operated businesses right here in butte county to support.
We will continue to add to this list . . . #blacklivesmatter #juneteenth
#weareresilient #buttestrong’
4. Civic Action NVCF: ‘looking for ways to celebrate Juneteenth in our community?
Check out this list of events happening near you. Don’t forget to
protect your community and wear your mask. Let’s celebrate as
a community and stand united in the fight for racial justice.
#juneteenth #blacklivesmatter . . . ’
Policy Advocacy (A) 63 25%
5. Endorse or Propose
Policy Ideas
Colsfoundation: ‘The Columbus foundation is proud to stand with
hundreds of businesses in support of the Columbus city council
resolution declaring racism to be a public health emergency. Read
more . . . ’
6. Coalition Building Siliconvalleycf: ‘In a letter to @UserID (Governor of California), nearly 40
philanthropic orgs, driven by our shared commitment to a just &
equitable California, elevated the need to protect & support
immigrants & their families who are integral to our social, economic
& civic fabric’.
Public Dialogue (D) 34 14%
7. Crowdsourcing
public ideas
CommFound: ‘Did you know? Trends diary is a place for boulder county
residents of all ages to share personal experiences that relate to
a pressing community need. Learn more and submit your story.
#communitycatalyst #bldrctytrends #doingourpartco’
8. Convene public
cffound: ‘Now, more than ever, central Florida needs to talk. not just
about the good and the bad we’re facing today, but about how we’ll
create the future. Join us 10/1 for the conversation our community
needs now. Get ready for table talk by visiting . . . #cfftabletalk’
Public Education (E) 88 36%
9. Civic/public
Siliconvalleycf: ‘Have you been sent an email w/ misinformation about
#covid19 or the #2020elections? You’re not alone. Learn more about
“Democracy in the Covid-19 Infodemic” on Thursday, May 28 @1pm
with @UserID & SVCF program officer @UserID Register . . . ’
10. Policy information PittsburghFdn: ‘@UserID presents four recommendations from a public
health expert on how Allegheny county can reduce the toll of the
pandemic and improve equity in vaccine distribution . . . ’
Total 250 100%
14 V. C. S. WU
& will continue 2 make Greater Boston, MA & the U.S.A thrive! #sharedfuture . . . ’ In
one of its tweets, Columbus Foundation (@colsfoundation) wrote it was ‘proud to
stand with hundreds of businesses in support of the Columbus city council resolution
declaring racism to be a public health emergency’. Foundations also advance their
policy agendas by sponsoring and forging coalition with other organizations. In some
instances, their efforts successfully changed the policy agenda, as reported by the
New York Community Trust (@NYCommTrust), ‘Victory! Our grants backed increas-
ing NY’s age of criminal responsibility to 18. NY Assembly passes #RaiseTheAge . . .
Similarly, community foundations initiate or join campaigns with other organizations
to put political pressure on governors and lawmakers. Silicon Valley Community
Foundation (@siliconvalleycf) advocated its position with others on Twitter, ‘In
a letter to @gavinnewsom (Governor of California), nearly 40 philanthropic orgs,
driven by our shared commitment to a just & equitable California, elevated the need
to protect & support immigrants & their families who are integral to our social,
economic & civic fabric’.
(1) Public Dialogue (D)
Public Dialogue reflects the public engagement mechanism through which a civil
society actor convenes community dialogue on policy issues for multisectoral pro-
blem-solving. The engagement level of dialogue is distinct from the mobilization
level as it involves less participation from the community, with no specific calls for
action to influence public decisions, other than making public dialogue on commu-
nity or policy issues (Fung 2015). As seen from the full results listed in Tables 1, 22%
of the engagement tweets (N = 112) were primarily for building dialogues, which
constituted the second largest category of public engagement and was slightly higher
than the proportion of tweets sent for policy advocacy and public mobilization.
Comparing the analysis results across the two years, dialogic messages made up
14% (N = 34) in the 2020 data, which was nearly half of that in the 2017 dataset
(31%, N = 78). The pandemic and social distancing regulations likely explain the
reduced dialogic engagement in the 2020 sampled data, which featured little in-
person gathering and public discussion, but mostly virtual events and online
We found that dialogue-related tweets contained two primary mechanisms, in
which community foundations (a) invited citizens to engage in informal conversa-
tions around community issues and (b) convened a formal event for public delib-
eration on specific policy areas, be it online or offline. Discursive form of
engagement is a unique mechanism for producing collective decisions and an
important first step in fostering civic identity and inviting citizen inputs on com-
munity issues (Carpini et al. 2004; Cooper 2005; Grønbjerg & Prakash 2017). The
data showed that this engagement mechanism involved two-way participation,
including inviting ideas from the community, through convening face-to-face for-
ums, online and offline events for creating continuous online dialogues with the
public. For example, the Community Foundation Boulder County (@CommFound)
Trends Diary initiative asks community members to share personal experiences on
pressing community needs: ‘Did you know? Trends Diary is a place for boulder
county residents of all ages to share personal experiences related to a pressing
community need. Learn more and submit your story. #communitycatalyst #bldrcty-
trends #doingourpartco’.
Community foundations’ savvy use of hashtags should be noted. A Twitter hashtag
is a string of characters preceded by the # character, used to annotate tweets pertaining
to the same topic. For instance, many community foundations created event hashtags
such as ‘#MyMiamiStory’, ‘#WhatMotivatesMeIn4Words’ and ‘#OntheTable2017ʹ to
invite community-wide, cross-sector dialogue and deliberation surrounding problem
definitions or to co-create possible policy solutions (Gastil 2008). Hashtagging is not
merely a technical tool but can be used to signify a user’s identification with a cause and
an issue-based community (Pond and Lewis 2017). Hashtags can also create ‘hashtag
publics’ connecting strangers in conversations who share common concerns and
grievances on public problems such as #vote and #blacklivesmatter (Bruns et al. 2016).
(1) Public Education (E)
One crucial way foundations can translate public interests and respond to commu-
nity needs is by illuminating local policy problems and disseminating policy infor-
mation. The results from the content analysis showed that public education was the
most common engagement function of our studied foundations in the sample years.
Compared to the other mechanisms, educational messages involved one-way inter-
action as the tweets were mostly informational (Lovejoy and Saxton 2012). A large
part of the sampled tweets (N = 203, 41%) was classified under this category; many
tweets supplied policy-related information. For example, the Community
Foundation for Southwest Washington (@CFSWW) tweeted about homelessness
and sought to raise community awareness of how the housing market might alter
homeless populations. ‘The types of homeless people had changed . . . so too might
have the conditions that put them on the streets . . . ’ Pittsburgh Community
Foundation (@PittsburghFdn) shared health information on vaccine distribution
during the pandemic, ‘ . . . four recommendations from a public health expert on
how Allegheny county can reduce the toll of the pandemic and improve equity in
vaccine distribution . . . ’ Community foundations also sent out opportunities to
build civic leadership and community problem-solving skills by organizing public
education events, citizen science workshops and design thinking classes. For
instance, Silicon Valley Community Foundation (@siliconvalleycf) promoted a vir-
tual educational event on ‘Democracy in the Covid-19 Infodemic’ on misinformation
about #covid19 or the #2020elections.
Discussion and conclusion
This article represents a focused effort to address the paucity of research in under-
standing public foundations’ roles in engaging the public on Twitter. Our inductive
analysis of Twitter messages revealed that community foundations attempt to bring
people together to address issues of public importance through ten engagement
practices under four key mechanisms ranging from Public Mobilization, Policy
Advocacy, Public Dialogue, to Public Education (MADE). The analysis indicated
varying levels of publicness among the sampled foundations over two years
(Moulton and Eckerd 2012; Bozeman 2007). In particular, the foundations remained
16 V. C. S. WU
more active at the early stage of engagement to serve as ‘a knowledge hub’ to inform
and educate the public about policy issues. Interestingly, their public engagement roles
changed over time between the two halves of the sample. Compared to the 2017
sampled tweets, the 2020 sample showed an upsurge in mobilizing and advocacy
roles to call for actions and policy changes, yet a lessened dialogic role of foundations
in fostering public discourse.
The upsurge of community foundations’ roles in public mobilization (M) and
policy advocacy (A) in 2020 warrants particular attention. For one, 2020 was an
unprecedented year for countries around the world and for the U.S. The presidential
election, the global COVID-19 pandemic, and efforts to advance racial justice created
widespread unmet needs in local communities. The results from the 2020 sample
reflected responses to these major social and political events, echoing the early evi-
dence that community foundations have demonstrated leadership to establish new
philanthropic funds, solicit community feedback, and advocate for change in public
policy during the pandemic (Paarlberg et al. 2020; Finchum-Mason, Husted, and
David 2020). The rise in mobilizing and advocacy messages signals foundation capacity
to advance social change and to be seen as a ‘community leader’ in times of crisis (Wu
2021a). Nonetheless, relatively fewer messages were devoted to the mechanisms of
advocacy and mobilization in the 2017 data, indicating that mobilizing and advocating
on Twitter tend to be less notable in regular times among the sampled foundations.
While the societal contexts can be a confounding factor that explains the discrepancy,
others have noted that commitment to mobilizing and advocacy work requires institu-
tional investment and organizational learning to take place (Millesen and Martin 2014;
Williamson and Luke 2020). Other concerns observed by Scaife et al. (2012) around
engaging in advocacy were reputational damage, political ramifications, unwillingness
to go against government policy and potential negative media coverage.
The finding that community foundations may play a much greater role in building
policy knowledge and disseminating policy-related information (E) is an important
one, suggesting their role as intermediaries to inform the public of community needs
and policy issues. A possible explanation for the large proportion of policy knowledge
messaging is that community foundations serve as a knowledge hub to supply neces-
sary policy knowledge and position themselves as ‘a knowledge leader’ on Twitter
(Phillips et al. 2016; Wu 2021a; Manetti, Bellucci, and Bagnoli 2017). While the public
education role tends to be unidirectional and lack a participatory element, the founda-
tions help translate and frame information so that the public and multi-stakeholders
understand the issues at hand for solving wicked problems (Fung 2015). They also help
prioritize community discourse on important policy issues in the long run, which in
turn helps set a community’s change agenda (Phillips et al. 2016).
Following public education, the content analysis revealed that the second largest
proportion entailed messages aimed at initiating policy dialogue and public delibera-
tion (D). This dialogic mechanism implies the intermediary role of community
foundations as conveners to connect multi-stakeholders on addressing policy issues
(Wu 2021a). Their public engagement efforts in convening public dialogue might
suggest their capacity as ‘a bridging convener’ on Twitter that bridges various policy
networks when there is a lack of direct contact or tie between two or more parties
(Bushouse and Mosley 2018). The two-way exchange of information can often cross-
sectoral boundaries with participants from public, private, and non-profit sectors.
Foundation actors can spark online, two-way community dialogues and invite com-
munity members to participate in deliberative communication in an offline, more
structured setting (Nabatchi 2012; Lovejoy and Saxton 2012).
Taken together, this study responds to the rising call in the philanthropic field for
foundations to represent public interests and community needs rather than simply
advancing private values and commitment (Reich 2019; Frumkin 2006a; McGinnis
Johnson 2016). To that end, public engagement plays a crucial part in placing greater
power and voice with public stakeholders who are outside the foundations (Gibson
2017; Ostrander 2007; Carman and Hefner 2012). The upsurge in mobilizing and
advocacy roles of community foundations during the challenging year of 2020 signals
foundations’ pivot to online public engagement as a mechanism to respond to soaring
community needs. Given that the intermediary roles of foundations in fostering
bottom–up public engagement remain underexplored, this research contributes to
conceptualizing their roles in engaging the public on Twitter and fanning the winds
of change in the scholarly and philanthropic communities.
Limitations and future directions
There are, of course, limitations to this research. While the content analysis of the
Twitter messages has rendered an understanding of how public foundations engage
citizens online, it has not allowed us to explore other data sources, such as interviews
and surveys, to understand the governance and management aspects of social media
use. Second, it does not speak squarely on the outcomes and effectiveness of these
public engagement efforts. There is growing evidence that online engagement is related
to offline activities and the data presented seems to support that foundations promoted
both offline and virtual events on social media (Guo and Saxton 2020). A third
limitation relates to the use of social media data. While social media use of foundations
might vary along demographic, ethnic, socio-economic, and ecological lines, this study
cannot explain the factors that promote public engagement on social media nor delve
into the variations of social media users because of study scope, data restrictions and
privacy reasons (Wu 2021b; Schlozman, Verba, and Brady 2012; Piatak, Dietz, and
Mckeever 2019). The study is limited in analysing Twitter data alone. Hence, the
findings might inform but not necessarily reflect public engagement taking place in
other means and on other social media platforms such as Facebook. Facebook appears
to be used more to publish content in a dialogic perspective that creates two-way,
collaborative conversations with users (Manetti, Bellucci, and Bagnoli 2017).
While the Twitter data uncovered online endeavours of community foundations to
connect with the public, this study paves way to various lines of future research. In
particular, scholars, non-profits and civil society actors continue to wrestle with the
impact question, what makes an effective digital activism and mobilization, beyond
‘clicktivism’ or “slacktivism”(Freelon, Mcilwain, and Clark 2018; Pond and Lewis
2019)? How and under what conditions and institutional contexts would non-profits
’ social media efforts draw public attention and translate into impact that shapes public
agenda and policy making (Guo and Saxton 2020; Feezell 2018)? Since organizations
might use social media platforms differently, future studies that differentiate social
media channels for various message purposes and audiences will be insightful. Who
are the key civil society players in the advocacy ecosystem that can pose as ‘transfor-
mative’ central nodes in bringing about policy changes? What are the community and
18 V. C. S. WU
organizational factors explaining the varied engagement practices across civil society
organizations (Neumayr, Schneider, and Meyer 2015; Hong and Nadler 2016)?
Comparative studies on the nexus of public policy and advocacy roles of foundations
as well as the community obligations of such entities are much needed (Ferris 2009;
Williamson and Luke 2020). Community foundations outside the U.S. context might
display other forms of public engagement that are not explored in the article, due to
varied institutional contexts, government-foundation relationships and social media
ecology (Anheier 2018; Rey-Garcia 2019; Chan and Lai 2018). Cross-country exam-
ination will be a fruitful avenue to enhance generalizability, expanding the theoretical
knowledge of foundations’ dispositions and ways of public engagement.
Future work that explores the governance aspect of social media strategy will also be
insightful. Specifically, who manages social media accounts and sends out social media
messages, be it the board member, staff member or volunteer? Potentially, various
types of social media management can affect the foundations’ tendency to engage with
the public and partake in advocacy and mobilization. Board members who provide
strategic directions of foundations might be inclined to do more advocacy and
mobilization, whiles staff and volunteers who manage day-to-day operations might
focus on promoting events and activities, as well as policy information on social media.
Network scholars can further investigate the extent to which foundations are each
other’s audience and uncover the isomorphic patterns and potential ‘peer pressure’ in
their tweets (Kerlin et al. 2021; Paarlberg, Johnson, and Hannibal 2020). As this study
only utilizes community foundations as the study subject, future scholarly research is
warranted to investigate the sector differences between public and private foundations
in public engagement efforts and how philanthropic organizations might differ from
local governments, advocacy non-profits, and human services non-profits in their
capacities and mechanisms in facilitating public engagement and policy change.
1. Public foundations enjoy less operational restrictions as 501(c)(3) public charities in the U.S. (I.
R.C. §§ 4940 – 4948 2012)
2. Given the increased restrictions to access platform API after the infamous Cambridge
Analytica scandal, major platforms including Facebook have tightened up public access to
platform data (Freelon 2018). Because of the restricted access to Facebook data at the time of
conducting this research, this study is limited to collecting and analyzing Twitter data using
Twitter API through an authorized academic developer account.
The author thanks Chao Guo, Susan Phillips, Femida Handy, Ram Cnaan, Editor Stephen Osborne
and the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and suggestions on previous drafts of this
manuscript. Thanks also go to Adrienne Nunez and Ievgenii Demianov for their research assistance.
Disclosure statement
No potential conflict of interest was reported by the author(s).
Notes on contributor
Viviana Chiu Sik Wu, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst,
School of Public Policy. Using mixed methods and computational approaches, her work features the
emerging roles and unequal capacities of nonprofit and philanthropic organizations to advance public
problem solving online and offline–through philanthropy, advocacy, and public engagement on social
Viviana Chiu Sik Wu
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Appendix 1
Code Book for Classifying Messages by Stakeholders and Purposes
(1) Coded as ‘Fundraising’ any messages directed at donors for:
Fundraising and appeal
Information and education about giving
Facilitating donors’ and their financial advisors’ individual charitable interests
Appreciation and recognition for donations
(1) Coded as ‘Grantmaking’: any messages targeted at grantees/non-profits for:
The funding info (indicating areas of needs or fields of interests in grantmaking)
Grant applications
Managerial needs of charitable organizations (such as training and/or networking opportunities
for non-profits)
Promoting grantee’s work or recognizing grantee’s work
(1) Coded as ‘Relationship Building’: any messages directed at the community for:
Small talks, motivational quotes, and seasons’ greetings
Appreciation towards the general public or specific stakeholders
Sharing community news and organizational announcement
(1) Coded as ‘Public Engagement’: any messages directed at involving the community for
improving community wellbeing or addressing policy problems:
(NOT for fundraising, grantmaking, or relationship building)
Provide policy information on pressing community needs
Disseminate civic education opportunities
Convening civic dialogue, such as discussion forums
Advocate policy ideas and lobby for policy issues
Promote political and collective action such as voting and protests
Volunteering and civic action
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... 307 To identify public engagement-related messages, I drew 308 on another theoretical framework for closely discerning the 309 message content. Specifically, a recent study has examined 310 the intermediary roles of philanthropic foundations and 311 conceptualized four mechanisms through which founda-312 tions engage public stakeholders to address specified policy 313 issues on Twitter, namely Public Mobilization, Policy 314 Advocacy, Public Dialogue, to Public Education (the 315 MADE framework) (Wu, 2021c). For this study, I adopted 316 the MADE framework and its codebook to guide the 317 analysis of public engagement efforts on Twitter (See 318 Table 1). ...
... For this study, I adopted 316 the MADE framework and its codebook to guide the 317 analysis of public engagement efforts on Twitter (See 318 Table 1). Below, I summarized these four public engage-319 ment mechanisms (Wu, 2021c). ...
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How might donor influence shape the ways community foundations engage with public constituents? Using donor-advised funds to proxy for donor influence, I combined content analysis and structural topic modeling to analyze the themes of 4,055 public engagement messages sent by community foundations on Twitter. The structural topic model results revealed that donor influence significantly varied the themes of public engagement tweets. Strong donor influence was significantly correlated with greater use of policy advocacy and public education messages but negatively correlated with public mobilization and dialogic messages. This study contributes to a growing line of research on donor control and provides important insights into the power dynamics among the triad of 212 community constituents, donors, and foundations.
Social media has been extensively used for the communication of health-related information and consecutively for the potential spread of medical misinformation. The aim of this study was to perform a bibliometric analysis of the current literature from Scopus database to discover the prevalent trends and topics related to communication regarding healthcare emergencies via social media. To accomplish this task, the research work has been carried in form of defending three research questions related to most impactful sources, most impactful publications and most impactful authors. The adopted methodology has been successful towards answering the research questions in the light of our collected dataset of Scopus articles.
The adoption and implementation of Conversational AI applications such as AI chatbots in the workplace is rapidly growing. The success of integrating AI chatbots into organisations critically depends on employees’ use since AI technology evolves through machine learning and analysis of use data. Since trust is a key aspect that determines technology continuous use, this research questions: How employees experience trust in Conversational AI and how it impacts its continuous use? To answer the research question, we conducted qualitative inductive research using rich empirical data from a large international organisation. The findings highlight that employees developed three forms of trust, namely, emotional, cognitive and organisational trust. The theoretical and practical implications of the findings are discussed.
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Community foundations are increasingly looked to as community leaders that coalesce money, people, knowledge, and networks for addressing public problems at the local level. However, the field remains difficult to grasp—what it is and how it materializes in practice. Drawing from both academic and practitioner literature, this article proposes a multidimensional conceptual framework that construes community leadership in six capacities ranging from (a) strategizing, (b) convening, (c) knowledge building, (d) capacity building, (e) partnering, to (f) policy engagement. I applied this conceptual framework to analyze 539 annual reports of U.S. community foundations using semi‐automated content analysis. The empirical analysis shows that they tend to specialize in one or a few leadership capacities, but not necessarily all six components. In particular, the capability approach to community leadership through capacity building, partnering, and policy engagement is more favorable among community foundations than a participatory approach through convening and knowledge building. This article contributes to building the conceptual foundation and provides preliminary evidence to advance future research on the foundations' role in community leadership.
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Crowdsourcing serves as a distributed problem‐solving production model for modern governments, and it has the potential to transform citizens into coproducers of public services. To consolidate the theoretical basis, this article provides a typology for crowdsourcing public services based on theories of coproduction, public sector volunteerism, and government–citizen relations. This typology includes two dimensions—the policy stage, and the functionality of citizens' effort—and four types of crowdsourcing, namely, complementary crowdsourcing in service implementation, supplementary crowdsourcing in service implementation, complementary crowdsourcing in policy and service design, and supplementary crowdsourcing in policy design. Four cases are selected for illustration. Designing crowdsourcing based on citizen and government relationships will help designers align goals and tasks to the right coproducers and enhance relationships in a democratic way. Furthermore, this typology will allow the field to systematically and collectively build knowledge.
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Philanthropic foundations are critical actors in the nonprofit sector—funding the programs of social and human service charities, fostering innovation, and serving as patrons of the arts. However, the dramatic growth of foundations and their endowments in recent decades has intensified charges of plutocracy—the claim that foundations are more interested in protecting their power and privilege than in contributing to the public good. The COVID-19 crisis has brought this critique into sharp focus, leading to the question, “How are large foundations acting to stem COVID-19’s impact and help in the process of recovery?” Our descriptive study leverages data from a nationwide survey of the 500 largest philanthropic foundations (by total assets) in the United States to characterize foundations’ (a) changes to internal strategy or giving, (b) shifts in relationships with grantee organizations, (c) prioritization of communities most affected by the COVID-19 crisis, and (d) collaboration across organizations and sectors.
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Social media offers a platform for diffused stakeholders to interact with firms—alternatively praising, questioning, and chastising businesses for their CSR performance and seeking to engage in two-way dialogue. In 2014, 163,402 public messages were sent to Fortune 200 firms’ CSR-focused Twitter accounts, each of which was either shared, replied to, “liked,” or ignored by the targeted firm. This paper examines firm reactions to these messages, building a model of firm response to stakeholders that combines the notions of CSR communication and stakeholder salience. Our findings show that firm response to a stakeholder on social media is positively and most significantly associated with what we refer to as the stakeholder’s connective power but negatively associated with the firm’s own connective power. To a lesser extent, firm response is positively associated with the stakeholder’s normative power but negatively associated with the firm’s own normative power. Firm response is also shown to be positively associated with stakeholder urgency in terms of both the originality of a stakeholder message and the expression of positive sentiment.
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This paper examines advocacy, agenda-setting and the public policy focus of private philanthropic foundations in Australia. While concerns have been raised regarding advocacy and public policy influence of foundations in countries such as the U.S., less is understood on this issue in other contexts. Interviews were conducted with 11 managers and trustees of 10 Private Ancillary Funds (PAFs) in late 2014. Analysis of publicly available data on the participating PAFs was then undertaken comparing PAF information available at the time of the interviews with that available approximately five years later, to consider any changes in the public communication of their agendas. Findings reveal PAFs’ agendas were largely consistent with public policy but may vary in the approaches to address social causes. Further, a preference for privacy indicates the PAF sector may be characterised as ‘quiet philanthropy’ rather than having a visible public presence. As such, PAFs’ advocacy focused on promoting philanthropy, rather than altering or influencing public policy. Our main contention is that the conceptions of advocacy in structured philanthropy are dominated by the obvious, the outliers and the noisy. Our contribution to the philanthropic literature is a more nuanced and broader discussion of how advocacy and agenda-setting occurs and is understood in the mainstream.
This study conducts a comparative analysis of social enterprise intermediaries in China and India to better understand how they legitimize social enterprises in new settings. To address theoretical weakness in this sphere, it combines several institutional theories to capture disruptions created by institutional innovation and also legitimizing processes. Drawing on data collected from surveys, interviews, and websites in each country, it finds that intermediaries mitigate negative and leverage positive influences of external institutions though their strategies vary due to country differences in institutional pressures. This information is key to building intermediaries’ capacity to institutionalize social enterprises as new institutional actors.
This article draws upon concepts of community resilience to explore the antecedents of community philanthropic organizations’ response to COVID-19. Although the pandemic is a global threat, responses have been local. We test a model of community resilience activation in the context of the emergence of local COVID-19 funds. We find that a philanthropic organization’s capacity to act in a crisis and respond to the needs of the community depends on the stock of community capitals and organizational capacity. The importance of economic, cultural, and political factors in predicting the emergence of a fund raises important questions about disparities in resilience along class and race lines and the role of political ideology in shaping perceptions of crises. Our research contributes to our understanding of community philanthropic organizations’ capacity to activate community resources during a crisis.
Politically active individuals and organizations make huge investments of time, energy, and money to influence everything from election outcomes to congressional subcommittee hearings to local school politics, while other groups and individual citizens seem woefully underrepresented in our political system. This book is a comprehensive and systematic examination of political voice in America, and its findings are sobering. The book looks at the political participation of individual citizens alongside the political advocacy of thousands of organized interests—membership associations such as unions, professional associations, trade associations, and citizens groups, as well as organizations like corporations, hospitals, and universities. Drawing on numerous in-depth surveys of members of the public as well as the largest database of interest organizations ever created—representing more than 35,000 organizations over a 25-year period—this book conclusively demonstrates that American democracy is marred by deeply ingrained and persistent class-based political inequality. The well-educated and affluent are active in many ways to make their voices heard, while the less advantaged are not. This book reveals how the political voices of organized interests are even less representative than those of individuals, how political advantage is handed down across generations, how recruitment to political activity perpetuates and exaggerates existing biases, how political voice on the Internet replicates these inequalities—and more. In a true democracy, the preferences and needs of all citizens deserve equal consideration. Yet equal consideration is only possible with equal citizen voice. This book reveals how far we really are from the democratic ideal and how hard it would be to attain it.