Date of Award

2001

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Communication

First Advisor

W. Russell Neuman

Abstract

This study assesses the adoption of Internet-based communication by nonprofit organizations. The research literature posits that the Internet may serve as a ‘leveler’ between rich and poor organizations by lowering the transaction costs of communication, by lowering costs of access to information and by reducing the scale-economy advantages that larger and well-resourced organizations usually enjoy. This literature contrasts with Robert Merton’s Matthew Effect, in which the better-resourced advance and the lesser resourced do not (Merton and Zuckerman 1973(1968)). This study attempts to determine what characteristics distinguish the nonprofit organizations that adopt Internet technologies. This study uses a multi-method approach to ascertain these structural and financial characteristics (Campbell and Fiske 1959; Brewer and Hunter 1989; Judd, Smith et al. 1991). The data collected during this research include case studies of Roman Catholic higher education institutions, content analysis of institutional WWW sites, and a large-scale national survey of randomly chosen nonprofit organizations as a baseline data set on adoption and usage of the Internet among v nonprofit organizations. Results of these analyses suggest that while earlier patterns of adoption perdure in some nonprofit organizations and other organizations have Internet connectivity, as of the year 2000—some six years after the general availability of WWWbased technologies—the adoption of some of these technologies has already occurred, calling into question the Matthew Effect and comparable concerns about a “Digital Divide.” Nearly 90 percent of nonprofit organizations use electronic mail and have access to the Internet as of July 2000. However, only two-thirds of nonprofit organizations have WWW sites and only 20 percent of organizations use their respective WWW sites for electronic fundraising. Regression analysis suggests a positive correlation between the use of Internet technologies and the variables: organization size, assets, information technology (IT) investment, IT personnel, and history of innovation adoption. The same analysis finds a negative correlation between Internet usage and available financial resources.

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