The Power of Nonprofit Online Advocacy to Catalyze Social Change: A Case Study Analysis
Nguyen-Novotny, My Linh H.
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Historically nonprofit organizations in the U.S. have played a critical role in representing the political and legal interests of marginalized groups. They take on some of the biggest and most complex challenges with the expectation from funders to spend as little as possible. For smaller under-funded nonprofits with limited staff, not having capacity to use technology effectively, is a serious disadvantage in an already lobsided competition with billion-dollar private foundations. In today’s digital world online advocacy can be a valuable tool for nonprofits to disseminate and correct misinformation, to mobilize and empower citizens into taking action such as getting out the vote, lobbying, and applying pressure on government officials. There is much at stake right now for nonprofits to play a pivotal role in safeguarding the changes that took decades of advocacy and lobbying to accomplish in the U.S. The Internet after all, contrary to popular belief, originated from a small group of intrepid nonprofits who built the first global Non-Governmental Organization electronic network. This research explores the external factors that contribute to a 501c3 nonprofit’s ability to catalyze social change by using online advocacy. It reviews two advocacy campaigns and offers several important lessons for nonprofit organizations wishing to become more effective policy advocates: 1) Both MoveOn and ProPublica are able to empower citizen lobbying at the grassroots level; 2) Both nonprofit organizations leverage online media advocacy in unique ways to shape news coverage; and 3) they use online media to open innovative modes of communications to direct and sustain on-going engagement with stakeholders to expand political representation.
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