Nonprofit Organizations’
Perceptions and Uses
of the Internet

by Linda Jean Kenix (University of Canterbury)

This research examines how nonprofit organizations perceive and utilize the internet
through the framework of Habermas’s theory of the public sphere. In seven focus
groups across the country, 52 people responsible for creating internet strategy and/or web
content for nonprofit organizations participated. Claims of sweeping improvements in
democratic participation through the internet were not supported. Almost no organiza-
tions utilized the technology for horizontal or vertical flows of communication, data
communality, interactivity, or engaged participation. Furthermore, these nonprofit
organizations believed the internet offered little democratizing power but paradoxically
provided instant credibility. Those making communication decisions overwhelmingly
performed in technical rather than strategic roles as they pushed their message out to
the public without any regard to feedback or communication strategy. These individuals
also believed the corporate model would drive future internet growth, although they
rarely trained internet workers. Possible reasons for these findings and implications for
nonprofit organizations are discussed. (download)