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Publication Date


Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)


Type of Culminating Activity

Thesis - Boise State University Access Only

Degree Title

Master of Arts in Communication



Major Advisor

John G. McClellan, Ph.D.


erin d. mcclellan, Ph.D.


Natalie Nelson-Marsh, Ph.D.


Organizational communication scholars have touted the importance of studying nonprofit organizations and the communication phenomena that create, shape, maintain, and complicate nonprofit forms of organizing. This study explores emergent discourses embedded within the ways nonprofit organizations are presented in the burgeoning research on not-for-profit forms of organizing. Data for this study consists of fifteen leading academic articles on the topic of nonprofit organizations authored by organizational communication scholars in the past eleven years. I conducted a reflexive meta-analysis of the discursive constitution of nonprofit organizations across this organizational communication scholarship and analyzed how the articles revealed meanings of nonprofit organizations comprised of three distinct yet interrelated discourses: (1) nonprofits as unique, (2) nonprofits as essential, and (3) nonprofits as problematic. This analysis provides an understanding of how nonprofit organizations have been presented in scholarship. I argue that scholars should question the way their own research establishes nonprofits as unique, essential, and problematic in order to perpetuate new and unique scholarship that is helpful to nonprofit practitioners. Based on the findings of this study, I challenge scholars to embrace the principles of the communicative constitution of organization and hermeneutic empiricism to reexamine nonprofit organizations in practice, within and among nonprofit practitioners, with hopes of complicating and creating tensions about the meaning of nonprofit organizing.