Nonprofit Narratives: Faith-Based Organizations, the Gospel Mission, and You

Jennifer Myers, Messiah University


This study involved an in-depth investigation into how overtly Christian 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations incorporate the use of storytelling into their external communications through the lens of Walter Fisher’s narrative paradigm theory. Key theoretical streams examined as a part of the literature review include organizational mission communication with an emphasis in faith-based nonprofits, as well as organizational storytelling. This research study explored the following questions: “How do faith-based nonprofit organizations use narrative storytelling via social media to communicate their organizational missions within their circle of influence?” and “How do faith-based nonprofit organizations use narrative storytelling via social media to invite their audiences to join in taking action to fulfill their organizational missions?” Data gathering occurred through content analysis of organizational communications from five nonprofit organizations’ social media channels. All of the organizations advocate for different causes and complete different work, but remain united in the foundation of Christian faith. This textual analysis adds to the body of public relations knowledge regarding organizational mission storytelling as well as audience support motivation. In particular, using Fisher’s principles of narrative provides a unique perspective on public relations efforts of faith-based organizations and the role that storytelling plays in the effectiveness of these efforts. Applying and building on Fisher’s narrative paradigm, this content analysis explores these issues in the distinct organizational context of overtly Christian nonprofits -- a complex setting that has not yet been studied in all its facets. This study has notable applications for faith-based nonprofit organizations to find ways to further execute their organizational mission through harnessing the power of storytelling. There are also relevant implications for constituents as they consume such stories and choose nonprofits and missions to support.