Why U.S.-based nonprofit organizations have a stake in the U.S. standing: A case study in public diplomacy

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mass Communications


Dennis F. Kinsey


United States, Public diplomacy, Nongovernmental organizations, NGOs, State identity, U.S. standing, Country reputation, Corporate identity, Corporate reputation, Nonprofit

Subject Categories

Mass Communication


This study sought to explain why and how the corporate identities and reputations of U.S.-based nonprofit nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are related to the U.S. standing abroad, and explore what role NGOs play in a broader context of the U.S. public diplomacy. A case study method was used to look at five organizations that fall under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, receive predominantly private funding, are headquartered in New York, NY or Washington, DC, and operate globally. The data gathered from two sources--i.e., in-person interviews with executives and corporate documentation--were compared between cases, and synthesized across cases using the theory-building technique. In the aggregate, the five cases provide evidence that U.S. standing affects American NGOs' practices and discourses, whereas American NGOs' behavior might have a bearing on the attitudes, perceptions, and opinions of international publics about the United States. The findings add to the understanding of the reputation management aspect of the public diplomacy scholarship. The data also offer insight into how, by exemplifying such aspects of civil society as autonomy, diversity and freedom of expression, U.S.-based NGOs enhance the U.S. public diplomacy efforts. This multiple-case study paves the way for a more detailed exploration of the relationship between NGOs' identities and reputations and the U.S. standing--by using other methods of research, and by examining other actors such as international stakeholders and publics.


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