The Nonprofit-Business Representational Communication Network

Wednesdays@NICO Seminar, Noon, April 2, 2014, Chambers Hall, Lower Level

Professor Michelle Shumate, School of Communications, Northwestern University


Studies of partnerships between for-profit corporations and nonprofit, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) typically examine the relationship from the corporation’s perspective. Although this perspective is informative and has guided the majority of the corporate social responsibility research, it tends to ignore the role of NGOs in the partnership. Drawing from the Symbiotic Sustainability Model, we suggest that NGOs have an equally important, albeit different, role in these relationships. In order to understand the NGO-corporate partnership network from the NGO perspective, we examined 122 of the largest, most recognizable NGOs, according to the Philanthropy 100 and Cone Brand 100. This yielded a list of 1740 reported corporate partners and 2424 cross-sector relationships. This talk compares the communication patterns of leading NGOs with those discovered in previous research on Fortune 500 organizations (Shumate & O'Connor, 2010). Points of comparison include the number of cross-sector partners they report, whether they offer industry exclusivity, and whether the patterns of partnering appear to be mimetic within industry. 


Michelle Shumate investigates the dynamics of interorganizational networks designed to impact large social issues, developing and testing theories to visualize, understand, and enable effective interorganizational networks in a variety of contexts including nongovernmental organization (NGO)-corporate partnerships, development and disease NGOs, expert-NGO partnerships in sustainable development, and interorganizational networks for healthy communities. She has published in a range of journals including Human Communication Research, Journal of Computer Mediated Communication, Management Communication Quarterly, and Journal of Communication. She was awarded a National Science Foundation CAREER award and a Beckman Fellowship at the Center for Advanced Study at the University of Illinois, where she was the director of the Interorganizational Networks research group.