Off-campus UNL users: To download campus access dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your NU ID and password. When you are done browsing please remember to return to this page and log out.

Non-UNL users: Please talk to your librarian about requesting this dissertation through interlibrary loan.

Communicating Resiliency Among Leaders in Nonprofit Grassroots Human Service Organizations

Zantel D Nichols, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


More and more people in the local community find themselves compelled to start nonprofit organizations in order to attack social issues detrimental to their community. Often lacking the skills or the knowledge of how to start, manage, or sustain a grassroots organization, leaders of these organizations undertake the challenge out of strong personal commitments, becoming founders and leaders of nonprofit grassroots human service organizations (NGHSOs). NGHSOs address societal issues such as addiction, literacy, at-risk youth, mental illness, and recidivism on the local level. Many of these grassroots organizations last a month while others last for 50 plus years. Framed in the interpretive paradigm and guided by the Communication Theory of Resilience, the purpose of the present study was to understand how leaders of NGHSOs communicatively co-create sustainability and resilient organizational cultures to address four research questions: (1) What do leaders of nonprofit grassroots human service organizations (NGHSOs) perceive are the greatest challenges and needs for resiliency for their organizations? (2) What communication processes for enacting resiliency are used most often by NGHSO leaders? (3) What discursive practices do leaders of NGHSOs employ to help lead and create resiliency in their organizations? and, (4) What communication processes of resiliency do leaders of NGHOs believe are most effective for their organizations? Data included 17 in-depth interviews with self-identified NGHSO leaders of organizations ranging from 1-50 years in existence. As a framework for categorizing the findings, I adopted the Communication Theory of Resilience which provides five communicative processes to give a deeper understanding of their experiences: (1) crafting normalcy, (2) affirming identity anchors, (3) maintaining and using communication networks, (4) putting alternative logics to work, and (5) legitimizing negative feelings while foregrounding productive action. An additional process emerged from the analysis that may be unique to NGHSOs labeled as (6) performing self-efficacy to explain collective commitment to developing voice and advocacy. Understanding how NGHSO leaders make sense of their work and the constant uncertainty routinely experienced advances our understanding of the nonprofit organization. Strengths and limitations of the study and future directions are discussed.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Nichols, Zantel D, "Communicating Resiliency Among Leaders in Nonprofit Grassroots Human Service Organizations" (2017). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI10684750.