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Microfinance Institutions' Efforts in Building Virtual Relationships

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0022378/00001

Material Information

Title: Microfinance Institutions' Efforts in Building Virtual Relationships A Quantitative Content Analysis
Physical Description: 1 online resource (90 p.)
Language: english
Creator: Delouvrier, Myriam
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2008

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: communication, developed, developing, dialogic, for, internet, kent, mediated, mfi, microfinance, new, non, online, profit, public, relations, relationship, taylor, technologies, virtual, website
Journalism and Communications -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Genre: Mass Communication thesis, M.A.M.C.
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation

Notes

Abstract: In the era of globalization, public relations practitioners must fully exploit the dialogic potential of the Internet if they want to build successful relationships with their publics. Since the Internet is a relatively cheap medium, this is particularly true in the case of limited communications budget. This study builds upon previous research on online public relations and extends it to the microfinance sector. It seeks to highlight opportunities for microfinance communications practitioners to optimize their virtual outreach efforts. Our study focused on the dialogic capacity of microfinance institutions to build online relationships with their publics. Practically, it examines the use of online dialogic features by microfinance web sites. Based on Kent and Taylor's theory and mediated dialogic scale, the researcher content analyzed 69 microfinance web sites with 49 dialogic features. The sample includes nonprofit and for-profit organizations, from various parts of the world. Results show that microfinance web sites have typically few dialogic features. Put differently, microfinance organizations are unsuccessful at building mediated relationships. Further, the researcher was interested in understanding whether the profit status and the world region had an effect on the dialogic capacity of the organization. Both associations tested statistically significant. On the one hand, nonprofit organizations are slightly more dialogically aware than for-profit organizations. On the other hand, North American and European organizations scored higher than Indian organizations, which scored higher than organizations in the rest of the developing world. These findings show that microfinance institutions are no exception to the observation that public relations practitioners are slow at mastering the not-so-new technologies. The researcher hopes to raise consciousness.
General Note: In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
General Note: Includes vita.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Statement of Responsibility: by Myriam Delouvrier.
Thesis: Thesis (M.A.M.C.)--University of Florida, 2008.
Local: Adviser: McAdams, Melinda J.

Record Information

Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2008
System ID: UFE0022378:00001

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0022378/00001

Material Information

Title: Microfinance Institutions' Efforts in Building Virtual Relationships A Quantitative Content Analysis
Physical Description: 1 online resource (90 p.)
Language: english
Creator: Delouvrier, Myriam
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2008

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: communication, developed, developing, dialogic, for, internet, kent, mediated, mfi, microfinance, new, non, online, profit, public, relations, relationship, taylor, technologies, virtual, website
Journalism and Communications -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Genre: Mass Communication thesis, M.A.M.C.
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation

Notes

Abstract: In the era of globalization, public relations practitioners must fully exploit the dialogic potential of the Internet if they want to build successful relationships with their publics. Since the Internet is a relatively cheap medium, this is particularly true in the case of limited communications budget. This study builds upon previous research on online public relations and extends it to the microfinance sector. It seeks to highlight opportunities for microfinance communications practitioners to optimize their virtual outreach efforts. Our study focused on the dialogic capacity of microfinance institutions to build online relationships with their publics. Practically, it examines the use of online dialogic features by microfinance web sites. Based on Kent and Taylor's theory and mediated dialogic scale, the researcher content analyzed 69 microfinance web sites with 49 dialogic features. The sample includes nonprofit and for-profit organizations, from various parts of the world. Results show that microfinance web sites have typically few dialogic features. Put differently, microfinance organizations are unsuccessful at building mediated relationships. Further, the researcher was interested in understanding whether the profit status and the world region had an effect on the dialogic capacity of the organization. Both associations tested statistically significant. On the one hand, nonprofit organizations are slightly more dialogically aware than for-profit organizations. On the other hand, North American and European organizations scored higher than Indian organizations, which scored higher than organizations in the rest of the developing world. These findings show that microfinance institutions are no exception to the observation that public relations practitioners are slow at mastering the not-so-new technologies. The researcher hopes to raise consciousness.
General Note: In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
General Note: Includes vita.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Statement of Responsibility: by Myriam Delouvrier.
Thesis: Thesis (M.A.M.C.)--University of Florida, 2008.
Local: Adviser: McAdams, Melinda J.

Record Information

Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2008
System ID: UFE0022378:00001


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MICROFINANCE INSTITUTIONS EFFORTS IN BUILDING VIRTUAL RELATIONSHIPS: A QUANTITATIVE CONTENT ANALYSIS By MYRIAM DELOUVRIER A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORI DA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS IN MASS COMMUNICATION UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2008

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2 2008 Myriam Delouvrier

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3 To my grandparents, who woul d have been proud of me.

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4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS This study could never have been achieved without the valuable contribution of several people. I am very thankf ul to them and would like to express my gratitude hereafter. I thank the remarkable UF faculty members for their excellent c ourses, their unique devotion and their exceptional ki ndness. In particular, Dr Mich ael Leslie has taught me basic academic principles and, above all, helped me make the most of my program. I thank the UF staff, and especially Jody Hedge, for having c ontributed to my admission and having unfailingly assisted me. I thank my advisor and committee chair, Mindy McAdams, for reviewin g my drafts several times in minute detail, for her availability a nd reactivity, and especia lly for expressing great enthusiasm about my project. She gave me conf idence. I thank Dr Molleda and Dr Robinson, my two other committee members. Juan-Carlos Molleda has been extremely patient with me and has guided me through the statistical analysis wi thout any difficulty. Je nnifer Robinson made insightful comments on public relati ons in the microfinance sector and especially, accepted to follow my project from Australia. I thank my friends, and especially Karine Pea Ochoa who has been there since my first day at UF, and Cline Banz whose faithfulness has been so valuable to me. Most importantly, I thank my family for allowing me to have such a fulfilling life. I thank my mum for being my mentor and my role m odel. I thank my dad for believing in me and supporting me wholeheartedly. I thank my sister for always protecting me and giving me strength when I need it. I thank my brotherin-law for being a friend and encouraging me continuously.

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5 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS...............................................................................................................4 LIST OF TABLES................................................................................................................. ..........8 LIST OF FIGURES.........................................................................................................................9 ABSTRACT...................................................................................................................................10 CHAP TER 1 INTRODUCTION AND PURPOSE OF THE STUDY......................................................... 12 2 LITERATURE REVIEW.......................................................................................................15 The Microfinance Sector........................................................................................................15 The Principle...................................................................................................................15 The Development of the Microfinance Sector................................................................ 15 The Shift from Nonprofit to For-profit............................................................................ 17 Types of Microlenders..................................................................................................... 18 Products and Interest Rates.............................................................................................20 Clientele...........................................................................................................................21 Critics and Controversies................................................................................................ 22 Online Public Relations..........................................................................................................24 The Dialogic Communication Theory.............................................................................24 Other Theoretical Frameworks........................................................................................ 26 Empirical Data.................................................................................................................27 The nonprofit sector................................................................................................. 28 The for-profit sector................................................................................................. 30 International organizations.......................................................................................32 Research Questions and Hypotheses...................................................................................... 36 3 METHODOLOGY................................................................................................................. 37 Content Analysis............................................................................................................... ......37 Research Method....................................................................................................................37 Population and Sampling Method.......................................................................................... 38 Variables.................................................................................................................................40 Operationalization............................................................................................................. ......42 Ease of Interface..............................................................................................................42 Usefulness of Information...............................................................................................44 Conservation of Visitors..................................................................................................45 Return Visit.....................................................................................................................45 Dialogic Loop..................................................................................................................46 Intercoder Reliability......................................................................................................... .....46 Pilot Study.................................................................................................................... ..........46

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6 Modification of the Coding Sheet...........................................................................................47 Statistical Analysis........................................................................................................... .......48 Limitations.................................................................................................................... ..........48 4 RESULTS...............................................................................................................................50 Description of the Demographic Variables............................................................................ 50 Analysis According to the Theory.......................................................................................... 51 Ease of Interface..............................................................................................................51 Usefulness of Information...............................................................................................53 Conservation of Visitors..................................................................................................53 Return Visits....................................................................................................................54 Dialogic Loop..................................................................................................................54 Analysis According to the Research Questions...................................................................... 54 RQ1: How do nonprofit and for-profit MFIs differ on the practice of online public relations? ........................................................................................................... 54 RQ2: Are ther e cultural patterns in the way MFIs practice online public relations?......................................................................................................................55 Additional Results............................................................................................................. .....57 Age..................................................................................................................................57 Outreach....................................................................................................................... ...58 Scale................................................................................................................................58 5 DISCUSSION.........................................................................................................................60 The Dialogic Communication Theory....................................................................................60 Ease of Interface..............................................................................................................60 Conservation of Visitors..................................................................................................61 Dialogic Loop..................................................................................................................62 Usefulness of Information...............................................................................................63 Return Visits....................................................................................................................65 Profit Status............................................................................................................................66 Region.....................................................................................................................................67 Other Implications............................................................................................................. .....69 Most Frequent and Rare Features.................................................................................... 69 Overall Ranking...............................................................................................................69 Zoom in Yunus Grameen Bank...................................................................................... 70 6 CONCLUSION..................................................................................................................... ..72 Closing Remarks.....................................................................................................................72 Limitations.................................................................................................................... ..........73 Suggestions for Further Research........................................................................................... 74

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7 APPENDIX A SAMPLE.................................................................................................................................77 B PILOT STUDY SAMPLE......................................................................................................79 C CODING SHEET: DIALOGIC FEATURES OF MICROFI NANCE INSTITUTIONS WEB SITES...................................................................................................................... ......80 LIST OF REFERENCES...............................................................................................................84 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH.........................................................................................................90

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8 LIST OF TABLES Table page 1-1 Summary of all studies that used Kent and Taylors coding method. ...............................411-2 MFI web site inclusi on of dialogic features.......................................................................52A-1 Sample..................................................................................................................... ...........77A-1 Continued.................................................................................................................. .........78B-1 Pilot study sample......................................................................................................... .....79

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9 LIST OF FIGURES Figure page 1-1 Non-noisy web sites........................................................................................................ ...43 1-2 Noisy web sites............................................................................................................ ......43 1-3 Site ID and primary navigation.......................................................................................... 43 1-4 Overall means plot by country collapsed........................................................................... 56

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10 Abstract of Thesis Presen ted to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts MICROFINANCE INSTITUTIONS EFFORTS IN BUILDING MEDIATED RELATIONSHIPS: A QUANTITATIVE CONTENT ANALYSIS By Myriam Delouvrier August 2008 Chair: Mindy McAdams Major: Mass Communication In the era of globalization, public relations pr actitioners must fully exploit the dialogic potential of the Internet if they want to build successful relationships with their publics. Since the Internet is a relatively cheap medium, this is particularly true in the case of limited communications budget. This study builds upon previ ous research on online public relations and extends it to the microfinance sector. It seek s to highlight opportuni ties for microfinance communications practitioners to optimize their virt ual outreach efforts. Our study focused on the dialogic capacity of microfinance institutions to build online relationships with their publics. Practically, it examines the use of online dialogic features by microfinance web sites. Based on Kent and Taylo rs theory and mediated dialogic scale, the researcher content analyzed 69 microfinance web sites with 49 dialogic features. The sample includes nonprofit and for-pro fit organizations, from vari ous parts of the world. Results show that microfinance web sites have typically few dialogic features. Put differently, microfinance organizations are unsu ccessful at building mediated relationships. Further, the researcher was interested in unde rstanding whether the prof it status and the world region had an effect on the dialogic capacity of the organization. Both associations tested statistically significant. On th e one hand, nonprofit organizations ar e slightly more dialogically

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11 aware than for-profit organizations. On th e other hand, North American and European organizations scored higher than Indian organizations, which scored higher than organizations in the rest of the developing world. These findings show that microfinance institutio ns are no exception to the observation that public relations practitione rs are slow at mastering the not-s o-new technologies. The researcher hopes to raise consciousness.

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12 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION AND PURPOSE OF THE STUDY Since the late 1970s, the sector of m icrof inance has been amazingly growing, presenting ambitious hopes for alleviating the worlds poverty. Over the last ten years, some microfinance organizations, such as the Grameen Bank, BRAC and ASA, have increased th eir client portfolio by 360%. Ten microfinance organizations now reach 20 million clients, against three million in 1997. (Microcredit Summit Campaign, 2007). Indeed, many microlenders have entered the market, all sharing one objective, to become successful and sustainable. In parallel, public relations on the Intern et are becoming the new challenge of many organizations that wish to remain competitive on their market. Furthermore, a real shift of status from nonprofit to for-profit organi zations is happening in the mi crofinance sector. Hence, the purpose of this study is to examine the practi ce of online public relations by nonprofit and forprofit microfinance institutions. It has become indisputable that microfin ance can empower the destitute. By definition, microfinance fosters financially self-sufficient domestic private sectors and creates wealth for low-income people (United Nations Capital De velopment Fund [UNCDF], 2005, p. 3). Indeed, unlike other charitable projects, the concept of microfinance allows the poor to make it on their own, using their skills to build their own capital. The emergence of microfinance is most often attributed to Muhammad Yunus, the founder of the Grameen Bank. His story is quite unusual and has become an example for many other mi crofinance institutions. Thirty years ago, the Bangladeshi Fulbright scholar received his doctoral de gree in economics in the United States. He decided to go back to his newly independent country, and quickly became the head of the economics department of the university in his na tive village. Moved by the extent of poverty in Bangladesh, the erudite philanthr opist wanted to take action. He observed with irony: In my

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13 university courses, I theorized about sums in the millions of dollars, but here before my eyes the problems of life and death were posed in terms of pennies (Yunus, 2003, p. 48). This is how doctor Yunus star ted to personally lend very small amounts of money to the most destitute. Not only did th e loan really give them a ch ance to become independent, he noticed, but they reimbursed extremely reliably (Yunus, 2003). Progressively he set up the Grameen Bank meaning Village Bank and a new banking model was born. Rapidly the model was reproduced worldwide. In 2006, ove r 3,000 microcredit inst itutions reportedly reached over 31 million destitute people (M icrocredit Summit Campaign [MSC], 2006). The chair of the United Nations Expert Group on P overty Statistics, Jonathan Morduch, stated: Microfinance stands as one of the most promising and cost-effec tive tools in the fight against global poverty (MSC, n.d.a). The United Nations declared 2005 international year of microcredit, and microfinance is viewed as a sine qua non for achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals (UNCDF, 2005). In Oct ober 2006, Muhammad Yunus and his Grameen Bank received the Nobel Peace Prize. Nowadays, the microfinance phenomenon has really taken off. In the macroeconomic landscape, microfinance is currently being inte grated. The United Nations is focusing on the adopting microfinance as an inclusive financial sect or, that is to say a le gitimate sector, part of the financial system at large and accessible to everyone in all countries (Consultative Group to Assist the Poor [CGAP], 2006; Imboden, 2005; United Nations, 2006). At the same time, the Internet is becoming the new platform for gl obal communications in general, and for public relations in particular. However, the online practice of public relations has not yet been mastered by all public relation practitioners. In fact, organizations and even public relations practitio ners dont fully grasp the purpose of online public relations. As Kirat

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14 (2007) suggests, most public relati ons activities online are not strate gic, they are not measurable and they are not targeted toward specific audien ces or constituencies (p .167). In the context of microfinance, many fundamental questions rema in unanswered: How do organizations exploit their web site for public relations? Are there re gional/cultural patterns in the way organizations manage their online public relations? Are there significant differe nces between commercial and charitable organizations? Ultimately, I seek to comprehend why certain organizations use certain online features and how they could possibly improve their online publ ic relations strategy. Research has explicated the influence of technology on the practice of public relations, showing a growing need for public relations prac titioners to evolve w ith it. For instance, information is flowing faster and publics are expecting immediate access to the communication systems (Institute for Public Relations, 2007). As a recent report from the Institute for Public Relations points out, because mu ch of the strategy and tactics of public relations rely on use of the media, as media have evolved technically, pr actitioners have adapted their methods as well (2007, p.4). All in all, this st udy builds on the growing literatur e on online public relations and substantiates the need for public relations practitioners to keep up with the new developments in technology.

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15 CHAPTER 2 LITERATURE REVIEW The Microfinance Sector The Principle The prim ary idea behind microfinance is to allow the very poor to access bank services. For instance, by borrowing a few dollars to buy a sewing machine, a poor woman can start a sewing business and make it on her own. The mi crofinance philosophy, as described by Yunus (2003), is that the poor too have skil ls and that they are very likely to honor loans since it is their one and only chance to make their way out of povert y. It is also believed that charity sustains dependence. On the contrary, a loan is a sour ce of self-empowerment and a chance for durable change (Tefft, 1995). Moreover, microfinance is base d on the principle that a loan is granted to a person who becomes accountable for the loan vis-vis the microfinance institution (MFI), as well as his/her community (Gutirrez-Nieto, Serrano-Cinca & Molinero, 2007; Yunus, 2003). If a community member fails to reimburse, the wh ole community is penalized. Reciprocally, the empowerment of one village member helps the whole community. As explained by Wendt and Eichfeld (2006): Within a three-to-five-year period, these small, privately owned businesses begin to generate discretionary income that is used to secure education, hea lth care, transportation, better nutrition, clothing, and other consumable s for the entrepreneurs families. This reinvestment of earnings in turn creates a ge nerally rising level of prosperity and social cohesion at the village level. (p.6) The Development of the Microfinance Sector The first m icrofinance bankers appeared in the 1960s and 1970s and were usually employed by governmental banks. In India, a prove rb was circulating, saying that a village could exist wherever there was a river, a priest, and a moneylender (Robinson, 2001, p. xxx). In the 1970s and 1980s, microfinance was put into practice in many disciplines, such as agriculture,

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16 anthropology, banking, business, economics, governme nt service, law, p ublic policy, religion, social work (Robinson, 2001, p. xxx). This ha s been allowed by donors and governments, thanks to which microfinance has gradually become a sector of its own (McGuire & Conroy, 2000). Until now, it has been revealed that micr ofinance donors give approximately $800 million to $1 billion per year (CGAP, 2006). In the 1980s, microfinance institutions (MFIs) developed a new business model, allowing them to cover their costs and make profit. This shift from nonprofit to for-profit has become a general tendency for MFIs, especially in the 1990s and after (Alexander, 2007, Robinson, 2001). Only in the late 1990s did the academicia ns coin the term microfinance (Elahi & Rahman, 2006). This is also the period when mi crofinance became popular, that is to say when governments, donors and opinion leaders became conscious that microfinance could reduce poverty, both in developed and developing countries (McGuire & Conroy, 2000). A few key dates have marked the advancement of microfinance in the global scene. In 1995, the World Bank sponsored an organization providing resources in microfinance, the Consultative Group to Assist the Poorest (C GAP). In 1997, the Microcredit Summit gathered some 1,500 organizations from 137 countries discu ssing microfinance issues in Washington D.C. (McGuire & Conroy, 2000). They set up a goal to reach 100 million households by 2005. Following this, 2005 was called the International Year of Microc redit and mobilized the global interest in microfinance. The objectives were to promote and increase microfinance awareness, to contribute to its inclusion in the macroeconomic system, to support microfinance projects, and to encourage international partnership (Inte rnational Year of Mi crocredit 2005, n.d.). In 2006, the Microcredit Summit launched a campaign again to reach 175 million households by 2015 (MSC, n.d.b).

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17 There is a common terminologi cal confusion between micr ofinance and microcredit. Technically, microcredit has been argued to be a product of microfinance, in the same way as microinsurance or microsaving. In concept, these terms respectively illust rate the for-profit and the nonprofit movements. The term microcredit refe rs to programs funded externally and mostly run by nonprofit organizations, wh ile microfinance programs are also concerned with commercial objectives and sustai nability constraints (Arme ndriz & Morduch, 2007; Elahi & Danopoulos, 2004; Elahi & Rahman, 2006) The Shift from Nonprofit to For-profit In order to fully grasp the e volution of the m icrofinance mo vement, it is fundamental to comprehend why many nonprofit microfinance institutio ns decided to become commercial. This trend has been called the microfinance revolu tion (Robinson, 2001). Robinson explained that donor-funded organizations are limited in reach to a minuscule portion of the demand and that only sustainable models of microfinance can really make a difference. In her own words, only financially self-sufficient commercial microfinance institutions (MFI) can meet the demand for microfinance on a global scale (Robins on, 2001, p. 31). Imboden (2005) added that microfinance is not an exercise in charity. As the microfinance industry matures, there are more opportunities for domestic and inte rnational finance actors to ente r this market profitably while contributing to poverty reduction worldwide ( p. 66). Imboden further explained that only competition among private MFIs can possibly br ing skills, innovation and technology and efficiently reach the poor on large scale (p. 71). Sh e even took a step further and asserted that the role of the private and public sector in microfinance will dramatically change over the next decade. McGuire and Conroy (2000) give six reasons why MFIs should become sustainable. First, the dependence on funding limits the possible outreach. Second, the funding itself depends on

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18 the interest given by donors on mi crofinance. This interest is unpredictable and therefore, unreliable. Third, subsidized progr ams are usually less motivated to be efficient than independent programs. Fourth, subsidized prog rams are more inclined to be abused by non-poor clients than independent programs. Fifth, independent program s are more likely to have a real effect on poverty on a global scale. Sixth, MFIs serve entr epreneurs and would be well advised to adopt the business mentality for themselves. Along th ese lines, Armendriz and Morduch (2007) add that the hope for many is that microfinance programs will use the subsidies in their early startup phases only, and, as scale economies and experiences drive costs down, programs will eventually be able to operate without subsidy (p. 16). Commercial MFIs have challengi ng constraints. They must give the poor a real chance, as well as meet their own business objectives. Th is double approach, humanita rian and commercial, has been widely documented in the recent literature and is us ually called double bottom line (CGAP, 2004; Imboden, 2005; United Nations, 2006). However, sustainability for MFIs is diffi cult to attain (Armendriz & Morduch, 2007; McGuire & Conroy, 2000). In addition, McGuire a nd Conroy (2000) point out that commercial MFIs are inclined to serve not -so-poor clients. Conversely, Elahi and Danopoulos (2004) assert that if microfinance is led by capitalistic ob jectives, it will never genuinely focus on human poverty and be eventually carried away by self-interest motives. Types of Microlenders As Hardy, Holden and Prokopenko (2003) explaine d, the term microfinance institutions is generally used to refer to those financia l institutions that are characterized by their commitment to assisting typically poor househol ds and small enterprises in gaining access to financial services (p. 148). A mi crofinance provider can be an official institution, such as an association, an NGO, a credit union, a cooperative, a bank, or an uno fficial agent like a friend or

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19 family member (Microfinance Gateway, n.d.; Tefft 1995). Microfinance actor s can be classified in three categories, informal, semiformal a nd formal (La Torre, 2006; Elahi & Rahman, 2006). Informal institutions are neither legally organized nor registered, they include self-help groups, credit associations, families or individuals. Semiformal institutions are the intermediary entities which make the money available, but dont offer fi nished products or services to the direct beneficiaries. This category includes financial NGOs, cooperatives and postal saving banks. Finally, the formal institutions are the microf inance banks which operate directly with the consumers. Elahi and Rahman (2006) use the sa me informal-semiformal-formal classification but dont define them exactly in the same way. For instance, for them, cooperatives are formal institutions. Depending on the bank s orientations, some may be specialized in microfinance products and services, others may offer a limite d range of microfinance products and services (LaTorre, 2006). In a recent report called the Blue Book, the United Nations (2006) introduced a comprehensive classification model for all provide rs of microfinance services. It comprises 11 categories, namely commercial banks, state development and agricultural banks, postal saving banks, non-postal saving banks, MFI banks, licensed non-bank financial inte rmediaries, financial cooperative and credit unions, rural banks and community banks, non-governmental organizations, insurance companies and transfer payment companies. In addition, there are also two types of organizations in the informal mi crofinance sector, non-bank private retailers and mutual assistance groups. According to this report, MFIs are narrowed down to three of these categories, namely commercial banks, non-bank financial institutions and non-governmental organizations. This classification has also been adopted by the CGAP (2004). MFI banks are usually local

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20 commercial banks, which target the lowest so cial and economic end of the population. They must be profitable, as well as respond to th e need of the very p oor. Non-bank financial intermediaries are controlled by governmental authorities, although they can benefit from private or public funding. Finally, nongovernmental organizations are funded by donors, and are primarily guided by hum anitarian purposes. Products and Interest Rates Since the 19 70s, microfinance has much e xpanded and now includes a wide range of financial products and services, such as credits, also called micr ocredits or microloans, saving accounts, insurance, transfer services and support (Microfina nce Gateway, n.d.; Tefft, 1995). Typically, loans are less than $200, repaid in 6 to 12 months, at interest rates around 20% and have repayment rates over 95% (Armendri z & Morduch, 2007; Epstein & Crane, 2007; Grameen Foundation, n.d.; Tefft, 1995). Interest rates are higher than in the traditional financial sector, but much lower than in the informal s ector. They usually range from 15% to 35% (Tefft, 1995). The main reason for high interest rates is the high operating costs (CGAP, 2003; Hardy et al., 2003; Robinson, 2001). Indeed, it is more expensive to manage many small loans than few big loans. This is mathematically obvious: if th e actual cost per loan is $25, the percentage cost is 0.25% for a $10,000 loan, but 25% [too] for a $100 loan (CGAP, 2003, p. 1). In other words, if interest rates were the same in microfinance and in regular finance, microfinance institutions would be unprofitable, if not unsustainable. According to a recent CGAP report (2002), the economical equation to calculate the interest rate involves the followi ng variables: administra tive expenses (such as salaries, benefits, rent, and utilities), loan losses (that is, loans that remain unpaid ), the cost of funds (due to inflation rates for instance), the desired capitaliza tion rate (or net profit ), and the investment income (income expected from other financial asse ts than the loans, like cash, checking deposits,

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21 and legal reserves). Other factors have also be en mentioned to come into play, such as the management of a geographically dispersed staff, the rather rudimentar y facilities in secluded areas, the fact that very poor people have no other option, and the risk that very poor people fail to reimburse (Robinson, 2001). Clientele The typical m icrofinance client is the one deemed unbankable by the traditional banking system. S/he is too poor to be eligible for re gular banks, but not too poor so that s/he can generate some income and reimburse their loan (CGAP, n.d.a; Microfinance Gateway, n.d.). Therefore, the ability to work is a key requi rement for microfinance eligibility (Robinson, 2001). Robinson distinguishes between the economica lly active poor and the extremely poor by their ability, or not, to work. Another terminol ogical differentiation between poor enough and too poor is creditworthiness. Some one who would be unable to produce some income could not possibly reimburse a credit. Therefore, s/he would be deemed noncreditworthy and remain unbanked. This is the case for the badly malnour ished, ill, and without skills or employment opportunities (Robinson, 2001, p.8). Indeed, those who struggle to survive cannot afford to have debts. Traditionally, rural women in developing countr ies have been the typical beneficiaries of MFIs, since they are believed to be less likely than men to find employment otherwise (La Torre, 2006; Tefft, 1995). In addition, women in poor count ries are believed to be poorer than men, since they are often trapped by their husbands an d the social norms at large. Moreover, it has been argued that women would use the loan more productively and reimburse more reliably than men (Armendriz & Morduch, 2007; La Torre, 2006; Wendt & Eichfeld, 2006). From past experiences and research, Armendriz and Morduc h reported that women have stronger impacts on households and better repayment records (p. 180). Possible reasons have been evoked,

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22 such as womens bigger concern for childrens health and education. Within the Grameen Bank for instance, 96% of the borrowers are women and 98% of the loans are reimbursed (Wendt & Eichfeld, 2006). To the question why target women?, the Microcredit Summit Campaign (n.d.b) argues: Women are often responsible fo r the upbringing of the worlds children and the poverty of the women generally results in the physical and social underdevelopment of their children. Experience shows that women are a good credit risk, and that women invest their income toward the well being of their families. At the same time, women themselves benefit from the higher social status they achieve within the home when they are able to provide income. Nevertheless, recent microfinance models have focused on broadening their target market from the most destitute to all the micro-entrep reneurs whose access to regular banks is denied, regardless of their gender (La Torre, 2006). Critics and Controversies Nevertheless, despite its honorable principl es and achievem ents, microfinance is not impervious to criticism. For instance, it has b een argued that some peopl e abuse the system and use the loan for immediate consumption, as opposed to invest it in a business (American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Resear ch [AEIPPR], 2006). According to Zeller and Sharma (2002), there is a controversy between ec onomists and bankers as to how the loan should be allocated. Indeed, bankers assert that loans should be invested on an activity that generates income, while economists do not seem to see it as an issue. Another critique points to the method of measuring the impact when argued that microfinance has taken millions of people beyond th e poverty level. If bo rrowers make slightly more than before and pass the poverty income indi cator, it does not mean that they are no longer poor (AEIPPR, 2006).

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23 Further, even though the impact of microfinan ce has been substantiated in many countries, it seems that microfinance alone cannot erad icate world poverty (Armendriz & Morduch, 2007; Stanford University, 2007; McGuire & Conroy, 2000; Elahi & Danopoulos, 2004; Robinson, 2001; United Nations, 2006). The number of potentia l beneficiaries is simply too large and the number of actual clients in comparison still too small. According to Elahi and Danopoulos (2004), the lack of microcredit is not the reason for poverty in th e third world and thus, not the solution. Some have also argued that microfinan ce was a way to increase the debt burden and maintain the dependence relationship between de veloped and developing countries (McGuire & Conroy, 2000). In addition, the gender bias has been fiercely criticized. Some have argued that the pressure of repaying the loan can increase the womens fe ar vis--vis their husbands and the community at large (Feiner & Barker, 2007). Others have me ntioned that men tend to send their women to go get loans (United Nations, 2006). Interest rates are often criticized as being too high (Tefft, 1995). According to Robinson (2001), politicians, journalists, social workers, and the general public often have a difficult time understanding why interest rates on microloans need to be higher th an those on larger loans. This is, after all, somewhat counterintuitive (p. 30) Indeed, it seems diff icult to understand that small loans are very expensive, and to asso ciate this idea with philanthropy. Elahi and Danopoulos (2004) actually question the prof it of commercial micr ofinance institutions, suggesting that most of them barely break even, and are therefore very unlikely to ever become self-sufficient. Finally, it has also been argued that microfinance is not a ppropriate for poor people, who may not necessarily have the skills to deve lop a business (Stanford University, 2007). The

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24 Stanford University report makes a strong case for the creation of jobs and mass employment, rather than the creation of microbusinesses and self-employment. According to him, poor people are likely to fail their business and become even poorer than before. Now that we understand better how the sector of microfinance functions, let us turn to the topic of online public relations. Online Public Relations The Dialogic Communication Theory The dialogic communication theory is very m u ch cited in the liter ature on new media and public relations. According to the founders of this theory, Kent and Taylor, the dialogic communication model complements the two-way symme trical model (1998). The latter refers to the process of communicating whereas the former refers to the result of this process, or the product, as they ca ll it (Kent & Taylor, 1998). After the dialogic communication theory was first published in 1998, a series of studies have tested the concep ts and helped redefine them, thus ensuring their relevance towards the ever-eme rging media tools. It is worth noting that the authors have always applied their theory to the nonprofit sector. In 2001, in their study on activist organizations Web sites, Kent, Taylor and White gave a comprehensive and matured description of the dialogic communication theory. The theory is based on five requirements for an effective pract ice of online public rela tions. Firstly, the ease of the interface refers to the prim ary contact between the web site a nd the user. It is crucial that users can easily navigate and find information quickly. Indeed, if users be come frustrated with the technicality of the web site, they may leave the site and thus disreg ard the organization at large. Four elements are necessary to help us ers have a fruitful experience on the web site, namely site maps, links, search box, and a well designed layout (Taylor et al., 2001).

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25 Secondly, usefulness of information is relative to the target in questi on. This principle is based on the assumption that in order to have a dialogue, organizations sh ould first answer their publics questions. However, different publics se ek different data. Ta ylor, Kent and White (2001) specifically identified tw o targets, media professionals and volunteers. According to them, media professionals would typically l ook for press releases, speeches, downloadable graphics, audio/visual capacity, clear statements on policy issu es and member identification. Volunteers would look for statements about the organizations philosophy and mission, ways to join, how to contribute money, links to politic al leaders, and a logo of the organization. Thirdly, conservation of visitors or stickin ess refers to the or ganizations efforts to keep their visitors on their web sites, as opposed to send them to other web sites and possibly lose them. The features measuring this principl e are important information on first page, short loading time, and posting of la st updated time and date. Fourthly, generation of return visit refers to the organizations efforts to encourage the visitors to come back. Taylor et al. (2001) underline the importance of a second visit by explaining that the relationship between the web site and its user is a long itudinal process. If the user never returns to the web s ite, the organization ha s no chance of building a relationship with him/her. The variables measuring this principle comprise an explicit statement inviting users to return, a news forum, FAQs, a bookmark now feature, links to other websites, a calendar of events, downloadable information, things that can be requested by mail or email, and posting of news stories. Fifthly, the dialogic loop represents the basic feature that technically allows publics to respond to the messages online. This principle meas ures the interactivity level of the web site. The authors specify that the dial ogic potential does not measure the actual responsiveness of an

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26 organization. Indeed, organizations may well o ffer dialogue opportunities without ever actually dialoging. Measuring variables ar e the opportunity for response, the opportunity to vote, survey, and possibility of getting information by email. Following this, Kent and Taylor (2002) comple mented their theory. They identified five aspects of online dialogue. Mutuality refe rs to the acknowledgment of a relationship. Propinquity qualifies the type of interaction. Empathy underl ines the positive atmosphere. Risk refers to the possible negative outcome of the relationship. And finally, commitment suggests that organizations and public engage in a genuine exch ange. The authors added that dialogic communication can be applied to interpersonal a nd mediated relationships. Nevertheless, the dialogic communication theory has been contested. Kent and Taylor (2002) suggested that by allowi ng the Web users to have a dialogue with the organization, the organization is playing a democr atic game. However, Stoker and Tusinski (2006) discussed the equity and ethics of such dialogue. According to them, dialogue is a strategic excuse for organizations to promote their messages, as oppose d to having a real discussion on a topic. For instance, Stoker and Tusinski noted that the or ganizations select the publics with whom they want to have a dialogue, that is, those that can potentially be persuaded by the messages. The other publics are neglected. Also, they argued th at the exchange is unba lanced, much of the influence being on the senders side. As they put it, The senders motivation for entering into a dialogue is not necessarily to hear what the rece iver has to say but to make sure the senders words reach the right people and are understood in the right way (Stoker & Tusinski, 2006, pp. 163-164). Other Theoretical Frameworks Other res earch used different theoretical framew orks to study the use of the Internet by PR practitioners. Galloway (2005) posited that online public relations, or cyber-PR, were more

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27 than just a dialogue between an organization an d its publics. First the researcher defined the publics as fugitives. He explained that from a PR practitioners perspective, the concept of publics is intangible. As he put it, audiences seem to be always just beyond reach. (p. 574). Then the researcher introduced the postmodern theory, according to which online communication is more about an emotional expe rience than a rational exchange of arguments. He stated that public relations practitioners must upgrade their communication with feel-good, shared-emotion, spiritual and connected sensations (p. 574). Finally, the rese archer explains that cyber PR practitioners should not only disseminate information but engage in a real relationship with their publics. In the same vein, Vorvoreanu (2006) proposed to look at the web site as a platform for interaction with the public. The use of web site is not just an opportunity for di alogue, it is a real live experience which occurs in three phases: fi rst impression, exploration and exit. The first phase is relatively quick, the user forms his fi rst opinion about the web site. The second phase, exploration, refers to the users navigation on the web site. In th e third phase, exit, the user has finalized an opinion about the web site and decides, or is provoke d, to leave the space. In this web site experience, the author identifies a tim e dimension and a space dimension where people of the same public can live si milar experiences. This is base d on the assumption that similar publics go through the same interpretation process. The author names these publics interpretive communities. Vorvoreanu proposes to measure this web experience by asking the users three sets of questions, respective to the three phases. She asserts th at this would be a valuable measure for PR practitioners. Empirical Data This section presents recent research on th e use of web sites for public relations matters. All studies hereafter presente d were conducted after 2000. Most of the studies are content

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28 analyses of web sites, some of which complement their data with interviews. One of them is a survey of PR practitioners, and one of them is purely qualitative. While most of the studies are grounded in the two-way symmetric al and dialogic communication models, some studies follow different theoretical frameworks. A large majority of researchers has concluded that the dialogic potential of the web is poorly used by the PR practitioners. In this section, I first examine the studies that focus nonprofit sector, then I move on to the for-profit sector and finally, I take a closer look at the in ternational studies. The nonprofit sector Taylor et al. (2001) tested dialogic comm unication theory with activist organizations. They undertook to examine 100 web sites and apply a 31item questionnaire, conceived to measure each of the five principles. As indicated by the results of a pilot study, they decided to focus essentially on two publics, the media and voluntee rs. The research questio ns assess the dialogic characteristics of the web sites, the targeted publ ics, and the effectivenes s of the dialogue. They identified technical failures in the web sites design. Also, they found that the web sites address potential volunteers more than the media. They re vealed that web sites dont really exploit the potential for feedback. Overall, they concluded that activist organizations fail to optimize the dialogic potential of their web sites. Shortly after, Kent, Taylor and White (2003) examined activist organizations again. This time, they distinguished between membership and watchdog activist organizations. They took the same 100 web sites from their previous study and added 50 more organizations. They applied the same 31-item questionnaire. The research que stions focus on the web sites responsiveness and the use of dialogic principles. They found that both types of activist organizations poorly use the dialogic web features.

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29 Further, Taylor and Kent (2004) applied their theory to the field of political communication. They examined 100 U.S. congre ssional web sites. In a pilot study, they identified five more items to measure the web si tes dialogic potential, bringing to 36 the total number of items. They also brought qualitati ve data through telephone interviews with 32 congressional representatives. They found good awareness of the web sites dialogic potential. Their results also show that the web site s do offer opportunities for dialogue. However, congressional representatives do not consider online dialogue as a priority, and tend to get carried away by their day-to-day tasks. Despite th e intention and the techni cal structure in favor of interactivity, dialogue is not really taking place. Based on the two two-way symmetrical and th e dialogic communication theories, Kang and Norton (2004) focused on 100 large NPOs and an alyzed the content of their web sites, in order to test their efficiency to disseminate information and conduct dialogue online. They found that the web sites were very weak in attracting visitors and gene rating return visits. In closing, they emphasized the potential of the Internet for nonprofits to reach thei r public, underlining the relative cheapness of the medium. Later, the same authors content-analyzed 129 U.S. universities web sites with the same research questions (Kang and Norton, 2006). The au thors found excellent use of the web sites for transmitting information to the various publics. Bu t the results were rather poor concerning the dialogic use of the web sites. Recently, McAllister and Taylor (2007) appl ied the dialogic communication theory to community college Web sites. They selected 19 we b sites and analyzed the targeted publics, as well as the dialogic characteris tics. Overall, they found that community colleges use their web site more to disseminate information to th eir publics than to offer a real dialogue.

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30 Seltzer and Mitrook (2007) applied the dialog ic communication theory to a particular online media tool, the weblog. The researchers wanted to see how weblogs can optimize the practice of public rela tions. They selected 50 weblogs invo lved in environmental issues and compared their dialogic potential with traditiona l web sites dialogic potential. They found that some dialogic features were stronger in the weblog s than in the web sites. They concluded that weblogs do offer a potential for dialogue, comparab le to, if not even stronger than that of traditional web sites. Beyond the function of public relations and from the pe rspective of the whole organizations system, Lee, Chen and Zhang (2001) examined the way the Internet can improve the overall productivity of public schools. The authors analyzed the valu e chain of a typical public school and for each activit y, identified and explained how the Internet can potentially enhance the activities in question. They also interviewed seven professionals of different activities in public schools and asked them how th ey perceived the potential of the Internet to improve their activity. The researchers found that a lthough the Internet was still in the process of being integrated, it was recognized has an impor tant tool for improving relationships with the schools publics, particularly regard ing the communications activities. The for-profit sector Research has also add ressed the for-profit sect or. Esrock and Leichty (2000) examined the home pages of 100 corporate web sites. They sought to measure the level of interactivity, as well as the importance given to particular topics. They operationalized the presence of an interactive feature on the home page. Although the authors obse rved that the corporate web sites do address many of the corporations publics, the web sites still lack interactive features. Callison (2003) examined 500 leading companies web sites and their tend ency to facilitate their relationships with journalists by offering online newsrooms. Overall, results showed that

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31 most corporations did not have a functional ne wsroom and that when they did, the newsrooms were not necessarily providing relevant media material. By using the Fortune 500 listing, Callison could point out that the companies ra nked higher were more likely to offer online pressrooms than those ranked lower. Connolly-Ahern and Broadway (2007) analyzed 110 leading corporate web sites in order to evaluate the use of online di alogic public relations. In cont rast, the authors found good use of the dialogic features, with both in ternal and external publics. Th ey also identif ied the use of different languages and concluded that the leading corporations were successfully addressing their global audience. Nevertheless, the authors acknowledged that the results may not be found as satisfying in smaller businesses. Ryan (2003) collected data from 109 member s of the PRSA, almost equally in the nonprofit and for-profit sector. He mailed a 30-minute questionna ire and got a 55% response rate. The researchers ob jective was to understand PR practit ioners perception of the web as a tool for implementing a dialogue with the publics. Results showed that although PR communicators did acknowledge the dialogic poten tial of the Internet, th ey still had to face technical obstacles. Indeed, th e PR practitioners were found to lack updated skills in online public relations. In both the nonprofit and the for-profit sector, Hill and White (2000) interviewed 13 PR practitioners in order to capture their perception of the Internet as a public relations medium. They found that the web sites were viewed as an essential tool but not ne cessarily as a priority. In addition, the PR practitioners were found to ha ve a loosely defined strategy for exploiting the web sites and often times, publics were randomly ta rgeted. Overall, web sites were perceived as a tool that an organization needs to have but not necessarily the most important.

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32 International organizations Som e researchers also focused on the internat ional dimension of public relations. Naud, Froneman and Atwood (2004) examined 10 small non-governmental organizations (NGO) in South Africa. Their research objective was to see if developing countries were able to successfully integrate the Internet in their pr actice of public relations, and benefit from its dialogic potential. They combined a content analysis of their web sites with semi-structured interviews of PR practitioners. They found that PR practitioners fa il to recognize the potential of the Internet, and all the more, th e dialogic potential of the Intern et. The authors also observed that the staff in charge of public relations was not necessarily skilled in public relations, perhaps because the organization did not fully recognize the importance of public relations. Moreover, the web sites were not found to be well maintained or even functional. Fund-raising activities for instance were not managed online. In conclu sion, the authors recommended that NGOs train their staff in public relations with a strong emphasis on opening an online dialogue with all publics. Maynard and Tian (2004) focused on the cultur al dimension of international web sites. Their theoretical framework is based on the concept of glocalization. They defined glocalization as the result of si multaneous global and local forces. While corporations are more and more opening to the global market, they are also able to tailor their products and services to specific cultures. More specifically, the aut hors looked at the Chinese versions of 100 international corporations, 65 of them being U.S. corporations. They found that 58 web sites had a version in Chinese. However, the researchers did not discover a homogen eous pattern in these replications. Each web site has its particular way to adapt to the Chinese culture. The results show that the Chinese culture is well incorporat ed into the Chinese vers ion, thus validating the concept of glocalization.

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33 Ayish (2005) examined the content of 20 public and private organizations in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). He focused on the way pub lic relations are handle d through the web sites. Concerning the dialogic potential the author found a good dialogi c structure, as well as satisfying online relationships with media publics. This study is one of the rare studies to conclude positively on the use of online dialogue by PR practitioners. Following this, Kirat (2007) focused on 24 UAE organizations and their practice of online public relations. The author developed a list of 18 items to assess the efficiency of the web sites in allowing public relations. He also conducted interviews w ith PR practitioners. He found mitigated results: although the organizations under scrutiny do have a functional web site to disseminate corporate information, public relations are not fully exploiting the dialogic potential of their website. Mostly, the UAE organizations lack a strategy to reach their publics through the web. Ayishs and Kirats findings di screpancies can be partly expl ained by the fact that Ayish only used 7 items to measure the effi ciency of online public relations. Other researchers such as Gonzles-Herre ro and de Valbuena (2006) analyzed and compared web sites from different countries, namely Denmark, France, Germany, Norway, Singapore, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States. They selected 120 corporate web sites and sought to examine their use of the Internet to support their relationship with the media. Consistent with most previous research and uniformly across the eight countries, the authors found that the Internet is poorly exploited by PR practitioners They concluded that more attention should be given by the PR practitioners to the potential of online dialogic features. In terms of communication objectives, nonprof it and commercial organizations face the same issues (Bates, 1998; Health, 2005). They must maintain vis ibility, credibility, accountability and growth (Bates, 1998, p. 570). Yet, due to their limited budget, nonprofits

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34 usually have fewer material and human resour ces (Bates, 1998; Health, 2005, Leeper, 2005). For this reason, PR practitioners in NPOs may be more required to handle different types of tasks than in for-profit organizations (Health, 2005). Most of the time, nonprofit executives are not very convinced by the potential benefits of public relations (Leeper, 2005). In addition, traditionally, nonprofits are more inclined to dire ctly allocate their budge t to those in need (Bates, 1998). In other words, small NPOs are more likely to understand short-term expenses than long-term investments in orga nizational and managerial issues. Furthermore, like commercial organizations, nonpr ofits too must identify their targets. As Feinglass (2005) puts it, it is the job of a good PR campa ign to identify the nonprofit organizations market, recognize th e specific needs of those markets, and then effectively meet those needs (p. 12). Kotler and Andreasen ( 1996) provide a solid marketing framework to segment the nonprofits targets. They identify four categories of publics which refer to the functional contribution of the public to the organization. Fi rst, the input publics include donors, suppliers and regulatory publics. Second, the internal publics include the management, board, staff and volunteers. Thir d, the intermediary publics include merchants, agents, facilitators and marketing firms. And fourth, th e consuming publics include the clients, local publics, activists, general publics and the media (Kotler & Andreasen, 1996, pp. 146-150). Two communication constraints ar e unique to nonprofts, that is fundraising and recruiting volunteers (Hunt, 2002). Although th e number of nonprofit organizati ons is on the increase, the resources for funding are still the same. In a ddition, the competition takes place between all kinds of organizations, regardless of their field (Feinglass, 2005). Ultimately, the competition is becoming harder and harder (Feinglass, 2005; Ki nzey, 1999, p. 163). The other pressure specific to nonprofits is the recruitmen t of volunteers (Hunt, 2002). Brudney (1998) reports from

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35 previous research that voluntee rs are generally motivated by th e efforts made by the organization to recruit them. Moreover, volunteers donate their time and energy for no financial compensation, so it is important that their input be well recognized (Leepe r, 2005). Besides, it is very easy for them to change organizations if they feel like, so orga nizations would be well advised to maintain privileged relationships with volunteers. Penni ng (2000) summarizes the role of PR practitioners within nonprofit organizations that is, promoting the organizations mission and action, and maintaining good re lationships with all targets. Kinzey (1999, p. 13) quotes Kotler and Andreasens strategic planning model to explicate the practice of successful public relations in NPOs: identify relevant publics, measure images and attitudes toward nonprofit, establish image and attitude goals, develop cost effective PR strategi es, prepare for public relations crises, choose specific tools, implemen t actions and evaluate results. According to Kinzey (1999), PR practitioners are appointed to enhance its [the organizations] reputation, complement its marketing plan, and contribute to its fundraising succe ss (p. 11). Depending on the size of the organization and the acknowledgement of the differe nce, the marketing and public relations departments can overlap (Kinzey, 1999). However, Kinzey makes a simple distinction: marketing focuses on the development of plans to market the companys product to consumers, while public relations take care of relations with the publics (p. 11). All in all, Leeper (2005) gives the most comp lete definition of public relations within a nonprofit organization. She states: The public relations function in most nonprof it organizations include creating awareness and acceptance of the organizati ons mission; communicating effectively with key publics, including employees, volunteers, the communit y, those served by the organization, and the media; developing, maintaining, and mon itoring the organizations issue area, organizational policy, and public policy relevant to the organization; and maintaining the organizations reputation with donors. (p. 579)

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36 In sum, it is clear that pu blic relations practitioners in commercial and nonprofit organizations alike, must establish and maintain a positive image of the organization, as well as sound relationships w ith their publics. Research Questions and Hypotheses In this paper, the researcher exam ines on line public relations of commercial and nonprofit microfinance institutions worldwide. Based on the pr eviously cited literature, the researcher asks the following questions: RQ1: How do nonprofit and for-profit MFIs differ on the practice of online public relations? The nonprofit sector is expected to allocate fewer resources to the department of public relations. Therefore, it is likel y that in terms of online featur es, nonprofit MFIs public relations will be less sophisticated than for-profit MF Is, which leads to the first hypothesis: H1: In terms of online public relations, for-profit web sites are dialogically more sophisticated than nonprofit web sites. RQ2: Are there cultural patterns in the way MFIs practice online public relations? It is expected that from one country to another, the prac tice of online public relations differ. For instance, it is very li kely that public relations are conducted in the local language. It is also possible that in countries where online publi c relations are less organized, web sites are less sophisticated. This may be the case for exampl e in the Middle East, the Sub Saharan and the Eastern Asian regions. Therefor e, the researcher posits: H2: In terms of online public relations, No rth American and European web sites are dialogically more sophisticated than African and Asian web sites

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37 CHAPTER 3 METHODOLOGY Content Analysis This study was conceived to analyze the co ntent of nonprofit and comm ercial MFI web sites, and more specifically, to explore the use of online dialogic features relevant to the practice of public relations, defined by the presence or abse nce of certain features in the web site. These features served as indicators to evaluate whet her the web site, and by extension, the organization, applied strategic online public re lations. The features are divide d into five categories, or dimensions, corresponding to the five principles revealed by Kent and Taylor, namely, ease of interface, usefulness of informa tion, conservation of visitors, re turn visits and dialogic loop. Each dimension comprises a set of variables. Within the ease of in terface dimension, the researcher added five items suggested by Krug (2006) which assess the web sites usability. The concept of MFIs was defined according to the Microfinance Gateways classification, that is, organiz ations dedicated to providing [microfinance] services: NGOs, credit unions, cooperatives, priv ate commercial banks and non-ba nk financial institutions (some that have transformed from NGOs into regulate d institutions) and part s of state-owned banks (Microfinance Gateway, n.d.). Research Method According to Babbie (2007), content analyses pr esent several advantages from which this study can benefit. First, conten t analyses allow us to work with limited financial and human resources, which suits the constraints of a st udent researcher. Second, assuming that the web sites do not drastically change ove r the short period of this study, th e researcher can refer back to the same data when needed. Third, the conduct of the study does not interfere with the nature of the data, as opposed to experiments, for instance This is another convenient characteristic of

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38 content analyses for novice coders. Fourth, Babbi e argues that content analyses present the disadvantage of being limited to th e available content. Since the uni t of analysis, the web site in this case, provides the very content to be analyze d, the limit perfectly fits the scope of this study. This also eliminates the risk of unreliability. In conclusion, the researcher argues that content analysis is a strong method to discuss this studys research questions. Population and Sampling Method The population of this study com prises all nonprofit and commercial MFIs, worldwide. Different inventories have been propose d, by the World Bank, the Microcredit Summit Campaign, the Microbanking Bulleti n and the Microfinance Gateway, but none of them alone is reliable for the purpose of this study. First of all, the World Banks i nventory was published in 1996, which is arguably outdated. Indeed, since the In ternet is always cha nging, it is crucial that the data be as recent as possible. The Micr ocredit Summit Campaign re gisters its members, which is certainly biased and probably incomplete (International Food Policy Research Institute, 2001). Hence, we are left with the Microbanking Bulletin (MBB) and the Microfinance Gateway (MFG). The MBB is an extensive benchmar king study, which compiles and standardizes a tremendous amount of data concerning 200 MFIs. The MFG is a daily-updated online database. It makes an online inventory of 6,400 documents, 388 consultant profiles, 948 events, and more importantly here, 1,066 microfinance-related organizations, among which 130 are MFIs. The other microfinance-related organizations include all types of organizations more or less interested in microf inance, such as research institutes, online resource cente rs, governments, or investors. The MBB is published by the Microfinance Info rmation Exchange which, like the MFG, is funded by the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP). The CGAP is an independent

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39 consortium of 33 private and public donors, housed at the World Bank (CGAP, n.d.b). The CGAP acts as a resource center for all microf inance-related purposes. Both the MBB and the MFG are trusted and recommende d by authoritative organizations Among these organizations are international organizations like the United Nations and th e World Bank (World Bank, n.d.; United Nations Capital Development Fund, n.d.), gove rnmental organizations such as the U.S. government and the Australian government (Comptroller of the Curre ncy Administrator of National Banks, n.d.; Australian Government, n.d.), prestigious universitie s such as UCLA and NYU (University of California Los Angeles, n.d.; New York University, n.d.), and many microfinance organizations. In sum, in the fi eld of microfinance, the MBB and the MFG are extensive, reliable and up-t o-date online databases. The MFG (N=130) and the MBB (N=200) invent ories complement each other quite well. As mentioned earlier, the MFG di rectory distinguishes between di fferent types of microfinancerelated organizations, one of which is MFIs. Ho wever, it does not systematically identify the profit status. Therefore, the rese archer turns to the MBB invent ory, which does identify the profit status, but excludes some regions such as Europe and North America. Hence, for those regions, the researcher identified th e profit status herself. Furthermore, other filters of selection, corres ponding to our research constraints, must be simultaneously applied. The first one is the exis tence of a web site, through which we examine the practice of online public relations. The second one is the accessibility of the web site, that is to say, the way the web sites can be accessed on the Internet. Indee d, we consider that a web site that is not registered in the ma in directories is not easily accessible, and thus should not be taken into account. The third one is the language of the web site. Indeed, due to the limitations of this studys resources, the resear cher requires that all web sites be available in English or in French.

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40 When a web site is available in both English a nd French, the researcher followed this procedure: if the organization is French-sp eaking, the French version is cons idered. For all other countries that are not French-speaking, the English versio n is considered. Only the translation by the organization itself is valid, mean ing that a Google translation for example, is disregarded. In brief, the researcher took the list of MFIs listed in th e MFG directory. One by one, she identified if there is a web site or not. To is olate the accessibility factor of the web site, the researcher used the Google search system and used as keyword the exact name of the organization. If no web site showed on the firs t results page, the organization was removed from the list. When a web site was found, if no English or French version was available, the organization was removed from the list. As fo r the remaining organizations, the researcher identified their profit status. In this purpose, for all non-European a nd non-U.S. organizations, the researcher referred to the profit status i ndicated by the MBB. As for the European and the U.S. organizations, the researcher examined th eir web site and possibl y, their annual reports; otherwise, the researcher called the organization. Out of the 130 original organizations, the re searchers removed 47 organizations with no web site and 14 for which the web site had no E nglish version. The final list is presented in Appendix A. Variables This study is grounded in Kent and Taylors dialogic communication theory. As shown in the previous section, their coding method has been used in several studies. Table 1 summarizes them and displays the outline of their methodology. Since this coding method has already been te sted in the nonprofit sector, it is likely suitable to the microfinance sector. The method ology used in Kent, Taylor and Whites study on activist organization seems the closes t to this study. Still, the list of variables must be modified to

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41 fit the exact requirements of this study. For instance, some items are irrelevant to the microfinance sector. Likewise, new online features have been integrated. Also, the researcher appropriated the terminology and chose to rename some items. Table 1-1. Summary of all studies that used Kent and Taylors coding method. Author(s) Year Subject under study Research method Unit of analysis Sample Items Taylor, Kent and White 2001 Activist organizations Content analysis Web site 100 32 Kent, Taylor and White 2003 Activist organizations Content analysis Web site 150 31 Taylor and Kent 2004 Congressional offices Content analysis Interviews Web site Congressional representatives 100 32 36 McAllister and Taylor 2007 Community colleges Content analysis Web site 19 52 Seltzer and Mitrook 2007 Environmental weblogs Content analysis Blogs homepage 50 32 In addition, the usefulness of information di mension is relative to the public in question. In the 2003 study, the authors fo cused on two publics, volunteer s and media. Although the researcher assumed that the media and volunteers in activist organizations are likely to seek similar information as the media and volunteers in the microfinance sector, the researcher validated this point. In additi on, consistent with the earlier ar gument that donors and volunteers constitute specific challenges fo r nonprofits, the researcher was interested in examining the donor publics as well. Further, since all studies were tested in th e United States, the researcher made sure that the items are relevant in al l countries. Finally, Krug (2006) makes a strong case on web site usability, which perfectly complement s Kent, Taylor and Whites ease of interface dimension.

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42 Operationalization For each web site, the research er scrutinized two levels of the hierarchy, the home page and each primary navigation page. In some cases, the primary navigation was just a title on the home page and not a web page as such. In this case, the researcher only coded the home page and the information given by the subtitles (i n a pull-down menu). Hereafter is the detailed explanation of each modification on Kent, Taylor and Whites original coding sheet, as well as a description of certain items. The total number of items is 49, all items are nominal (Appendix C). Ease of Interface In this sec tion, items are applicable to th e home page only. Indeed, the home page being the first interface between th e user and the organization, it is crucia l that it be particularly easy to navigate. The item site map refers to presence of a web sites map. Usually a site map is a list of all ramifications in the entire web site. Search box refers to the search feature, regardless of its location on the web page. The item visual noise (Krug, 2006) repla ces low reliance on graphics (Kent et al., 2003) because the concept of noise, as defined by Krug, is deemed more appropriate here. It refers to the busyness of th e home page, or in other words, the impression that the page is loud and distracting. By definition, this includes the presence of graphics, flashy colors, moving objects, music, bold or big char acters. Examples of noisiness are provided hereafter. Krug also suggests that such features as sit e ID and primary navi gation facilitate the navigation in the web site. The site ID item is the name of the organization. The primary navigation gives access to the main sections of the web site, corresponding to the second level of the hierarchy. These should not be confused with ot her subsections or other links. Note that it is also possible that the primary na vigation be vertical. Examples of site ID and primary navigation are provided hereafter.

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43 Figure 1-1. Non-noisy web sites Figure 1-2. Noisy web sites Figure 1-3. Site ID and primary navigation Primary navigation SiteID

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44 Usefulness of Information This category is divided in three sect ions, volunteers, m edia and donors. In the volunteers section, the researcher added the item volunteer oppor tunities. This item refers to the opportunity for people to vol unteer in any way for the or ganization. The item links to political leaders was removed because irrelevant to the sector of microfinance. The researcher moved the items how to contribute money and logo of organization is prominent respectively to the donors and to the media subsections. Philo sophy mission refers to the organizations statement of philosophy, mission, or vision. How to join corresponds to an explanation of what to do in order to get involved in the organi zation, whether it is for a job, an internship or a volunteer opportunity. In the media section, the researcher added the items press kit, newsletter, annual report, media coverage, success stories, resources, media contact and audio and video material. The item press kit indicates the presence of set of material put together by the organization especially for the media public, regard less of what it actually contains. It can also be found under the name press room. Media cove rage refers to any type of news about the organization published in the press. Success stories refers to clients or partners accounts about their accomplishments thank to the or ganization. Resources refers to additional information provided by the organization about anythi ng that is related to microfinance. It can be information provided by the organiza tion directly or links to othe r web sites. Media contact refers to any contact information about a media person specifically. Fi nally, the researcher renamed audio/visual capacity to audio and video material. This item refers to any type of audio or video document provided by the organization likely to be of interest to the media.

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45 The researcher also replaced the item logo of organization is prominent with logo, which refers to a downloadable logo. The ite ms clearly stated positions, downloadable graphics, speeches and identif ies member base were removed. In the donors subsection, to how to contribut e money, the researcher added six items: how to raise funds?, donate online, other gift options, why donate?, list of other donors, and how to promote the organization. The item how to raise funds is an explanation of the organization to the user about how to raise funds for the organization. Donate online corresponds to the interactive fe ature to donate online. These f eatures were expected to be prominent in the nonprofit organizations. Conservation of Visitors To the three item s identified by Kent et al. (2003), the researcher added two items, dead links and English version available (for French-speaking organizations). The item dead links were measured by the coders at the end of the coding process, after having clicked on all the pages under examination. Short load means that the home page takes less than four seconds to load. Time and date update refers to the mention of the last update. This must be distinguished from the time and date automatically generated by the web site. Then languages were coded to indicate in which languages the web site is avai lable. Official languages were listed for English, French, Arabic and Spanish. Return Visit The item return invitation refers to an explicit invitation to return to the web site. News forum was removed from this section. The items glossary and email a page were added to the list. Glossary means glossary of terms. Th e item calendar of events refers to any event related to microfinance, such as activities, training sessions or c onferences. The two items downloadable information and requestable information from the original study were

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46 compiled in one item in this study, namely downl oadable information or requestable brochure. This broader category refers to items which can be downloaded immediately by the visitor from the web site and/or requested by the visitor and later sent to him/her by the organization. Dialogic Loop The two item s offers regular information and opportunity to vote on issues are not relevant to the sector of microfinance. The ite m survey to voice opinion on issues was renamed survey. The item opportunity for user-response was renamed feedback and corresponds to any online feedback feature. The researcher adde d the item contact for any contact information about the organization (mailing address, phone number, fax or email). Intercoder Reliability Inter coder reliability was estimated between the researcher and a nother coder. The subsample used was 10 percent of the total sample The coder was given a written description of each item to code, she counted one for present and zero for absent. The intercoder reliability was calculated according to the following equation: 2M / N1+N2 where M is the number of the coding decisions in common, N1 and N2 are th e respective coders de cisions (Holsti, 1969). Intercoder agreement averaged .84. Pilot Study In order to verify that this new list of item s was appropriate to th is study, the researcher conducted a pilot study. The sample of this p ilot study accounted for 10 percent of the total sample. It included the countries that are the most re presented in the tota l sample, namely the United States, India, Morocco and Bangladesh. Mo rocco also represents the French-speaking web sites. The pilot sample was proportiona lly distributed between nonprofit and for-profit organizations (Appendix B).

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47 Modification of the Coding Sheet As a result of the pilot study, the researcher found that som e items should be added, some redefined and some reorganized. For instance, the item primary pages was added in the ease of interface category in order to clar ify whether the primary navigati on sections were web pages or only titles on the home page. Further, the researcher found that the items philosophy and mission as well as how to join do not address the volunteers only but the public at large. Therefore, the researcher created a new public called general. Then the volunt eers section was combined with the donors section. In the general section, the item join a mailing list and list of partners/sponsors was added. Also, the researcher found that the item contribute money was sometimes included in the donate online feature alone. In such cases, the coder count ed the two items present. The item list of donors was removed because found to be too ambiguous compared to the item list of partners/sponsors. In the media subsection, two items were adde d: press release and news items. Press release can be identified under this specific te rminology. News items refers to any news about the organization or the sector of microfinance at large. The item media coverage was removed because found to be overlapping with news items. In the return visit section, the items blog and online social networks were added, referring to the option of writing in a blog or linking the organization to a social network, such as Facebook. Finally, nine new variables were created by combination of criteri a which belong to the same dimension. Corresponding to the five di mensions, ease of interface, usefulness of information, conservation of visitors, return vis its and dialogic loop, fi ve new variables were created. In addition, usefulness of information itself is a combination of three composite variables: usefulness of information to the gene ral public, usefulness of information to volunteers

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48 and donors, and usefulness of information to th e media. Therefore thre e composite variables were created too. One last variable was create d to combine all the di mensions together. Statistical Analysis SPSS 15.0 was used to com pute the data. Differen ce inferential statisti cs were analyzed. To explore relationships between variables and groups, cross-tabul ations, independent samples ttest and one-way ANOVA were run. The statis tical significance of the relationships was determined by Pearson chi-square tests (p). Significance was attributed at p .05. Limitations Several lim itations appear at every stage of the methodology and must be acknowledged. Firstly, this study is grounded in Kent and Taylors dialogic co mmunication theory and uses the authors coding methodology. However, other met hodologies may also effi ciently measure web sites dialogic potential. Especially since the original me thodology has been adjusted to nonprofit MFIs, one may justifiably argue th at different methodologies could have been adjusted as well. As a matter of fact, this theory has never been pr oven to apply in other countries than the United States. Secondly, analyzing the content of the web site s is not an infallible research method for identifying online dialogic features. Indeed, it may well be that special members or affiliated have private access to other pages of the web site s. Also, content analysis takes the perspective of the organization and does not speak for the pub lic. Likewise, content analyses fail to address the organizations intentions to communicate. Thirdly, the sampling method presents the adva ntage of being tailored to nonprofit MFIs and the disadvantage of being e xperimented for the first time. For instance, the Microfinance Gateway database may contain errors, such as not being completely up-to-date. Also, the identification of the profit status may presen t weaknesses. Indeed, the Microbanking Bulletin

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49 may also contain errors, such as not accounting for possible nonpr ofit organizations that would have recently become for-profit. In addition, c ontacting the U.S. organizations and asking them their profit status assumes that the informati on (on the phone or on an attested document) is accurate, which cannot be guaranteed. Fourthly, the pilot study also presents many weaknesses. First of all, it relies on the screening of the web sites which is a meticulous technique that is not impervious to oversights. Second, the sample is not proven to represent an exhaustive pool of on line dialogic features. Third, the technique of allowi ng future refinements may be argued to be unmethodical, and rightly so. Fourth, the level of measurement is nominal, which leaves only little leeway for the results interpretation. Fifthly, the selection of web sites available in French or English constitutes a significant limitation. Indeed, other web sites in different languages and not translated can contain strong indicators of online dialogic features. This is actually the case of many successful Latin American organizations that are only available in Spanish. Moreover, the translation may not exhaustively represent, or worse, may misrepresent the dialogic features of the original web site. Finally, the accessibility of the web site is measured by the Google Search results, assuming that Google is the most popular search system in all countries. However, certain countries may use other search engi nes and index web sites differently.

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50 CHAPTER 4 RESULTS Description of the Demographic Variables The sam ple consists of 69 MFIs, of which 20 are based in the U.S. (29%) and 26 are based in Asia (38%). Among the 26 Asian MFIs, 11 are ba sed in India (16% of the total sample). The remaining 33% of MFIs are based in Latin Ameri ca (N = 2), Europe (N = 2), Eastern Europe and Central Asia (N = 7), Sub-Saharan Africa (N = 4) and the Middle East (N = 8). Out of the 21 countries represented in this study, 12 countries ha ve only one MFI and 17 had fewer than 4 MFIs. In terms of profit status, 73 pe rcent MFIs are nonpr ofits (N = 50). Sixty one percent were established before 1999 (N = 42). Among thes e mature MFIs, 79 percent (N = 33) are nonprofits. Thirty two percent were established between 199 9 and 2004 (N = 22). Among these young MFIs, 68 percent (N = 15) are nonprofits. The remaining seven percent (N = 5) were established after 2004. Among these 40 percent are nonprofits (N = 2). Outreach and scale were meas ured according to the Microfinance Bulletin standards. Outreach was measured in terms of numbers of borrowers. Small outreach is less than 10,000 borrowers. Medium outreach is between 10,000 and 30,000 borrowers. Large outreach is more than 30,000 borrowers. Scale was measured in terms of gross loan portfolio. Small scale is less than $2 million, medium scale, between $2 million and $8 million, and large scale, more than $8 million. Data were missing for 25 percent of these MFIs. The remaining organizations were distributed as follows: 19 small in outreach (27% of the total sample) and 14 small in scale (20%), 11 medium in outreach (16%) and 10 medium in scale (14%), 22 la rge in outreach (32%) and 28 large in scale (41%).

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51 Ninety percent were coded in English and 10 percent were coded in French. The highest number of coded pages for one MFI was 12 and the lowest was one. In total, 70 percent web sites (N = 48) had fewer than eight primary page s and 30 percent (N = 21) had more than eight primary pages. Ten web sites had only one page. No significance was found between the number of pages and the overall dialogic capacity. Analysis According to the Theory An overall criteria was created by adding all th e item s together. The mean of the overall criteria is 15.01. There is a to tal of 49 dialogic items. The minimum score is seven and the maximum 32. As Taylor et al. did, scores for th e dialogic principle i ndices were computed by dividing the number of observed yes res ponses on the items comprising the index by the number of total items in the i ndex and treating the results as pe rcentages (2001, p. 273). Table 2 displays the number of items, mean and standard deviation for each dimension. Ease of Interface A com posite variable was crea ted by adding the six items of this dimension: site map, search box, visual noise, site ID, primary navigation and primary pages. The mean is 3.61. The minimum value is one, and the maximum five. Th e results concerning ease of interface are quite good. Except for site map (43%, N = 30) and se arch box (28%, N = 19), which scored poorly, site ID (97%, N = 67), primary navigation (93%, N = 64), no visu al noise (77%, N = 53), and primary pages (77%, N = 53) scored rather high.

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52 Table 1-2. MFI web site incl usion of dialogic features Ease of interface (6 items; M = 3.61, SD = .92) Site map .43 Site ID .97 Search box .28 Primary navigation .93 No visual noise .77 Primary pages .77 Usefulness of Information (22 items; M = 6.46, SD = 3.18) To the general public (4 items; M = 2.45, SD = 1.03) Philosophy / mission .96 Mailing list .32 How to join .57 List of partners / sponsors .61 To volunteers and donors (nonprofits only) (7 items; M = 1.10, SD = 1.56) Volunteer opportunities .16 Gift option .06 Contribute money .38 Why donate .10 Donate online .30 Promote organization .04 Raise funds .06 To the media (11 items; M = 3.14, SD = 1.76) Press kit .06 Success stories .38 Newsletters .23 Resources .75 Press releases .19 Logo .06 Annual reports .42 Contact .06 News items .70 Audio / video .16 Written speeches .14 Conservation of visitors (8 items; M = 2.41, SD = .73) Short load .90 Language French .12 No dead links .97 Language Arabic .04 Time and date update .13 Language Spanish .10 Language English .97 Language Others .12 Return Visits (10 items; M = 1.29, SD = 1.20) Return invitation .00 Downloadable / requestable info. 30 Glossary .01 Email page .06 FAQ .30 Blog .07 Bookmark .01 Social networks .01 Event calendar .46 Feeds .04 Dialogic loop (3 items; M = 1.25, SD = .46) Contact .97 Survey .04 Feedback .23

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53 Usefulness of Information A com posite variable was cr eated by adding the three subdimensions: the general public, the media, and volunteers and donors. The total number of items is 22. The mean is 6.46. The minimum value is zero, and the maximum 19. The results concerning the usefulness of information to the general public were mitig ated. Although philosophy and mission scored very high (96%, N = 66), list of part ners/sponsors (61%, N = 42) and how to join (57%, N = 39) scored just above average, and mailing lis t (32%, N = 22) scored rather poorly. Concerning volunteers and donors among nonprofit organizations, results were uniformly poor. A minority offered a way to promote their or ganization (4%, N = 2), to raise funds (6%, N = 3), a gift option (6%, N = 3), an explicit explanation of why to donate (10%, N = 5), volunteering opportunities (16%, N = 8), a way to donate online ( 30%, N = 15), or to contribute money (38%, N = 19). Likewise, the usefulness of information to the media was found consistently poor. A minority of organizations had a news kit (6%, N = 4), a downloadable logo (6%, N = 4), a media contact (6%, N = 4), written sp eeches (14%, N = 10), audiovisual material (16%, N = 11), news releases (19%, N = 13), newsle tters (23%, N = 16), success stor ies (38%, N = 26), or annual reports (43%, N = 29). In contra st, news items and resources scored present for respectively 70 percent (N = 48) and 75 percent (N = 52) of organizations. Conservation of Visitors A com posite variable was create d by adding the eight items of this dimension: short load, no dead links, time and date update, and the av ailable languages: English, French, Arabic, Spanish and other. The mean is 2.41. The mi nimum value is one, and the maximum five. Conservation of visitors presen ted mixed results. Time and date update was barely present (13%,

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54 N = 9), but 97 percent had no dead links (N = 67 ); 97 percent had an English version (N = 67); 90 percent loaded shortly (N = 62). Return Visits A com posite variable was crea ted by adding the ten items of this dimension: return invitation, glossary, FAQ, bookmark, event calend ar, downloadable and re questable information, email page, blog, social networks and feeds. Th e mean is 1.29. The minimum value is zero, and the maximum five. Return visit scored particul arly low with zero percent for explicit return invitation, one percent for glossary (N = 1), one percent for bookmark (N = 1), one percent for social network (N = 1), three percent for feeds (N = 3), six percent for email page (N = 4), seven percent for blog or forum (N = 5), 30 percent fo r FAQ (N = 21) and 30 percent for downloadable information (N = 21). Event calendar scored the highest with 54 percent (N = 32). Dialogic Loop A com posite variable was crea ted by adding the three items of this dimension: contact, feedback and survey. The mean is 1.25. The minimum value is zero, and the maximum two. Although almost all organizations offered some kind of contact information (97%, N = 67), almost none offered to take some sort of survey (4%, N = 3) and only 23 percent had a feedback option (N = 16). Analysis According to the Research Questions RQ1: How do nonprofit and for-profit MFIs differ on the practice of onlin e public relations? Hypothesis one posited that for-profit web site s would be dialogically more sophisticated than nonprofit web sites. This hypothesis was not validated and in fact, the opposite was observed.

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55 Independent samples t-tests were performed by associating profit status and the composite variables. The overall criteria composite tested significant ( t (67) = 2.57, p = .012 (two-tailed), d = .73). According to the Cohen co efficient, the effect size is large. The following composite variables were found significant: usefulne ss of information to volunteers and donors ( t (67) = 2.17, p = .033 (two-tailed), d = .65) and to the media (t (67) = 1.99, p = .050 (two-tailed), d = .53). Next, cross-tabulations were run to examine the association between profit status and the dialogic features individually. Because the diffe rence between the groups was irrelevant in the case of usefulness of information to volunteers and donors, this subdimension was excluded from the cross-tabulations test. Pearson chi-square was found significant in th e case of mailing list ( X (1, N = 69) = 5.50, p = .019) and success stories ( X (1, N = 69) = 5.35, p = .021). For these two criteria, nonprofits showed better results than for-profits: Ninety one pe rcent (N = 20) of the positive answers for mailing list were nonprofits a nd 88 percent (N = 23) of the positive answers for success stories were nonprofits. For the overall dialogic criter ia (M = 15.01), nonprofit web site s are slightly above (M = 15.82) and for-profits are nearly three points belo w (M = 12.89). All in all, these findings show that nonprofit MFIs are communicati ng online better than for-profits. RQ2: Are there cultural patterns in the w ay MFIs practice online public relations? Hypothesis 2 posited that North Am erican and European web s ites would be dialogically more sophisticated than African and Asian web sites. This hypothesis was confirmed. Considering the distribution of the sample, the researcher found relevant to create a new variable, which collapsed some of the countries into three geographical groups: the United States and the United Kingdom (N = 22), India (N = 11), a nd the rest of the developing world (N = 36).

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56 Figure 1-4. Overall means plot by country collapsed Data were further analyzed by c onducting an analysis of varian ce. Results indicate that the association between the region a nd the overall dialogic criteria is significant (df = 2/66, f = 6.65, p = .002). Figure 2 illustrates this finding. Th e following composite variables were found significant: usefulness of information to volunteers and donors (df = 2/66, f = 18.26, p = .000) and return visits (df = 2/66, f = 4.87, p = .011). Then, cross-tabulations were conducted to s how the relationship be tween the region and the dialogic features individuall y. For usefulness of information to volunteers and donors, among nonprofit organizations, vol unteer opportunities ( X (2, N = 69) = 15.54, p = .000), contribute money ( X (2, N = 69) = 21.93, p = .000), donate online X (2, N = 69) = 23.70, p = .000) were found significant. Indeed, for all these criteria, the United States and the United Kingdom scored much higher than India and the rest of th e developing word. For volunteer opportunities, nonprofit U.S. and U.K. organizations scored 100 percent (N = 8). For contribute money, nonprofit U.S. and U.K. organizations scored 79 per cent (N = 15), versus five percent (N = 1) for India and 16 percent (N = 3) for the rest of the developing world. For donate online, nonprofit

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57 U.S. and U.K. organizations scored 87 percent (N = 13), versus zero percent for India and 13 percent (N = 2) for the rest of the developing world. About the return visits dimension, FAQ ( X (2, N = 69) = 9.31, p = .009), and blog and forum ( X (2, N = 69) = 7.87, p = .020) were significant. With 57 percent (N = 12), U.S. and U.K. organizations had the majority of FAQs, ve rsus 14 percent (N = 3) for India and 29 percent (N = 6) for the rest of the developing world. For blog and forum, India scored better with 60 percent (N = 3), versus 20 percent (N = 1) for U.S. and U.K. organizations and 20 percent (N = 1) for the rest of the developing world. When examining the overall dialogic criteria (M = 15.01), U.S. and U.K. web sites scored over two points above the mean (M = 17.41), Indian web sites score just above the mean (M = 15.45) and web sites in the rest of the developing world scored more than a point below the mean (M = 13.42). An overall ranking of organizations confirms the validity of the hypothesis. Indeed, the three dialogically lowest or ganizations are from Kenya, Egypt and Morocco, and the three dialogically highest organizat ions are from the United States and the United Kingdom. Additional Results Age Cross-tabulations were conducte d to test the relationship be tween age and the dependent variables. A nnual report tested significant ( X (2, N = 69) = 6.41, p = .040). A closer look at the distribution revealed that the olde r the organization is, the more li kely it is to upload its annual reports: zero percent of new organizations, 32 percent of young organizations (N = 7) and 52 percent of mature organizations had annual repor ts (N = 22). Analysis of variance with the composite variables did not test significant.

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58 Outreach Likewise, cross-tabulations we re con ducted to test the relationship between outreach and the dependent variables. It re sulted that written speeches (X (2, N = 52) = 9.24, p = .010) were present only in large outreach organizations (27%, N = 6). Contribute money and donate online were found significant within nonprofit organizations ( X (2, N = 52) = 9.26, p = .010; X (2, N = 52) = 8.07, p = .018). For both items, small outreac h organizations had the most positive answers. For contribute money, 75 percent (N = 11) of the small outreach organizations had this feature, versus zero percent for the medium outreach organizations and 26 percent (N = 4) for the large outreach organizations. For donate online, 75 percent (N = 9) of the small outreach organizations had this feature, versus zero per cent for the medium outreach organizations and 25 percent (N = 3) for the large outreach organiza tions. Analysis of variance with the composite variables did not test significant. Scale Finally, cross-tabulations were conducted to test the rela tionship between scale and the dependent variables. Prim ar y pages was found significant (X (2, N = 52) = 9.44, p = .009). It appeared interestingly that small scale and la rge scale organizations were more likely than medium organizations to have primary pages. Ei ghty six percent of small scale (N = 12) and 75 percent of large scale (N = 21) had primary pages, while only 30 percent of medium organizations did (N = 3). The item how to join also tested significant ( X (2, N = 52) = 10.16, p = .006). The distribution revealed that medium and large organizations were more likely than small organizations to show how to join. 100 percent of medium organizations (N = 10) and 57 percent of large organizations (N = 16) had a how to join feature, while on ly 36 percent of small organizations did (N = 5).

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59 Also, annual report tested significant ( X (2, N = 52) = 6.85, p = .032). Large organizations were much more likely (61%, N = 17) to publish their annual report than small (29%, N = 4) and medium (20%, N = 2) organizations. Next, news items ( X (2, N = 52) = 9.01, p = .011) was more present in large (86%, N = 24) and medium (80%, N = 8) than in small (43%, N = 6) organizations. Finally, donate online was found significant among nonprofit organizations ( X (2, N = 52) = 6.62, p = .036). Surprisingly, a majority of the dona te online items were found in small-scale (50%, N = 6) and large-scale ( 42%, N = 5) organizations. Medi um-scale organizations scored only eight percent (N = 1).

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60 CHAPTER 5 DISCUSSION The Dialogic Communication Theory This study attem pts to determine the extent to which microfinance organizations exploit the dialogic potential of their web site to build relationships with their publics. Although the data reveal mixed results, microfinance web site s are generally not di alogic. On average, microfinance web sites have less than a third of a ll the features tested in this study (31%). Only one of the five principles of the theory scor ed more than 50 percent. Let us explore these principles individually. Ease of Interface Am ong all the dimensions, ease of interface is th e one to score the highest. On average, microfinance web sites have 60 percent of all ea se of interface featur es. Ease of interface comprises many basic architectural features, such as site map, search box, primary navigation, primary pages, which are supposed to help users navigate the web site and have a pleasant and conclusive experience. The fact that microfin ance institutions score ra ther high on this scale means that efforts are made towards building a dialogic relationship, and successfully so. This finding carries considerable implications because it reveals that microfinance institutions are providing the technical struct ure for a virtual dialogue. According to Kent and Taylor (1998), it also shows that organizations care about their publics, since they are willing to allow a dialogue which in turns gives a positive image of the organization (p. 330). In other words, in the eyes of the users, the or ganization is not just advertising their products or serv ices; they are also encouraging a positive interaction with their publics. In their 2001 and 2003 studies on activist organizations, Kent, Taylor and White had observed 67 percent and 63 percent on the ease of interface dimension.

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61 Interestingly, data showed that smalland la rge-scale organizations were more likely than medium-scale organizations to have primary page s. This is a rather unexpected finding, which leads to several interrogations. While it is not so surprising that primary pages are related to the scale, why are they not positively related? It wo uld be logical to assume that the bigger the organization is, the more likely it is to have primary pages. Put differently, if medium-scale organizations score low at primary pages, why do smaller organizations score higher? Medium scale was not found related to any other variable. Although there is a statis tical significance, this result alone does not allow us to make further conclusions. Conservation of Visitors Next, conservation of visitors and dialogic loop scored e qually low. Microf inance web sites have 42 percent of all the conservation of vi sitors features and 42 percent of all the dialogic loop features. The conservation of visitors dimension is im portant because it determines the time spent by the user with the organization, and therefore, the chances of creating a relationship out of it. Interestingly, Taylor et al (2001) had distinguished betw een non profit and for-profit organizations. They had pointed out that for-profit organizations need the vi sitors to stay long in order to encourage as many sales as possible, wh ereas nonprofits are more interested in looking credible and linking to other related topics. In this study, the data confirm this hypothesis, but with a very small distance between the groups. Whereas the mean fo r conservation of visitors is 2.41, the mean for nonprofits is 2.48 and the mean for for-profits is 2.21. In their 2001 and 2003 studies on activist organizati ons, Kent, Taylor and White had observed 62 percent for conservation of visitors. This means that microf inance organizations are less efficient at keeping their visitors than activist organizations.

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62 Overall, the data suggest that microfinance inst itutions are not really trying to keep their visitors on the web site. Although microfinance ins titutions do make some effort at encouraging a relationship with their public, the relationship is rather short and therefore less likely to be fruitful. However, the relationship between the efforts made by the organization to keep their visitors as long as possible and the probability of a relationship to happen is still unclear. This may be a difference between web usage now and we b usage ten years ago. Indeed, it is possible that nowadays, users do not need to spend a lot of time on a web site to have a qualitative web experience. Dialogic Loop Dialogic loo p is measured by the presence of the items contact, feedback and survey. These results are consistent with Kent, Taylor and Whites results in 2001 and 2003 (47% and 38%). According to Taylor et al. (2001), this is the mo st important principle, insofar as it gives an opportunity for the visitor to actually engage in a dialogue. Th is means that the organization has the intention to open a dialogue and implies that it has the technical resources to make it happen. Therefore, the user has the legitimate right to expect an answer if s/he does engage in a conversation. This can have either a very posi tive or a very negative outcome. On the one hand, if the organization replies, it can start a genuine and lasting relationship between the organization and the web users. On the other had, if the or ganization fails to reply, it can create a great deception on the users side, which could have ultimate consequences, such as never using the web site again or worse, having a negative image of the organization. In sum, it is up to the organizations to make sure that they act responsively and follow up with the dialogue. Nevertheless, tw o limitations must be drawn here Quantitatively, it is possible that the low number of items in this dimension affects the validity of the results. Qualitatively, it

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63 may be that certain items do not carry the same implications now and 10 years ago. For instance, ten years ago, any type of contact may have been a good indicator of the dialogic capacity of a web site but nowadays, is probably more taken for granted. Usefulness of Information On average, m icrofinance web sites have 29 pe rcent of all the usef ulness of information features. This percentage does not differ be tween nonprofit and for-prof it organizations on the usefulness of information to volunteers and donors index. This dimension measures the efforts made by the organizations to empower their publics with the appropriate in formation. It is also an opportunity for the organization to show that they are serious, and therefore credible. Scoring in the lowest third of the s cale suggests that microfinance web sites do not provide enough information to their visitors. Moreover, si nce the beginning of the Internet, providing information has been one of the very basic us es of web sites. For an organization, lacking information on its web site is a serious defi ciency. It almost amounts to not having one. However, a closer look at the sp ecific publics shows mixed results. Usefulness of information to the general public was found rather high (61% of the usefulness of information dimension). A possi ble interpretation for this result is that microfinance organizations are aw are of their genera l public and quite su ccessful at providing them with the right information. This result is even more important that the information to the general public can also be useful to specific pub lics. Put differently, if certain publics do not find the specific information they are looking for, at least they can refer to the general information. However, general information, no matter how usef ul, will not compensate for the frustration feeling. Media information ranks lower (29%). Kent, Taylor and White had found 47 percent and 43 percent in 2001 and 2003. This is only slightly surprising if we assume that activist

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64 organizations are likely to understand better the role of media relations. In f act, most items in this subdimension scored below .42, except for news items and resources, which scored quite high (M = .70; M = .75). The strong presence of news items and resources suggests that organizations value information on the microfinance environment. It also implies that they are willing to help their publics access that information. Unfortunately, the type of news items and resources, as well as their date, was not measured in this st udy. Therefore, we cannot draw conclusions about the nature of the data or about the publics concerned. It was also noticeable that large organizati ons were more likely than small or medium organizations to upload their annu al reports. This result begs the questions: Is it because large organizations are more likely to have an annual report? Is it because they realize better the importance of being transparent? Or is it because their financial activity is more likely to be positive? In any case, this is a paradoxical observation for financial organizations. Further, written speeches were found only in large outreach organizations. In terms of online public relations, the presence of wr itten speeches on the web site shows some organizational skills, and probably also some conf idence on the part of the organizations. In this sense, it is not surprising that large organizations would be more likely than medium or small to have online written speeches. Following this, usefulness of information to volunteers and donors among nonprofits scored the lowest (16%). This observation is rather worrying when considering that volunteers and donors are, by definition, the vital resource for nonprofit organizations. For instance, only 38 percent of nonprofit organizations in vite site visitors to contribute money, and only 30 percent of nonprofit organizations allow people to donate online. Even more alarming, only 16 percent show their volunteering opportunitie s. It seems unbelievable that nonprofit organizations would

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65 be so little concerned by re sponding to the need of their pot ential or existing volunteers and donors. It may partly explain why microfinance nonprofit organizations have such a hard time surviving. In fact, Kent, Taylor and White found that activist or ganizations are efficient at communicating with their volunteers (81% and 75%, in 2001 and 2003). Again, it is only slightly surprising that activist organi zations are good at mobilizing hu man resources. All in all, percentages in this study high light a serious organizational is sue among nonprofit microfinance institutions. We will elaborate on this issue when addressing the effect of the profit status at large. For usefulness of information to volunteers and donors, the resear cher observed nonprofit organizations in particular but did not ex clude the possibility of finding commercial organizations showing interest in volunteers and donors. As a matter of fact, one commercial bank, Fondasyon Kole Zepol (Haiti) had four of these features. More investigation was conducted and the researcher found that this organization was si mply coordinating a parallel fundraising activity for its communit y. This is only slightly surpri sing since, for commercial and nonprofit together, the ultimate goal of microfinance is to help th e poor make their way out of poverty. However, the fact that most for-profit or ganizations do not have these features does not mean that they are not genuinely concerned by pove rty, but only that their web site did not serve the purpose of collecting and mobilizing financial and human resources. Return Visits Finally, retu rn visits scored dramatically low on the mediated dialogic scale. In average, microfinance web sites have 12 percent of all return-visit features. For activist organizations, Kent, Taylor and White had found 44 percent and 35 percent in 2001 and 2003. In both these studies, return visit was the lowe st dimension. Theoretically, genera ting return visits offers the opportunity for the organizationuser relationship to build on more than one occurrence.

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66 According to Taylor et al. (2001), the repetition of the interactions, together with the time factor, builds trust in a relationship. The data suggest that microfinance organizations make very little effort at repeating a dialogic e xperience with th eir visitors. Another way to look at the return visits dimension is in terms of interactivity. Indeed, the scale is mainly composed of interactive featur es, such as bookmark, email a page, blog, social networks. Thus, it can be safely inferred that mi crofinance web sites are not interactive. Is it because microfinance organizations are slow at ac quiring the new technical features? Or is it that once web sites are created, there is ve ry little maintenance, if any? Incidentally, the item return invitation was never found present. This is probably because this item is not relevant anymore, at least not in the microfinance sector. This shows that the code sheet needs to be updated. Profit Status The first research question asked whether the pr ofit status was any indicator of the dialogic capacity. Therefore, a comparison was drawn between nonprofit and for-profit organizations, and differences were found. The original hypothesis posited that for-profit web sites would be dialogically more sophisticated than nonprofit web sites. Indeed, the researcher assum ed that if monetary profit was higher on the priority scal e of an organizations objectives, more efforts would be made towards establis hing good relationships with its publics. This hypothesis was not validated and as a matter of f act, the opposite was confirmed. According to the findings, nonprofit organizations scored usually sligh tly higher, or should we say less low, than for-profit organizations. Th is was particularly the case for mailing list and success stories. In terms of public relations, havi ng a mailing list suggests that the organization does offer to communicate by email with its public s. This is an important tool in mediated relationship building, in the sense that it allows at least one channel for a two-way

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67 communication. It is interesting to notice that nonprof its are more aware of this particular communication tool. Unfortunately, the study did not inquire into the actual emailing activity of the organizations. Publishing success stories is an important compone nt of disclosing the outcome of a project. Since nonprofit MFIs sole mission is to help the poor, it is easy to understand why they would feel perhaps more open ly proud of their success than for-profits, and therefore more inclined to publish it. However, as previously mentioned, nonprofit or ganizations scored very low at usefulness of information to volunteers and donors. In a study about South African nonprofit organizations, Naud et al. (2004) had pointed out that some of the NGOs were struggling to survive and for them, their web sites were more of a nice-to-have than a necessity (p. 90). It is very likely that microfinance institutions are in the same situation. Indeed, it is possible th at the managers think in terms of immediate aid and prioritize their fi nal clients, thus adopti ng a short-term strategy. This would explain why other publics are neglected. However, in order to survive, organizations of all types must not only develop partnershi ps, but also to integrate them into their communications strategy. Microfinance communica tions specialists would be well advised to adopt this inclusive approach. Interestingly, small nonprofits, in outreach a nd scale, were found to be more concerned with having visitors donate mone y than medium or large nonprof its. A possible explanation is that small organizations realize better the vitality of their so urce of funding. In other words, small organizations know they can not afford not raising funds. And even then, they are far from fully taking advantage of the Internet medium. Region The second research question inquired about a relationship between the region and the dialogic capacity of the organization. The hypothesis posited that North Am erican and European

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68 web sites would be dialogically more sophisticated than Asian and African web sites. Indeed, the researcher assumed that organizations in develo ped countries would have a better understanding of online public relations than organizations in developi ng countries. This hypothesis was validated. The assumption, though, remains to be discussed. In order to analyze the results the researcher crea ted three statistically comparable groups: the United States and the United Kingdom, India, and the rest of the developing world. Results showed that U.S. and U.K. web s ites had typically more dialogic f eatures than Indian web sites, and Indian web sites had typically more dialogic features than web sites in the rest of the developing world. This was al so true among nonprofit organizations for usefulness of information to volunteers and donors. Although Indian web sites had consiste ntly better results than web sites in the rest of the developing world, there were cases where we b sites in the rest of the developing world scored better than Indian web sites. For in stance, FAQ scored better in the rest of the developing world. Especially among nonprofit organizations, web si tes in the rest of the developing world were slightly better at providing useful info rmation to volunteers and donors. In fact, for contribute money and donate onli ne, results for India were zero or close to zero. This remark raises larger questions: Why are Indian microfinance organizations so reluctant to ask for money online? Is it an issue of the microfinance sect or? Is it about no nprofit organizations? Or is it about the Indian culture in genera l? Maybe financial transactions online are rare in India. Maybe there is a trust issue between the web users and the organization. However, even though a statistical significance was found, th e total number of positive answers is too small to make a solid distinction between India and the rest of the developi ng world. For contribute money, N = 4 and for donate online, N = 2.

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69 Finally, another finding stands out: the item bl og and forum scored three times as high for Indian web sites as for the rest of the web sites, and scored particularly low in the United States and the United Kingdom. It would be interesting to expl ore the level of interactivity among Indian web sites. At the same time, it w ould be interesting to understand why blogs and forums are not prevalent among U.S. and U.K. microfinance web sites. Although it is not surprising to find that re gions differ in the way they conduct online public relations, it would be inte resting to understand what exactly in the cultural component is creating these differences. It may well also be that extraneous factors come into play, such as the technical infrastructure or the political, economic and social context of the region. Other Implications Most Frequent and Rare Features The item s which scored the highest ( 96%) were site ID, philosophy and mission, contact information and English version. This implies that a majority of MFIs which have a web site perceive it at least as a virt ual window to their organization. C onsidering that nearly 50 percent of MFIs had to be excluded from the original sample because they had no operational web site, these results should not be taken for granted. The items which scored the lowest ( 1%) were glossary, bookmark, and social networks. These three items indicate the degree of return-visit efforts, which can also be interpreted in terms of interactivity. Bookmark and social networ ks being relatively recent features, this finding suggests that MFIs lag behind the modern web functionalities. Having already noticed that microfinance web sites are not dialogic, th e contrary would have been surprising. Overall Ranking An overall ranking was conducted to find out which organizati ons scored the lowest and which organizations scored the highest. The dial ogically lowest organizations were the Rural

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70 Agency for Development (Kenya, rank 69), Alex andria Business Associ ation (Egypt, rank 68) and Al Amana (Morocco, rank 67). These web s ites had respectively seven, seven, and eight features in total. This means that their dialogic ca pacity is very close to nonexistent. Indeed, it is a well-known fact that the Internet does not have the same imp act in developing and developed countries. Therefore, it is not surprising that publ ic relations practitioners and Internet users do not value the dialogic ca pacity of an organization as much in Africa as they do in the United States. The dialogically highest orga nizations were Accion Interna tional (USA, rank 1), Microloan Foundation (UK, rank 2) and Accion New York (USA, rank 3). We should point out that Accion New York and Accion International are legally i ndependent from each other. Therefore, it is relevant to rank them separately. These three web sites had respectively 25, 25, and 32 features. In a total of 49 dialogic features, it amounts to saying that thes e web sites had a dialogic capacity of 51 percent and 65 percent. In other words, th e second and third most dialogic web sites have just over half of the total features measured in this study. Only the most dialogic organization, that is one percent of the total sa mple, had a decent rate of dialogic capacity. This is just another expression of the severe lack of dialogic capacity among microfinance institutions. Zoom in Yunus Grameen Bank The Gram een Bank is a particular case, in sofar as its founder is the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize laureate and microfinance pioneer M uhammad Yunus. Yunus graduated in the United States with Ph.D. in economics. Therefore, it is presumable th at his organization would stress some basic organizational techniques, such as the di alogic capacity of the web site, for instance. Before we see how the Grameen Banks web site positions itself in terms of online public relations, let us recapitulate some demographi c data: The Grameen Bank was founded in 1976. It

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71 is a commercial institution located in Banglad esh. It has a small out reach (< 10,000 borrowers) and a large scale (> $8 m illion loan portfolio). Out of the 49 dialogic features, the Grameen we b site had 14. This is only one point below the overall criteria mean, which means that the Gr ameen Bank is not typically more dialogic than any other microfinance web site. A closer look at the dimensions hi ghlights that it scored zero for return visits. Return visits being the interactive dimension, it can be inferred that the Grameen web site is unsuccessful at establishing an interactive re lationship with its public. On the contrary, the web site had five of the 11 items on usefulness of information to the media. This result may be closely related to the attenti on created around Muhammad Yunus when he won the Nobel Prize. The Grameen Banks web site was ranked 31 out of the 69 organizations.

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72 CHAPTER 6 CONCLUSION Closing Remarks In an era where th e Internet is becomi ng one of the most important sources of communication, web sites are becoming a central tool of a public rela tions strategy. Through their web sites, organizations can respond to comp etition and to the change s in their environment (McAllister & Taylor, 2007). What is more, organizations can use their web site to build relationships with their visitors, thus moving from a one-way communication channel (information dissemination) to a two-way co mmunication channel (rel ationship building). Building virtual relationships is crucial if the or ganizations want to achieve their public relations goals. This study is the first to relate the fields of microfinance and onlin e public relations. Its purpose is to shed light on the dialogic capacity of microfinance institutions web sites. Results showed that microfinance web sites are far from be ing dialogic. In terms of public relations, this means that microfinance institutions are unsuccessful at building virtual re lationships with their publics. Moreover, the researcher asked whether the prof it status and the region were any indicator of the web sites dialogic capacity. Both associa tions tested statistica lly significant. Nonprofit organizations seem to benefit slightly more than for-profits from the potential of the Internet in building mediated relationships. And Western we b sites (U.S. and U.K.) are typically more dialogic than web sites in the developing worl d (India included). Generally, Indian web sites were more dialogic than web sites in the rest of the developing world. It is presumable that microfinance web site s could be easily improve d by integrating more dialogic functionalities. However, we shoul d be cautious before making recommendations.

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73 Public relations scholars and practitioners shoul d first consider the r easons for such limited dialogic capacity. Is it an issue of technically untraine d staff? Is it a l ack of communications awareness? Is it a management situation? Rais ing these questions shou ld give a first boost towards a virtual dialogue. In sum, this study highlighted a question wh ich scholars and communications specialists interested in microf inance should make a top priority, that is, to urgently optimize the dialogic potential of the Internet, in order to build medi ated relationship and thus accomplish their online public relations goals. Limitations This study presents several lim itations which must be taken into consideration when appreciating the results. Firstly, the research method is limited to the description of the dialogic capacity of microfinance web sites. It is not in tended to give any explanation as to why those microfinance web sites are the way they are. Ne ither does it measure the intentions behind the web site design nor the actual effectiveness of th e web features. It does not take the local context into consideration. Also, it is still unclear w ho is in charge of conceiving, designing and maintaining the web site: is it a public relations pr actitioner? Is it a webmas ter? Is this person a decision maker in the company? Does s/ he have any public relations background? Secondly, the sample revealed additional limita tions. Although it was interesting to have a large panel of countries, in most of them, there were not enough organizations to lead to valid conclusions about the country. For instance, there were only two European MFIs, both of which happened to be from the United Kingdom. It wa s therefore impossible to make any assumption about U.K organizations, let alone European organizations. Also, the imbalance between nonprofit and for-profit organization (50 versus 19) weakened the statistical comparability.

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74 Thirdly, some variables were found to lack precision. For example, in nearly 25 percent of the cases, the web sites did not have a primary pa ge for each primary navigation title. Therefore, the space available for data collection was much more restricted than when there was a full web page. Likewise, the number of primary pages a ffected the space available for data collection. This arguably affected the validity of the results. Also, the date of the annual reports would have been an interesting indication. I ndeed, in some cases, the most recent annual report was from 2004, which can be considered outdated. Furthermor e, the age of the web site, the frequency of maintenance and the number of visits w ould have brought valuable information. Fourthly, although the five dial ogic principles seemed to perfectly fit the microfinance sector, the dialogic scale was f ound to be improvable. For instance what was considered a short load time a few years ago may now be considered too long. Likewise, the absence of dead links may less be appreciable than a few years ago. Als o, it is probable that new web functionalities should be added to the coding sh eet. Moreover, the dimensions do not comprise the same amount of items, which may arguably affect the preciseness of the findings. Fifthly, the country in which the organizations headquarters are based is not necessarily the country in which the web site was concei ved, created or even maintained. These three processes could actually be conducted in different countries. Therefore, inferences about the country and even the world region may be unfounded. Suggestions for Further Research In the light of the findings and their lim itati ons, the researcher is able to make some recommendations for further research. First a nd foremost, the coding sheet should be revised. The list of items should exhaust a ll the online features relevant to public relations. This list should certainly be updated every six months. Also, the features should be weighted. For instance, site ID is a crucial feature but is nowad ays essential. On the contrary, social networks

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75 reflect a sharper online communicati on intention. Therefore, in term s of public relations, site ID should be weighted lower than social networks As online public relations are in constant evolution, this weighting system should be regula rly updated. This new dialogic scale could be applicable to all web sites in all sectors. Further, it is crucial that fu rther research look into the cu ltural aspect more closely. Researchers should include Spanish web sites, and thus gain in exhaustiveness. However, they should be careful in drawing conclusions about the Latin American culture. In fact, it is possible that the dialogic theory as it is now does not apply to non-U.S. cu ltures. For instan ce, interactive features, such as feeds or social networks, may not have the same impact from one country to another. Moreover, researchers should look closer at th e way organizations function: How are they financed? To whom is it important for them to be accountable? What is at stake for small and large organizations when they communicate with their publics? Indeed, organizational mechanisms could explain why online public relations are more important for certain organizations than for others (who could prefer print material). Finally, in future research, web editors should be interviewed in order to comprehend their public relations strategy. It would be extremely valuable conduct an in-depth analysis in order to learn about their professional background and their experience at designing web sites. Researchers could note the dialogic principles that they value mo st. Taking it one step further, researchers could also compare th e current state of the web sites with the original intentions. Examining the actual effectiveness of the web si tes is also another opportunity for research. Conducting experiments with focus groups for in stance would also help understand how users navigate the web sites and what they think a bout them. These analyses should be conducted

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76 within a defined cultural framework, such as a description of the ta rgeted publics and the environment at large.

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77 APPENDIX A SAMPLE Table A-1. Sa mple Name of organization Country URL 1 ABA Alexandria Busisness Association Egypt www.aba-sme.com 2 ACCION New York USA www.accionnewyork.org 3 ACCION International USA www.accion.org 4 Adelante Foundation USA www.adelantefoundation.org 5 Al Amana Morocco www.alamana.org 6 Al Karama Morocco www.alkarama.org 7 Alternatives Federal Credit Union USA www.alternatives.org 8 AMSSF Association Marocaine de Solidarit Sans Frontires Morocco www.amssfmc.ma 9 ASA As sociation for Social Advancement Bangladesh www.asabd.org 10 Bandhan India www.bandhanmf.com 11 Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Co operatives BAAC Thailand http://baaceng.baac.or.th/ 12 BISWA Bharat Integrate d Social Welfare Agency India www.biswa.org 13 BRAC Bangladesh Rural Advancem ent Committee Bangladesh www.brac.net 14 Bushwick Cooperative FCU USA www.bushwick.coop 15 CARD Center for Agricultural and Rur al Development Philippines www.card.iastate.edu 16 Count Me In USA www.countmein.org 17 CUES Credit Union Executive Society USA www.cues.org 18 Ebony Foundation USA www.ebonyfoundation.com 19 ECD/HOPE Enterprise Corporation of the Delta/Ho pe Community Credit Union USA www.ecd.org 20 FONDEP Fondation pour le dveloppement et le partenariat Morocco www.fondep.com 21 Fondation Zakoura Morocco www.zakourafondation.org 22 Friendship Bridge USA www.friendshipbridge.org 23 Fundusz Mikro Poland www.funduszmikro.pl 24 Fundacion Paraguaya Paraguay www.fundacionparaguaya.org 25 Genesis Community Loan Fund USA www.genesisfund.org 26 Grameen Koota India www.grameenkoota.org 27 INMAA Institution Marocaine d'Appui a la Micro-entreprise Morocco www.inmaa.ma 28 Kashf Foundation Pakistan www.kashf.org 29 The Lakota Fund USA www.lakotafund.org 30 LCD Lenders for Community Development USA www.l4cd.com 31 MI-BOSPO Bosnia and Herzegovina www.mi-bospo.org 32 Microloan Foundation UK www.microloanfoundation.org.uk 33 MFW Microfund for Women Jordan www.microfund.org.jo

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78 Table A-1. Continued Name of organization Country URL 34 Mikra Bosnia and Herzegovina www.mikra.ba 35 MIKROFIN Bosnia and Herzegovina www.mikrofin.com 36 MCSC Miss ion Community Services Corporation USA www.mcscorp.org 37 NEED Network of Entre preneurship & Economic Development India www.indianeed.org 38 NFF Nonprofit Finance Fund USA www.nonprofitfinancefund.org 39 OWEESTA USA www.oweesta.org 40 PCFC People's Credit and Finance Corp. Philippines www.pcfc.gov.ph 41 PROSHIKA Bangladesh www.proshika.org 42 Quedan and Rural Credit Guarantee Corp. (Quedancor) Philippines quedancor.gov.ph 43 SPBD South Pacific Business Development Samoa www.spbd.ws 44 Trickle Up Program USA www.trickleup.org 45 TSPI Development Corporation Philippines www.tspi.org 46 UIA UpLift India Association India www.upliftindia.org 47 Village Welfare Society India www.villagewelfare.com 48 Washington CASH USA www.washingtoncash.org 49 World Relief USA www.wr.org 50 AMK Angkor Mikroheranhvatho Kampuchea Cambodia www.amkcambodia.com 51 The Credit Exchange UK www.thecreditexchange.com 52 CREDIT Microfinance Institution Cambodia www.credit.com.kh 53 Cry stal Fund Georgia www.crystalfund.com 54 FINADEV Benin www.finadev.org 55 FONKOZE Fondasyon Kole Zepol Haiti www.fonkoze.org 56 Gra meen Bank Bangladesh www.grameen-info.org 57 K-Rep Bank, Ltd. Kenya www.k-repbank.com 58 KWFT Kenya Women Finance Trust Kenya www.kwft.org 59 Mim o Finance India mimofin.com 60 NEFSCUN Nepal Federation of Savings & Credit Co-operative Unions Nepal www.nefscun.org.np 61 Pris ma Microfinance USA www.prismamicrofinance.com 62 PRIZMA Bosnia and Herzegovina www.prizma.ba 63 ProFi Promotion of Small Financial Institutions Indonesia www.profi.or.id 64 Rural Agency for Development Kenya www.rafode.org 65 SafeSave Bangladesh www.safesave.org 66 SML Share Microfin Limited India www.sharemicrofin.com 67 SKS Swayam Krishi Sangam India www.sksindia.com 68 Tam il Nadu Corporation for Development of Women Ltd India www.tamilnaduwomen.org 69 Ujjivan Financial Services (P) Limited India www.ujjivan.com Note: Organizations from number 1 to 49, and number 62, are nonprofits. Organizations from number 50 to 61 and from 63 to 69 are for-profits.

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79 APPENDIX B PILOT STUDY SAMPLE Table B-1. P ilot study sample Most represented countries Total Sample Pilot sample Nonprofit For-profit USA 20 3 2 1 India 12 2 1 1 Morocco 6 2 2 Bangladesh 5 1 1 Total 43 8 5 3 Note: Pilot study sample = 10% total sample 8 organizations

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80 APPENDIX C CODING SHEET: DIALOGIC FEATURES OF MICROFI NANCE INSTITUTIONS WEB SITES Name of organization: ________________________________________________ Variable Name Variable Label Value Labels ID Identification Number 01-99 COUNTRY Country Name 01 = USA 02 = India 03 = Morocco 04 = Bangladesh 05 = Bosnia and Herzegovina 06 = Kenya 07 = Philippines 08 = Cambodia 09 = Indonesia 10 = UK 11 = Egypt 12 = Jordan 13 = Pakistan 14 = Paraguay 15 = Poland 16 = Samoa 17 = Thailand 18 = Uganda 19 = Benin 20 = Georgia 21 = Haiti 22 = Kosovo 23 = Nepal REGION World Regions 01 = South America 02 = Central America 03 = North America 04 = Europe 05 = Eastern Europe and Central Asia 06 = Asia 07 = Sub-Saharan Africa 08 = Middle East, North Africa PSTATUS Profit Status 0 = Nonprofit 1 = For-profit

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81 LANGUAGE Coding Language 1 = English 2 = French PAGES Number of pages coded 01 = 1 02 = 2 03 = 3 04 = 4 05 = 5 06 = 6 07 = 7 08 = 8 09 = 9 10 = 10 EASE1 Ease of Interface Site Map 0 = No 1 = Yes EASE2 Ease of Interface Search box 0 = No 1 = Yes EASE3 Ease of Interface Visual noise 0 = No 1 = Yes EASE4 Ease of Interface Site ID 0 = No 1 = Yes EASE5 Ease of Interface Primary navigation 0 = No 1 = Yes EASE6 Ease of Interface Primary pages 0 = No 1 = Yes USEV1 Info Usefulness General PhilosophyMission 0 = No 1 = Yes USEV2 Info Usefulness General How to join 0 = No 1 = Yes USEV3 Info Usefulness General Mailing list 0 = No 1 = Yes USEV4 Info Usefulness General List of partnerssponsors 0 = No 1 = Yes USEVD1 Info Usefulness Volunteers Donors Volunteer opportunities 0 = No 1 = Yes USEVD2 Information Usefulness Volunteers Donors Contribute money 0 = No 1 = Yes USEVD3 Information Usefulness Volunteers Donors Donate online 0 = No 1 = Yes USEVD4 Information Usefulness Volunteers Donors Raise funds 0 = No 1 = Yes USEVD5 Information Usefulness Volunteers Donors Gift option 0 = No 1 = Yes USEVD6 Information Usefulness Volunteers Donors Why donate 0 = No 1 = Yes USEVD7 Information Usefulness Volunteers Donors Promote organization 0 = No 1 = Yes

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82 USEM01 Information Usefulness Media Press kit 0 = No 1 = Yes USEM02 Information Usefulness Media Newsletters 0 = No 1 = Yes USEMO3 Information Usefulness Media Press releases 0 = No 1 = Yes USEMO4 Information Usefulness Media Annual reports 0 = No 1 = Yes USEMO5 Information Usefulness Media News items 0 = No 1 = Yes USEMO6 Information Usefulness Media Written speeches 0 = No 1 = Yes USEMO7 Information Usefulness Media Success stories 0 = No 1 = Yes USEMO8 Information Usefulness Media Resources 0 = No 1 = Yes USEMO9 Information Usefulness Media Logo 0 = No 1 = Yes USEM10 Information Usefulness Media Contact 0 = No 1 = Yes USEM11 Information Usefulness Media Audio/video 0 = No 1 = Yes CONS1 Visitors Conservation Short load 0 = No 1 = Yes CONS2 Visitors Conservation Dead links 0 = No 1 = Yes CONS3 Visitors Conservation Time and date update 0 = No 1 = Yes CONS4 Visitors Conservation Languages English 0 = No 1 = Yes CONS5 Visitors Conservation Languages French 0 = No 1 = Yes CONS6 Visitors Conservation Languages Arabic 0 = No 1 = Yes CONS7 Visitors Conservation Languages Spanish 0 = No 1 = Yes CONS8 Visitors Conservation Languages Others 0 = No 1 = Yes RET01 Return Visit Return invitation 0 = No 1 = Yes RET02 Return Visit Glossary 0 = No 1 = Yes RET03 Return Visit FAQ 0 = No 1 = Yes RET04 Return Visit Bookmark 0 = No 1 = Yes

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83 RET05 Return Visit Event calendar 0 = No 1 = Yes RET06 Return Visit Downloadable-requestable info 0 = No 1 = Yes RET07 Return Visit Email page 0 = No 1 = Yes RET08 Return Visit Blog 0 = No 1 = Yes RET09 Return Visit Social networks 0 = No 1 = Yes RET10 Return Visit Feeds 0 = No 1 = Yes DIAL1 Dialogic loop Contact 0 = No 1 = Yes DIAL2 Dialogic loop Feedback 0 = No 1 = Yes DIAL3 Dialogic loop Survey 0 = No 1 = Yes

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84 LIST OF REFERENCES Alexander, P. (2007). The big business of small loans. Retrieved January 21, 2008, from http://cgap.org/press/ press_coverage78.php: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. (2006). Globalisation trumps microfinance evangelism. Retrieved November 2, 2007, from http://www.aei.org/research/nri/publica tions/pubID.25314,projectID .22/pub_detail.asp Ar mendriz, B., & Morduch, J. (2007). The economics of microfinance. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Australian Governement. (n.d.). Top level/schools/key learning areas/society&environment/cultural studies/microcredit. In Browse all topics. Retrieved November 1, 2007, from http://www.education.gov.au/goved/browse/0,20399,20501,578,633,24119 Ayish, M.I. (2005). Virtual public relations in the United Arab Em irates: A case study of 20 UAE organizations use of the Internet. Public Relations Review, 31(3), 381-388. Babbie, Earl. (2007). The practice of social research. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth. Bates, D. (1998). Public relations for charitie s and other nonprofit organizations. In P. Lesly (Ed), Leslys handbook of public relations and communications (pp. 569-590). Chicago: NTC Business Books. Brudney, J.L. (1998). Voluntarism. In J.S. Ott (Ed), Understanding nonprofit organizations: governance, leadership, and management (pp. 320-323). Boulder, CO: Westview Press. Callison, C. (2003). Media relations and the Intern et: How Fortune 500 company web sites assist journalists in news gathering. Public Relations Review, 29(1), 29-42. Comptroller of the Currency Administrator of National Banks. (n.d.). Microentreprise. In Community affairs: Small business resource guide. Retrieved November 1, 2007, from http://www.occ.treas.gov/cdd/SBRG09032003.htm Connolly-Ahern, C., & Broadway, S.C. (2007). Th e im portance of appearing competent: An analysis of corporate impression manage ment strategies on the World Wide Web. Public Relations Review, 33(3), 343-345. Consultative Group to Assist the Poor. (n.d.a). Frequently asked questions. In When Is Microcredit NOT an Appropriate Poverty Intervention Tool? Retrieved January 21, 2008, from Consultative Group to Assist the Poor. (n.d.b) About us. Retrieved November 1, 2007, from http://www.cgap.org/portal/site/C GAP/m enuitem.8d0ec8712cb72d1eae6c6210591010a0/

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85 Consultative Group to Assist the Poor. (2002). Microcredit interest rates. Retrieved January 21, 2008, from http://www.cgap.org/ docs/OccasionalPaper_01.pdf Consultative Group to Assist the Poor. (2003). Helping to improve donor effectiveness in microfinance: Making sense of microcredit interest rates. Retrieved January 21, 2008, from http://www.cgap.org/docs/DonorBrief_06.pdf Consultative Group to Assist the Poor. (2004). Financial Institutions with a double bottom line: Implications for the future of microfinance. Retrieved January 21, 2008, from http://www.cgap.org/docs /OccasionalPaper_8.pdf Consultative Group to Assist the Poor. (2006). Good practice guidelines for funders of microfinance: Microfinance consensus guidelines. Retrieved January 21, 2008, from http://www.cgap.org/portal/binary/com.epicen tric.contentmanagemen t.servlet.ContentDel iveryServlet/Documents/donorguidelines.pdf Elahi, K. Q., & Danopoulos, C. P. (2004). Microf inance and third world development: A critical analysis. Journal of Political & Military Sociology, 32(1), 61-77. Elahi, K. Q., & Rahman, M. L. (2006). Micr o-credit and micro-finance: Functional and conceptual differences. Development in Practice, 16(5), 476-483. Epstein, M.J., & Crane, C.A. (2007). Allevia ting Global poverty through microfinance: Factors and measures of financial, economic and so cial performance. In V.K. Rangan, J.A. Quelsh, G. Herrero, & B. Barton (Eds.), Business solutions for the global poor: creating social and economic value(pp.321-334). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Esrock, S.L., & Leichty, G.B. (2000). Organi zation of corporate web pages: Publics and functions. Public Relations Review, 26(3), 327-34. Feiner, S.F., & Barker, D.K. (2007). The Dicken sian World of Micro-Finance: Grameen May Not Be So Good for Women After All. Women's Review of Books, 24(3), 23-24. Retrieved November 2, 2007, from http://www.wcwonline.org/joomla/index.php? option=com _content&task=view&id=1339 &Itemid=&Itemid=38 Feinglass, A. (2005). The public relations handbook for nonprofits: a comprehensive and practical guide. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Galloway, C. (2005). Cyber-PR and dynamic touch. Public Relations Review, 31(4), 572-577. Gonzles-Herrero, A., & de Valbuena M.R. (2006) Trends in online media relations: Web-based corporate press rooms in lead ing international companies. Public Relations Review, 32(3), 267-275. Grameen Foundation. (n.d.). Microfinance: An e ffective poverty reductio n strategy. Retrieved November 1, 2007, from http://www.grameenfoundation.org/wha t_we_do/m icrofinance_in_action/

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86 Gutirrez-Nieto, B., Serrano-Cin ca, C., & Molinero, C.M. (2007). Microfinance institutions and efficiency. The International Journal of Management Science, 35, 131-142. Hardy, D. C., Holden, P., & Prokopenko, V. (2003). Microfinance institutions and public policy. Journal of Policy Reform, 6(3), 147-158. Health, R.L. (2005). Functions of Public Relations. In Encyclopedia of Public Relations (Vol. 1, pp. 350-353). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Reference. Hill, L.N., & White, C. (2000). Public Relations Practitioners' Perception of the World Wide Web as a Communications Tools. Public Relations Review, 26(1), 31-51. Holsti, O. (1969). Content analysis for the social sciences and humanities. Reading, MA: Addision-Wesley. Hunt, T. (2002). Public relations. In Encyclopedia of Communication and Information (Vol. 3, pp. 778-786). New York: Macmillan Reference USA. Imboden, K. (2005). Building inclusive financial sectors: The road to growth and poverty reduction. Journal of International Affairs, 58(2), 65-86. Institute for Public Relations. (2007). Mapping the consequences of technology on public relations. Retrieved February 10, 2008, from http://www.instituteforpr.org/files/up loads/Pavlik_Mapping_Consequences.pdf International Year of Microcredit 2005. (n.d). What are the objectives of the International Year of Microcredit? In Why a year? Learn about the year. Retrieved February 10, 2008, from http://www.yearofmicrocredit.org/pages/w hyayear/whyayear_learnaboutyear.asp#objecti ves International Food Policy Research Institute. (2001). Methodology. In Distribution, growth, and performance of microfinance institutions in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Retrieved November 1, 2007, from http://www.ifpri.org/divs /fcnd/dp/papers/fcndp114.pdf International Year of Microcre dit 2005 (n.d.). Why a year? In What are the objectives of the International Year of Microcredit? Retrieved January 21, 2008, from http://www.yearofmicrocredit.org/pages/ whyayear/whyayear_learnaboutyear.asp Johnston, M.W. (1999). The nonprofit guide to the Intern et: how to survive and thrive. New York: Wiley. Kang, S., & Norton, H.E. (2004). Nonprofit organizati ons' use of the World Wide Web: Are they sufficiently fulfilling organizational goals? Public Relations Review, 30(3), 279-284. Kang, S., & Norton, H.E. (2006). Colleges and un iversities use of the World Wide Web: A public relations tool for the digital age. Public Relations Review, 32(4), 426-428.

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87 Kent, M.L., & Taylor, M. (1998). Building dial ogic relationships through the World Wide Web. Public Relations Review, 24(3), 321-334. Kent, M. L., & Taylor, M. (2002). Toward a dialogic theory of public relations. Public Relations Review, 28(1), 21-38. Kent, M.L., Taylor, M., & White, W. J. (2003). The relationship between web site design and organizational responsiveness to stakeholders. Public Relations Review, 29(1), 63-78. Kinzey, R.E. (1999). Using public relations strategies to promote your nonprofit organization. New York: Haworth Press. Kirat, M. (2007). Promoting online media relations: Public relations departments use of Internet in the UAE. Public Relations Review, 33(2), 166-174. Kotler, P., & Andreasen, A.R. (1996). The strategic marketing planning process. In J.S. Ott (Ed), Understanding nonprofit organizations: gover nance, leadership, and management (pp. 142-157). Boulder, CO: Westview Press. Krug, S. (2006). Don't make me think: A common sense approach to web usability. Berkeley, CA: New Riders Publishing. La Torre, M. (2006). A new conception of microfin ance. In M. La Torre, & G.A. Vento (Eds.), Microfinance (pp. 1-19). New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Lee, T. E., Chen, J. Q., & Zhang, R. (2001). Ut ilizing the Internet as a competitive tool for nonprofit organizations. The Journal of Computer Information Systems, 41(3), 26-32. Leeper, K.A. (2005). Nonprofit Organizations. In Encyclopedia of Public Relations (Vol. 2, pp. 578-582). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Reference. Maynard, M., & Tian, Y. (2004). Between global a nd glocal: Content analysis of the Chinese Web Sites of the 100 top global brands. Public Relations Review, 30(3), 285-291. McAllister, S.M., & Taylor, M. (2007). Commun ity college web sites as tools for fostering dialogue. Public Relations Review, 33(2), 230-232. McGuire, P.B., & Conroy, J. D. (2000). The microfinance phenomenon. Asia-Pacific Review, 7(1), 90-109. Microcredit Summit Campaign. (n.d.a). Quotes on microcredit Retrieved November 1, 2007, from http://www.microcreditsummit.org/press/SOCRquotes.htm Microcredit Summ it Campaign. (n.d.b). About the microcredit summit campaign. Retrieved January 21, 2008 from http://www.microcredi tsummit.org/aboutmicrocreditsummit.htm

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88 Microcredit Summit Campaign. (2 006). Executive summary. In State of the microcredit summit campaign report 2006. Retrieved November 1, 2007, from http://www.microcreditsummit.org/ pubs/reports/soc r/2006/SOCR06.pdf Microcredit Summ it Campaign. (2 007). Commitment to a breakth rough on measuring movement above the US $1 a day threshold. In State of the microcredit summit campaign report 2007. Retrieved February 10, 2007, from http://www.microcreditsummit.org/ pubs/reports/socr/EngSOCR2007.pdf Microfinance Gateway. (n.d.). Frequently Asked Questions. Retrieved November 1, 2007, from http://www.microfinancegateway.org/section/faq Morse, J.M., & Richards, L. (2002). Readme firs t for a user's guide to qualitative methods. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Naud, A.M.E., Froneman, J.D., & Atwood, R.A. (2004). The use of the internet by ten South African non-governmental organizations a public relations perspective. Public Relations Review, 30(1), 87-94. New York University. (n.d.). Micr ofinance/microinsurance. In Helpful websites. Retrieved November 1, 2007, from http://wagner.nyu.edu/international/links.php Penning, T. (2000). Measure the m ission: Nonprofits can pr ofit from PR. In Nonprofit Good Practice Guide. Retrieved November 1, 2007, from http://www.npgoodpractice.org/Resource/ResourceFile.aspx?resourceid=8318 Robinson, M. S. (2001). The microfinance revolution: Sustainable financ e for the poor. Washigton, DC: The World Bank. Ryan, M. (2003). Public relations and the web: Organizational problems, gender, and institution type. Public Relations Review, 29(3), 335-350. Seltzer, T., & Mitrook, M.A. (2007). The dialogic potential of we blogs in relationship building. Public Relations Review, 33(2), 227-229. Stanford University, Center for Social Innovation. (2007). Microfinance misses its mark. Retrieved January 21, 2008, from http://www.ssireview.org/images/art icles/2007SU_feature_karnani.pdf Stoker, K.L., & Tusinski, K.A. (2006). Reconsider ing public relations' infatuation with dialogue: Why engagement and reconciliation can be mo re ethical than symmetry and reciprocity. Journal of Mass Media Ethics, 21 (2/3), 156-176. Taylor, M., Kent, M.L., & White, W.J. (2001). How activist organizations are using the Internet to build relationships. Public Relations Review, 27(3), 263-284. Taylor, M., & Kent, M.L. (2004). Congressional web sites and th eir potential for public dialogue. Atlantic Journal of Communication, 12(2), 59-76.

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89 Tefft, S. (1995). Give a poor woman a fish? No. A fishi ng pole? No. A loan? Yes. Christian Science Monitor, 87(202), 315-318. United Nations. (2006). Building inclusive financia l sectors for development. Retrieved January 21, 2008, from http://www.uncdf.org/english/microfinance /pubs/bluebook/pub/Building_Inclusive_Fina ncial_Sectors_The_Blue_Book.pdf United Nations Capital Developmen t Fund. (n.d.). Links: Microfinance Retrieved November 1, 2007, from http://www.uncdf.org/english/links/microfinance.php: United Nations Capital Developm ent Fund. (2005). Microfinance and the millennium development goals: A readers guide to the millennium project reports and other UN documents. Retrieved November 1, 2007, from http://www.yearofmicrocredit.org/docs/mdgdoc_MN.pdf University of California Los Angele s. (n.d.). Resources and Links. In Microfinan ce The UCLA CIBER microfinance research program. Retrieved November 1, 2007, from http://www.anderson.ucla.edu/x8098.xml: Vorvoreanu, M. (2006). Online organizationpublic relationshi ps: An experience-centered approach. Public Relations Review, 32(4), 395-401. Wendt, H., & Eichfeld, R. (2006) Building on success: The next challenges for microfinance. Development Policy Outlook, 4, 1-7. Retrieved November 2, 2007, from http://www.aei.org/publications/pubID.24913,filter.all/pub_detail.asp World Bank. (n.d.). Databases: Rura l, m icrofinance and small enterp rise development. Retrieved November 1, 2007, from http://wbln0018.worldbank.org/html/Financi alSectorW eb.nsf/sme?openform&Rural+and +Microfinance/SMEs&Databases: Yunus, M. (2003). Banker to the poor: Micro-lendi ng and the battle against world poverty. New York: Public Affairs. Zeller, M, & Sharma, M. (2002). Access to and de mand for financial servi ces. In M. Zeller & R. L. Meyer (Eds.), The triangle of microfinance (pp. 19-45). Baltimore, MA: John Hopkins University Press.

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90 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Myriam was born to Eliane and Jean-Jacques Delouvrier in 1981, in France. She was the second-born child, after Elisabeth. Myriam grew up in Paris, in a loving and protecting family. She has always been spoiled by her parent s and grandparents. Myriam was a happy and extraverted child and adolescent, generally more in terested in playing activities with her friends than sitting at school. When sh e turned 16, she spent a year in Jerusalem, where she pursued her last year of high school. Then she came back to Paris and attended the Ecole Franaise des Attachs de Presse, a college specializing in mass communications. After graduating, she accepted a unique mission in Tanzania where she coordinated the constr uction of a technical college for 16 months. Then she decided to obt ain a higher degree in the United States, which would allow her to work at the international level. At the University of Florida Myriam developed her academic skills. In order to support herself, Myriam taught French to UF undergradu ate students. She will be graduating in August 2008 with a 4.0 GPA and two certificates of outst anding achievement from the International Center. Myriam is now ready to enter the communi cations market. She is currently seeking employment in international public relations in a global corporation or agency, in the United States, Canada or Europe. She looks forwar d to settling down and starting a career.


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