Multimodal Discourse Analysis on Online Philanthropic Fundraising Discourse: A Systemic Functional Perspective

網絡慈善籌款的多模態語篇研究 ── 系統功能視角

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

View graph of relations



Awarding Institution
Award date29 Nov 2021


Fundraising has become critical for charities’ existence and operation, especially in the new digital era where various media are provided, and numerous fundraising channels are present. In Hong Kong, the need to investigate the usage of fundraising strategies has never been greater. The improvement of fundraising efforts will also be challenging to achieve without understanding the practices in the charity sector and social-cultural environment. To analyze online multimodal fundraising discourse, where different semiotic resources are integrated, discourse analysts need to connect the discourse to its registering features and social context, which engenders and is engendered by the texts.

The current study explores how philanthropic fundraising discourse is present online in verbal and visual element deployment. The salient features of the fundraising discourse realized by language and images are the research focuses. By a qualitative study of Hong Kong charities’ websites, the present study reveals the multimodal construction of online philanthropic fundraising discourse informed by Systemic Functional Grammar (Halliday, 1978) and Visual Grammar (Kress & Van Leeuwen, 1996) and expounds the verbal and visual semiosis choices empowered by contextual factors.             

The findings show there are two major webpage types for fundraising: news pages and charity project pages. Based on the examination of text and photos on ideational, interpersonal, and textual meanings, four inter-semiotic relations are summarized: elaborating, evidencing, motivating, and justifying. From the contextual variables corresponding to three metafunctions, the fundraising text is framed into a specific context, which features the fundraising purpose, philanthropic values, and widespread multimodal recources and practices. Last, the study proposes the motivating factors that engender the registering features of marketized philanthropic fundraising discourse, such as the advancement of technology, an equal and interactive social culture, and the change of the public’s perception of charity and charitable giving.  

This research’s potential contribution will fill the gap in expanding Systemic Functional Multimodal Discourse Analysis to the specific online philanthropic fundraising discourse type and provide a reference for future relevant explorations in this register either on the text or context level. Most importantly, a deep understanding of fundraising discourse also has implications for practitioners in the charity sector, especially in Hong Kong, to better promote charitable giving and utilize the existing social resources.

    Research areas

  • Systemic Functional Grammar, Multimodal Discourse Analysis, Philanthropic Fundraising