Honors Capstone Project
Date of Submission
Capstone Prize Winner
Won Capstone Funding
Advertising and Promotion Management | Communication | Public Relations and Advertising
Nonprofit community organizations need solid public relations strategies and communications skills to accomplish an array of objectives, ranging from fundraising to increasing awareness to changing public opinion. Not only do many students attending Syracuse University possess these skills, but these individuals are also ready and willing to help nonprofit organizations because they would like to make a difference in the community, as well as add real-life work experience to their resumes and portfolios. Because of these facts, Communications for the Community (comm.UNITY) was created in October 2007 with the mission of connecting students with nonprofit organizations to help them create sustainable communications plans, as well as exemplifying Chancellor Nancy Cantor’s vision of “Scholarship in Action.”
comm.UNITY is a completely student-run organization that consists of two leadership groups, the executive board and project leaders. The executive board is in charge of the behind-the-scenes workings of the organization, such as creating alliances on campus, finding sources of funding, recruitment and marketing and finding clients. Project leaders are individuals who organize a team of students from the general membership to complete specific projects for clients. These nonprofit clients are selected when they apply for comm.UNITY’s services at the beginning of the academic year.
In order to create a healthy, sustainable student organization, as well as effectively help clients, a keen understanding of public relations is essential. For both comm.UNITY and its clients, the executive board and project leaders followed the four-step, cyclical process of public relations. This four-step process includes an analysis of the current situation, strategic planning, taking action, and evaluation. The four-step public relations process ensures that communications tactics are strategic and not simply a “best guess.” comm.UNITY also strives to abide by the Page Principles, a code of conduct and “best practices” guide revered by public relations professionals industry-wide.
The creation and analysis of comm.UNITY and its work is significant for a multitude of reasons. Most importantly, the organization fills a void that is often left empty at nonprofit organizations – strategic communications. The project is also significant because it results in two different kinds of case studies: an example of how to begin a student organization that is built to last, as well as a handful of examples of the success of students working with nonprofit community organizations – some more so than others.
From these the reader learns a host of lessons, ranging from how public relations must be valued in the dominant coalition of an organization if the function is to survive budget cuts, to how a highly organized and capable Project Leader can mobilize dozens of students to work on a variety of tasks for a single organization. These case studies not only help comm.UNITY look to the future with a bit more experience and expertise, but also serve to set the stage for other “Scholarship in Action” start-ups that will inevitably begin to formulate in the years to come under Chancellor Nancy Cantor’s direction.
Matthews, Carissa, "comm.UNITY and the Role of Public Relations in Nonprofit Community Organizations" (2009). Syracuse University Honors Program Capstone Projects. 482.
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