Nonprofit Communication for Social Change

COM 473 Fall 2015

Aimée Knight, PhD


T 3:30-4:45  | Merion 150

TH 3:30–4:45 Bronstein Hall

T, TH 2:00-3:30 | Bronstein 302 (Office hours)


Course Description

Not-for-profit and community-based organizations rely on strategic digital communication to create social change. Students in this course gain in-depth knowledge of communication theories and practices while conducting research projects with local organizations through the Beautiful Social collaborative. Students in the course actively participate as a member of a project team to complete projects with clients in the Greater Philadelphia area. Local travel is required.

Required Reading

Adam Braun. (2015). The Promise of a Pencil: How an Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change

Beth Kanter.(2010) The Networked Nonprofit (PDF)

Simon Sinek.(2011) Start With Why (PDF)

Claire Diaz Ortiz. (2011) Twitter for Good (PDF)

Jennifer Aaker and Andy Smith (2010) DragonflyEffect

Gary Vaynerchuk. (2011) Thank You Economy (PDF)

Beth Kanter. (2012) Measuring the Networked Nonprofit (PDF)

Jocelyn K. Glei (2014) Make Your Mark (PDF)

Blogs to follow

Beth Kanter

Charity: Water

At Media

Think Brownstone

Happy Cog


Week 1

Tuesday August 24  Introduce course, fellows, platforms

Thursday August 26  Promise of a Pencil (Chapters Intro-10); Read Field Guide

Week 2

Tuesday September 1  Promise of a Pencil (11-20); Introduce clients; Fellows panel talk about how to work with clients

Thursday September 3 Promise of a Pencil (21-30); Choose clients; Research Part 1

Week 3

Tuesday September 8 Dragonfly Effect (PDF)

Thursday September 10 Blogging Guide; Blogging Workshop/Guest Speaker: Tenaya Darlington

Week 4

Tuesday September 15  Start with Why; Social objects discussion

Thursday September 17  Group work  in Bronstein: Research

Week 5

Tuesday September 22 Client site visits/Meetings (no official class meeting)

Thursday September 24 Client site visits/Meetings (no official class meeting)

Week 6

Tuesday September 29  Twitter for Good

Thursday October 1 Group Work in Bronstein

Week 7

Tuesday October 6  Networked Nonprofit (Merion 150)

Thursday October 8 Group Work (Bronstein)

Week 8

Tuesday October 13   Fall Break

Thursday October 15  Discussion on Gary Vaynerchuck, Thank You Economy (PDF)

Week 9

Tuesday October 20 Group Work in Bronstein

Thursday October 22  Group Work in Bronstein

Week 10

Tuesday October 27  Beth Kanter

Thursday October 29  Group Work in Bronstein

Week 11

Tuesday November 3  Measuring the Networked Nonprofit

Thursday November 5 Group Work in Bronstein

Week 12

Tuesday November 10 Make Your Mark; Presentation preparation

Thursday November 12 Case study due; presentation practice in Bronstein

Week 13

Tuesday November 17 – Field Guide (Merion 150)

Thursday November 19 Case Study Draft Due for peer editing

Week 14

Tuesday November 24 Case study presentation

Thursday November 26 Thanksgiving

Week 15

Tuesday December 1  Final video/essay discussion

Thursday December 3 Case study revisions due; wrap up

Weeek 16

Essay due during Final Exam (TBA)


40% Client Project + Presentation + Case Study (Group)

15% Social Media Management 3 x  starting week 4 (Group) 

15% In-class participation, discussion (Individual)

30% Final essay (Individual)

15% Participation

This class requires your active participation. Each member of our learning community needs to be actively engaged in the learning process. Each student is here to contribute to the exchange of ideas. Ask questions. Be curious. As a student in this course you will create your own communal context for learning by engaging in conversations with others. As such, being prepared to participate in discussions and activities is paramount. This entails having read, annotated, and thought about the required materials carefully before class starts. You are allowed two “free” absences without penalty. Thereafter, you will lose this 10% of your final grade. If you miss 6 or more classes, you will not pass the course. See: Participation Rubric

15% Social Media Posts

Each group is responsible for 3 social media weekly takeovers throughout the semester at 5% each. Twitter (4 posts), Instagram (4 posts), Facebook (4 posts) and Blog (1 post) per weekly takeover.

Group 1 Sam: Project 440 (Sam) Weeks 4, 8, 12

Group 2 Sam: Intercultural Journeys (Sam) Weeks 5, 9, 13

Group 3: American Cancer Association (Emily) Weeks 6, 10, 14

Group 4 Alpha Bravo Canine (Nicole) Weeks 7, 11, 15

40% Client work

Each group will create a professional project for their client. Groups will present a case study of this project during the last weeks of class. More details TBA. See: Multimedia Project Rubric

30% Final Essay

For this project you will work to develop an appropriate and useful research topic on social media and non-profit management. The essay requires you to synthesize and evaluate course materials as well as other resources available to you. The essay should be grounded by a strong thesis statement and construct specific points/arguments that are grounded in evidence. 1000 words. MLA citations. Please: Argumentative Writing Rubric


I expect you to come to class on time, fully prepared to engage in the exchange of ideas. It is your responsibility to bring the necessary materials to class each week. A USB drive is required (to save your work and transport it as needed). You will also need to access (and use) Blackboard and email. Save and backup all work at all times.


Be here, on time. You are expected to attend class each week and be well prepared. We will often work on projects, watch videos, conduct group work, and other activities during class time. There is no substitute for your presence during class. Significant absences will hurt your grade because you will not be in class to participate and collaborate. I take attendance. You are allowed two “free” absences. Thereafter, you will lose this 10% of your final grade. If you miss 6 or more classes, you will not pass the course. Lateness or leaving early is considered unprofessional and will also affect your participation grade; please show respect by being on time.

Late work

Late work is deducted one letter grade for each late day.

Office hours and after hours

I hope you will take advantage of my office hours. I am available to offer extended feedback on your projects (beyond the written feedback you formally receive). You don’t need to have a problem to come visit, but if you do find yourself having some difficulty, then I certainly want to see you sooner rather than later. If you cannot make scheduled office hours, arrange to see me at another time. In addition to my office hours, feel free tovisit the Digital Media Zone in the library for technical assistance.

Equipment to check out

In the IT office in the basement of Merion Hall (directly below Merion 150) COM students have access to a variety of audio/visual equipment. Check-out is 48-hours. Equipment includes individual Flip cameras (HD), Mino cameras (HD), GoPro Hero cameras, Kodak Zi6 pocket video cameras (HD), and Canon Vixia cameras (HD). There are also Vixia video cameras (HD), Canon DSLRs, and Zoom audio recorders. Tripods are available upon request.

Academic honesty

If you use ideas or information that are not common knowledge, you must cite a source. This rule applies to all the course activities and projects including reading responses, multimedia projects, and essays. How to cite a source will be discussed in class. St. Joseph’s University’s academic honesty policy can be found here.

The penalty for plagiarism is an automatic Fail for this class and a letter of notification to the Committee on Discipline. If you are suspected of plagiarism or an act of dishonesty, action will be taken. In all courses, each student has the responsibility to submit work that is uniquely his or her own. All of this work must be done in accordance with established principles of academic integrity. Specific violations of this responsibility include, but are not limited to, the following:

  1. Cheating, copying, or the offering or receiving of unauthorized assistance or information in examinations, tests, quizzes, reports, assigned papers, or special assignments, as in computer programming, studio work, and the like.
  2. The fabrication or falsification of data, results, or sources for papers or reports
  3. Any action which destroys or alters the work of another student;
  4. The multiple submission of the same paper or report for assignments in more than one course without the prior written permission of each instructor;
  5. Plagiarism, the appropriation of information, ideas, or the language of other persons or writers and the submission of them as one’s own to satisfy the requirements of a course. Plagiarism thus constitutes both theft and deceit. Compositions, term papers, or computer programs acquired, either in part or in whole, from commercial sources or from other students and submitted as one’s own original work shall be considered plagiarism. All students are directed to the standard manuals of style or reference guides for discussions of plagiarism and the means by which sources are legitimately acknowledged, cited, quoted, paraphrased, and footnoted—whether presented in an oral report or in writing.
  6. Unauthorized Collaboration.

Rules regarding the use of information in this course:

1) If you use the language of your source, you must quote it exactly, enclose it in quotation marks, and cite the source. If you use the language of your source, quote the wording exactly. This is called a direct quotation. A direct quotation is either enclosed in quotation marks or indented on the page. If you omit part of the wording, use an ellipsis (three periods, four if necessary for punctuation to indicate the omission).

2) A paraphrase employs source material by restating an idea in an entirely new form that is original in both sentence structure and word choice. Taking the basic structure from a source and substituting a few words is an unacceptable paraphrase and may be construed as plagiarism. Creating a new sentence by merging the wording of two or more sources is also plagiarism.

Services for Students with Disabilities

Requests for Accommodations: Reasonable academic accommodations may be provided to students who submit appropriate documentation of their disability.  Students are encouraged to contact the Office of Student Disability Services at 610.660.1774(voice) or 610.660-1620(TTY) if they have or think they may have a disability and wish to determine eligibility for academic accommodations.

Eligibility: The Director will meet with the student and review the process and procedures for consideration of eligibility.

FERPA: Once eligibility is determined, the student must sign a release of Information form (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act – FERPA) in order for the University to release the Accommodation Plan to the student’s professors. This form must be signed annually in order for accommodations to continue.  If the FERPA form expires, the student will need to sign a new form before the Accommodation Plan is sent out to the student’s professors.  Therefore, it is recommended that the student contact the Office of Student Disability Services as early in the semester as possible in order to ensure continuity of their accommodations.

Reasonable Academic Accommodations:  If it is determined that the student does qualify for accommodations, a plan will be developed that addresses the student’s individual needs.  This Accommodation Plan, which specifies what academic adjustments have been granted to the student by the University, will be sent to the student’s professors.

In the event that a student does not qualify for services under Section 504 and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, other support services open to all University students will be discussed with the student.

Grievance Procedures for Students with Disabilities

Appeal Process: The Office of Student Disability Services will seek to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified students with disabilities. However, there may be times when a disagreement as to what is considered a reasonable accommodation will occur between the student and the University.  The student has a right to file a grievance for complaints regarding a requested or offered reasonable accommodation on the basis of a disability under Section 504 and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and University policies.

If you have any questions regarding the appeals process, please contact Dr. Christine Mecke, Director of Student Disability Services – Bellarmine – Room G10 –