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Real World Career Preparation

A Guide to Creating a University Student-Run Communications Agency

Douglas J. Swanson

University student-run communications agencies allow students to work with real clients and get real world experience before they graduate from college and enter the workforce. Student-run agencies are increasing in popularity, but building a successful agency is challenging.

With more than ten years of experience supervising a student-run agency, Swanson examines the three critical roles a student agency must fulfill in order to be successful. First, the agency must be an exceptional environment for learning. Second, it must be a successful business—without satisfied clients, the agency will not survive. Third, it must be a supportive partner in both on- and off-campus communities.

As the first book to address student-run agencies, Real World Career Preparation offers extensive ‘how to’ guidance, and is supported by 22 Agency Spotlight best practice examples from student-run agencies across the U.S. The book ends with a comprehensive directory of 158 university student-run agencies in operation all over the world.

Real World Career Preparation is essential reading for any faculty member or administrator who is involved with an agency, or who plans to launch one in the future. This book is also valuable for college students working in an agency who seek ‘the big picture’ view of how their work for clients has long-lasting impact on the campus and the community.

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Chapter 16. Working with Area Nonprofits


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Nonprofit and charitable organizations are always in need of communications assistance, so there’s a natural fit between these organizations and the student-run agency. At the same time, there are reasons for the agency to be cautious. Nonprofits can be difficult clients; when there’s no financial investment in a campaign, it’s easy to not appreciate the value of the service being offered.

Another concern is the nonprofit organization that uses the services of a student-run agency as a crutch to keep from developing its own proficient communications outreach. This chapter builds from the recruitment and retention ideas contained in Chapter 13 to focus on identifying and selecting nonprofits that are appropriate for agency service. The chapter offers best practices suggestions for providing client services that will lead nonprofits to self-sufficiency rather than dependency.

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