Shared interest groups allow alumni to engage and connect through a broad range of interests, affiliations, identities, and professional fields that crosscut class years, majors, regional clubs and associations, graduate and professional school groups, and other constituencies.
More than simply mechanisms through which alumni can organize social events and functions, interest groups are mission-driven groups that aspire to have a positive impact for alumni, Yale University, local communities, and beyond.
Shared interest groups tend to fall into four general categories: (1) identity; (2) professional/career; (3) avocation; and (4) student-based. Examples of interest groups include the Yale Veterans Association, YaleWomen, Yale Black Alumni Association, Yale GALA (Yale’s LGBT alumni group), Yale in Hollywood, and the Yale Alumni Nonprofit Alliance, among others.
Click here for a complete list of current interest groups.
YAA Support for Interest Groups
As part of the Yale Alumni Association (YAA), the shared interest groups team engages the entire alumni community and works strategically with interest group officers, leaders, and volunteers to position their respective groups for sustainable success. The scope of assistance and level of support, which is determined on a case-by-case basis, range from counsel and guidance on governance, mission discernment, strategic planning, programming and institutional development, to the planning and hosting of interest group-affiliated reunions, conferences, and special events, both on campus and around the world.
As emerging interest groups mature and evolve, increasingly they are able to function more autonomously — governing their own affairs, organizing their own programming and events, and independently funding their own activities.
Shared interest groups, like many other Yale alumni groups, are expected to be self-sustaining, self-supporting organizations. On occasion, the YAA may be able to provide strategic supplemental funding to assist interest groups on select events and initiatives, depending on the circumstances.
Funding requests should be submitted in writing to the shared interest group staff at the YAA for consideration. These proposals are assessed on a case-by-case basis.
Emerging interest groups seeking official recognition by the YAA, and the university, should contact the YAA shared interest group team.
An emerging interest group is eligible for official recognition and potential delegate representation at the YAA Assembly and Yale Alumni Fund Convocation after completing two years of sustained programmatic activity and approval from the YAA Board of Governors.
Starting a New Interest Group
Alumni who have an interest in establishing a particular shared interest group should first contact the YAA shared interest group staff to discuss their ideas. Among other considerations, the proposed interest group should be aligned with university principles and not in conflict with existing organizations.
Upon confirmation from the YAA shared interest group team, alumni are encouraged to complete the initial organizational efforts on their own. After it is determined that initial grass-roots organizing has yielded the foundation of a sustainable group, YAA interest group staff work with alumni leaders in building up and developing the interest group.
In brief, here is a summary of guidelines for an alumni group to become a recognized shared interest group:
- Mission statement or statement of purpose: This document should answer the questions, “What is the group’s intended purpose?” The group’s purpose should be well defined and complement Yale’s larger mission.
- Membership: The prospective membership base for a shared interest group must be at least 100 alumni, with a commitment from at least 50 actively participating alumni.
- Constitution or operating principles: To ensure good governance, each group should have a constitution or set of operating principles.
- By-laws: In accordance with the constitution and to ensure good operating procedures, an interest group should have bylaws, or an “operating manual.”
- Volunteer leadership: Each group should have identified officers (minimum of three) as set forth in its by-laws.
Additional recommendations and options:
- Nonprofit status: While not a requirement, nor necessarily desirable depending on the circumstances, each interest group has the option to pursue nonprofit 501(c)(3) status. Nonprofits cannot be involved in any significant commercial activity. They cannot engage in lobbying or political activities, as well as activities that would jeopardize their, or Yale’s, not-for-profit status.
- Long range or strategic plans: It is recommended that a proposed interest group draft and submit for review a multi-year plan (three years recommended) outlining its aims, goals, objectives, and activities.
- Annual Reports: It is recommended that interest groups submit an annual report, including an overview of activities, goals achieved, financial statements, and current members.