Resources Available to Interest Groups
Upon formal recognition by the YAA the following benefits will be available:
Most importantly, care and attention must be paid to the intellectual property use of the Yale name and other marks. Groups with no alumni or university connections have already used the name “Yale” to promote causes, sell products or services, or otherwise bring attention to their organizations. The university needs to protect its brand by ensuring that all groups that use the name Yale are appropriate stakeholders upholding the traditions and advancing its mission.
Groups must propose the name they would like to use which must make clear the alumni role of the organization. To distinguish the alumni group from the university itself, the proposed name must contain the word “alumni” in the formal name and on any formal documentation. The name must clearly indicate the type or purpose of the group. In addition, the SIG must present for review and approval any proposed logos to the SIG Department.
The Assembly is the official Yale alumni representative body and is a key part of the governance of the YAA and Yale. Recognized groups can be represented in the Assembly through the appointment of one or more delegates, depending on the size of the group, as stipulated in the YAA Constitution. Such delegates, when called upon, vote on official alumni matters. Delegates are also an important leadership pipeline to service on the YAA Board of Governors and other leadership roles within the university.
In an effort to help publicize the existence of the group, to attract new members, and to relate important news and information about its activities, the YAA will include the group name, listing of two key officers, contact information, a brief description of the group, and a link to the group’s website, on the YAA website.
Working with the YAA’s SIG Department, SIGs will be eligible to receive updated member lists (including name, year of graduation, and contact information) on a semiannual basis.
SIGs will have access to select e-marketing and event registration platforms. These resources are found on the YAA website.
The SIG Department offers strategic planning and organizing. Strategic planning helps groups affirm their mission; clarify mutual, core beliefs and shared values; create a vision; ensure that organizations are performing at their best; and communicate the organizations to the wider community.
The SIG Department offers advice on nonprofit governance and overall best practices in nonprofit management.
The SIG Department can help groups organize and plan events. Such assistance, and the extent of the assistance, will be determined by the relative scale, scope and strategic importance of the event at the discretion of the YAA.
For approved SIGs, the YAA will consider providing limited program funds. A SIG would request such funds in consultation with its dedicated SIG director.
Recognition and Review Process
Recognition consideration abides by the following process involving the YAA’s SIG Department and the YAA Board of Governors:
The proposed interest group must fill out the completed online interest form. In addition to basic information including name, mission statement, an outline of proposed activities, relationships with other Yale organizations, and governance structure, the form will require affirmation of key Yale policies. Review of the form will determine if the applicant is recommended to move forward in the process, as well as any necessary name changes, clarifications, or additional information.
If the SIG Department determines that the organization can move forward in the process, YAA staff will schedule a meeting with the proposed officers of the SIG to review the form responses, governance model, bylaws, membership pipeline, and overall timeline. Sample bylaws and other governance templates will be provided by the SIG Department as needed. If needed, at the discretion of the SIG Department, the proposed SIG may be asked to submit bylaws, articles of incorporation, a founding slate of temporary officers, and a timeline for initial elections if different than the regular elections outlined in the bylaws.
The SIG Department, in consultation with the YAA executive director, will then determine if the group has met the criteria necessary to become a SIG. This will include in-depth review of the proposed SIG’s mission and vision to ensure that they meet the goals of inspiring Yale alumni to reconnect with each other and the university without overlapping with the mission or goals of existing SIGs or other alumni groups.
Upon provisional approval of a SIG, the SIG Department will provide a link to the organization for it to submit a list of 100 “founding members,” which must include a range of at least 25 years between the most recent and longest-held degrees. After confirmation of this list, a vote to approve recognition of the proposed SIG will be taken at the next eligible meeting (fall or spring) of the Board of Governors. If the recognition is approved, the SIG will be considered to be in a two-year launch phase. During this launch phase, the SIG will be provided with onboarding and mentorship by members of the YAA Board of Governors and will be required to hold at least three events per year, complete and implement bylaws and other governance documents, and deliver an annual report.
At the end of the two-year launch period, the SIG will be eligible to be presented to the full YAA Board of Governors to determine eligibility for delegate representation at the Assembly. Should the board determine that the group meets the criteria and the intent of a Yale shared interest group, the board will approve the group’s delegate representation and official SIG status.
It is vital to the health of the university that those groups officially included in the YAA representative alumni body – whether they be classes, clubs, schools, or SIGs – remain effective in engaging and representing their stakeholders and carrying out their mission. To that end, all organizations upon recognition will be periodically reviewed for sustainability. SIG representation will be granted for a three-year period, with the opportunity for renewal, and will be contingent upon adherence to YAA recognition criteria. Reapproval as a SIG will take into account the group’s adherence to its bylaws, submission of an annual report, responsiveness to YAA staff and directors, and ability to engage alumni.
Incorporation and 501(c)(3) Status
Whether or not an interest group should incorporate as a separate nonprofit entity depends on a number of factors, not the least of which is the intended scope and scale of its activities, and whether or not it can be supported administratively by Yale.
The YAA is not in a position to provide the necessary administrative support, legal advice, or technical assistance for financial accounting, tax filing, or donor acknowledgement to shared interest groups. If an organization will be soliciting dues, raising funds, or charging for events, and if university staff and resources are not available to provide this support (e.g., the athletic alumni associations are supported by Departments of Athletics and the Office of Development), then it is recommended that the organization file for 501c3 status.
“Nonprofit” organizations are not automatically “tax exempt” 501c3 organizations. If a SIG is to become tax exempt, it must apply for such status to the Internal Revenue Service by filing IRS Form 1023. Before a SIG applies for tax exempt status, however, it must first be legally incorporated.
There are key advantages to incorporation and securing tax exempt status. Some advantages to nonprofit 501c3 status include:
- Shields board members, officers, and employees of the organization from liability for corporate debts or lawsuits against the organization
- Allows donors to deduct their contributions (recognizing, however, that contributions to a separate 501(c)(3) would not be eligible for Yale reunion or Yale Alumni Fund recognition)
- Grants exempt status for the organization from federal, state, and local income and sales taxes
- Requires a constitution and bylaws for good governance
- Provides a formal structure for effective operating procedures
Fundraising and Donor Recognition
The Yale Office of Development offers a broad array of giving opportunities – by school or department, gift purpose, capital campaign priority, or dollar amount – touching every area of the university. In many cases, the needs of shared interest groups can be met through these many opportunities.
Many shared interest groups, however, want to raise funds to support their programs. Over the years our classes, clubs, schools, and shared interest groups have supported their programs through dues, annual funds, capital campaigns, and special events.
Shared interest groups should be aware that contributions made to a 501c3 organization other than Yale (should the SIG be an independent 501c3 or is seeking to be) are not contributions formally acknowledged by the university. In these instances, the SIG, as a 501c3, must issue its own tax acknowledgement letters to its donors and file appropriate IRS forms, incurring the necessary administrative work on the part of the organization.
The Yale Alumni Fund, a separate entity reporting to the Office of Development, recognizes only those contributions made to the Fund itself, within which there are many ways to designate gifts, such as financial aid, facilities renovation, faculty support, library collections, and undergraduate life. A donor of $1,000 to a SIG, for example, would not be recognized as a Nathan Hale Associate in the Alumni Fund.
All gifts made directly to the university are given class reunion credit.
Gifts made to independent 501c3 shared interest groups and clubs are not given reunion credit.
Shared interest groups should consider the following in deciding an appropriate fundraising course of action:
- SIGs should recognize and give precedence to the fundraising priorities established by the Yale Board of Trustees (also known as the Yale Corporation), recognizing that it has many competing interests to balance and that the board, all of whose members are alumni themselves, have the best interests of the university at heart.
- As Yale is a diverse and multifaceted institution, it is helpful for all SIGs to first consider established channels for supporting the institution, principally the Yale Alumni Fund.
- Alumni are being solicited by an ever-increasing number of organizations within Yale. This can be frustrating to many donors and contributes to donor fatigue. If a SIG decides to raise funds, whether through dues, contributions, or special events fees, its message – its case for support – should be clear, concise, and well-focused, taking into account the needs, interests, and priorities of the donors. Fundraising for fundraising sake creates confusion and mismanaged expectations.
- Gifts to a shared interest group will not count for reunion credit.
The YAA is required to review the fundraising goals of shared interest groups and offer suggestions on appropriate strategies and best practices before any such fundraising is approved.