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Parent and Alumni Associations

Alyssa Keehan, Esq.
October 2020
Factors to keep in mind when events are organized or sponsored by independent schools’ parent or alumni groups

Your independent school’s parent and alumni associations can be invaluable resources for fundraising, enlisting volunteers for extracurricular activities, and fostering loyalty. But these associations should be clearly focused on supporting your school’s mission, and the relationship between the associations and your school must be clear. If not, your school could be held accountable for mismanagement of donations, personal injuries at a poorly planned event, and contracts of which you are unaware.

Organizational Structure

In “Parent Associations for Independent Schools,” the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) describes the relationship between schools and these groups as a “partnership.” NAIS defines the role of parent associations as “advancing the cause of the school and contributing to a positive school climate” and notes that “adversarial relationships have no place in independent schools.”

NAIS urges administrators and boards of trustees to approve the association’s mission statement and bylaws to ensure close cooperation and control over association activities. NAIS also recommends these groups report to and operate at the direction of the school’s board of trustees.

Review state laws in developing the articles of incorporation or bylaws of parent or alumni groups. When these groups are not separately incorporated, your school may set up financial accounts to receive funds and pay expenses arising from any events. However, these events must be consistent with your school’s nonprofit status.

Event Management

Keep the following in mind for events organized or sponsored by parent or alumni groups:

  • Approval. Develop a procedure for parent and alumni groups to propose fundraisers and other events for review and approval by your school’s business officer and/or board of trustees. Event approval also may include review of promotional materials and use of your school’s name, logo, or trademark. Ensure all funds are accounted for and deposited into the designated association account.
  • Insurance. Consult with your insurance broker to confirm whether liability and other insurance policies will provide coverage for parent or alumni association activities. In many cases, the association will need to be named as an additional insured on your school’s policies.
  • Contracts. Your school’s business officer should review all contracts involving an unincorporated association. Ensure contracts with third parties properly indemnify your school and provide adequate insurance coverage.

Safety Practices

Use good risk management practices at association-sponsored events. Among the areas deserving special attention:

  • Prevention of slips, falls, and other accidents by visitors
  • Alcohol service management
  • Accommodations for disabled attendees
  • Child care
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