Setting up your School’s parent and alumni associations for success

In response to increased social and regulator expectations, many schools have done the hard work of improving their governance frameworks and processes in recent years. Unfortunately, some schools’ related organisations (including the parent, alumni and sporting associations) have been left behind in these governance reforms.

School parent, alumni and sporting associations are generally managed by caring, enthusiastic and well-intentioned parents and members of the school community. With guidance and support from their school, these associations can play a key role in building thriving school communities, fundraising and providing ancillary school services and activities.

The following considerations can help school parent, alumni and sporting associations to effectively pursue their mission, reduce the potential for disputes and ensure good governance.

Support is key

Associations are generally run by volunteers with limited time and resources and potentially less governance experience. Schools can offer administrative support, practical resources and assistance with navigating the governance landscape.

Reputations are interlinked

While a school and its associations may be legally separate, their reputations are inextricably linked. Schools need to consider the risk that issues arising in an association could impact the school community as a whole and the school reputation.

Privacy is critical

Associations may obtain member details from the school (including details of alumni and parents). This must be carefully managed to ensure that both the school and the association comply with their privacy obligations in relation to dealing with private information and the provision of private details held by one entity to the other. Some associations still deem individuals to be members (such as an alumni association that automatically adds all school leavers to its member database). These associations may breach their privacy obligations if they add the contact details of these “deemed” members to their register of member details (as the register must be provided to a member that makes a valid request for access to the register).

The devil is in the detail

Each association will have a governing document – being a constitution, trust deed, or a memorandum/articles of association. Many members (and even some committee members) of the association will never read this governing document, even though it is a legal contract. These governing documents are often out-of-date and do not support best practice governance. Governing documents should be reviewed regularly to ensure that they are up to date, are fair and reasonable, are consistent, and reflect the values of the school and the association. A governing document can also establish ties back to the school that can be invaluable if the school needs to intervene to support a failing association. The governing document should also be supported by appropriate policies (such as a conflict of interest policy) that promote good governance.

The committee must understand their obligations

Not-for-profit associations are subject to increasing regulatory scrutiny and operate in a complex legal environment. There can be serious consequences for non-compliance – both reputational and legal. Committee members of school associations would benefit from an induction process and ongoing training to help them to understand and comply with their obligations. This should be supported by appropriate insurance coverage to reduce the risk of exposure to personal liability.

If a school parent, alumni or sporting association has:

  • appropriate administrative, practical and governance support from its school;
  • clear, well-thought out and compliant policies and procedures;
  • a governing document that is up to date, easy to read and reflects core values; and
  • a committee that understands their governance obligations and responsibilities; then

the association will be well placed to make a positive contribution to the school community.

How we can help

Moores can help if you have any questions about your schools’ parent, alumni or sporting associations.

Contact us

Please contact us for more detailed and tailored help.

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