Affinity Group Realignment

Terms of the University of Chicago Alumni Association Affinity Group Realignment

The affinity group program was based on a pilot model, instituted in 2009 to strengthen the connections that alumni have with the University of Chicago and with each other. In addition to regional clubs, affinity groups represented a way for alumni to organize around industry or professional interest, shared identity, or a shared University student experience. During the course of this program, many affinity groups saw an organic, local formation, as they began to build their membership. While this development was essential to start the program, individual groups have experienced many challenges regarding mission, communication between groups, staffing, and other resources.

Today with more than 8,000 members in the affinity group program, we are at a critical point to share research, challenges, and best practices on enhancing the effectiveness of these networks. With contributionsfrom alumni volunteers, the Alumni Board of Governors, and Alumni Association staff, this document outlines a more formal approach to the affinity group program, emphasizing a national or global cohesion amongst groups.

Composition of affinity group members

All affinity groups are national/global in scope and represent one or more of the following:

  • industry or professional interest
  • shared identity
  • shared University student experience

Though affinity groups have specific missions, membership is open to all University of Chicago alumni, parents, and friends. Affinity group membership is determined by:

Any alumnus/a, friend, or parent coded as a member in the Alumni Association Directory (Griffin)
Requests to join, which includes individuals attending affinity group events, logging into the affinity group's UCCO site, or making a request in any other communication mechanism.

Complications with local/chapter model
Currently the affinity group program is comprised of the following:

  • 11 affinity groups
  • Over 8,000 members globally
  • 53 affinity group chapters
  • 262 active volunteers

While a few groups have developed a national volunteer model, many exist as separate, local chapters in Tier 1 cities (metro areas with larger alumni populations) without a cohesive national structure. This has presented the following challenges:

  • Lack of consistency in communications and programming from chapter to chapter
  • Competition within affinity groups for faculty and alumni guest speakers, communications, and budget
  • Limited communication or access for alumni who do not live in a city with a chapter
  • Overlap in alumni audience with regional clubs, campus partners, and schools/divisions
  • Strain on Alumni Association staff and Alumni Board of Governors supporting boards of multiple chapters instead of one affinity group.
  • Diminished resources with inconsistent distribution

Changes to program
Our affinity group model has grown enormously since its inception. To facilitate the highest quality alumni engagement and programming and overcome the challenges outlined in this document, this realignment seeks to accomplish:

  • Increased communication between cities/areas where affinity groups have a presence
  • A cohesive identity for each affinity group
  • Programming consistency between cities/areas
  • Better brand recognition for the affinity group program within the greater alumni community
  • Improved access to support and resources
  • Increased membership growth by removing barriers to regional efforts
  • A sustainable infrastructure to maintain each of the current affinity groups

Affinity group development

An affinity group will be considered in development until the following have been completed:

  • Commitment of 5 alumni volunteers to form a Board of Directors
  • Held two steering committee meetings
  • By-laws submitted and approved
  • University of Chicago Community Online (UCCO) site launch
  • Launch event in conjunction with the Alumni Association held

For current affinity groups that have not yet reached these milestones, the Alumni Association staff liaison with work with volunteer leadership to complete them.

Composition of affinity group volunteer leadership

Comprised of a national/global Board of Directors (elected) and a committee (not elected) who represent the geographical areas where the affinity group has a programming presence. Board of Directors may also chair and serve on regional committees where appropriate.

Board of Directors

  • Each affinity group shall have (1) board of directors,m which includes a minimum of 5 officer positions (President, Vice President, Program Chair, Secretary, Communications*). If the group is engaging in fundraising activity, a Gift Chair would be appropriate.
  • Affinity groups that have a presence in multiple cities should have a chair for that city (e.g., Chicago Women's Alliance - NYC Chair)
  • The Board of Directors should not exceed 14 volunteers, Committee membership has no limit of volunteers
  • Board of Director Officer positions shall be for 2 year terms
  • All other Board of Director (at-large) positions shall be for 1 year
  • Affinity groups are expected to maintain a University of Chicago Community Online (UCCO) page for their group
  • *Each affinity group is required to have a minimum of two Head Administrators for their UCCO page. These duties encompass much of the communications chair role (including website maintenance, newsletters, and email communications), and can either be incorporated into the role of an existing office, or added as an additional board role.
  • Board meetings should be held quarterly and always be remotely accessible.

Regional Committee

  • Regional efforts shall be coordinated by the Board of Directors chairs for their city. The chair will oversee volunteers in the regional committee
  • As the affinity group and alumni wish to expand the presence of the group into additional cities, volunteers shall join the affinity group's regional committee and will be eligible to run for a position on the board of directors at the next election cycle, The affinity group Vice President shall serve as a liaison to committee members in different geographies
  • Committee members shall commit to a 1 year term, but do not need to be elected. Committee members are not part of the Board of Directors
  • Regional committees of affinity groups are expected to liaise closely with their corresponding regional club

Next steps for current affinity groups

  • Alumni Association staff liaisons will schedule meetings with volunteer leaders to start working on recommended transitions, if any
  • volunteer leasers should participate in the next affinity group call in April 2014
  • Alumni Board of Governor affinity liaisons will continue to serve as a resource for affinity groups during and after this transition
  • For affinity groups with more than one president or committee chair (in other cities), officers shall serve as co-presidents until the next election cycle
  • All alumni currently servicing in volunteer leadership roles will be considered part of the affinity group's board of directors until the next election cycle
  • Volunteer leadership that does not wish to realign their commitments to the Board of Directors structure will be given an opportunity to move to committee members-at-large status.
  • Regional chairs are ultimately responsible for the programming in their own cities
  • For affinity groups with a presence in multiple cities, a consolidated meeting schedule should be created
  • In order to complete this transition by the end of the fiscal year and allow all affinity groups to be on equal footing for FY 2015, affinity group transitions are to be completed by June 30, 2014