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The Boarding School

Advise youth-led startup nonprofit on 501c3 roles and restrictions

Help the first and only nonprofit in the U.S. working to get young people on governing boards across industries.

Posted September 18, 2020

Background & Context

The Boarding School is a nonprofit created by and for young people, working to improve the highest levels of institutional decision-making by recruiting, training, and placing young leaders on governing boards of the organizations closest to them. Part of this work involves supporting community-led campaigns working to place young people on elected governing boards. That we know of, The Boarding School is the first organization to set up an infrastructure for supporting board election campaigns aligned with its mission, and we seek advice on best practices for staying within the boundaries of our possible involvement with them as a 501c3. So far, The Boarding School has housed two projects of this kind: Harvard Forward and Yale Forward. Harvard Forward (HarvardForward.org) was created in 2019 as an effort to elect recent alumni to the Harvard Board of Overseers on a climate justice and inclusive governance platform. Once The Boarding School was incorporated, it became the legal entity housing the Harvard Forward project. In August 2020, Harvard Forward won three of the five seats up for election — the first time ever that petition candidates have won a majority of seats in an election, and the first time since 1989 that any petition candidate has been victorious. Yale Forward (YaleForward.org) is The Boarding School’s second project and Harvard Forward’s sister campaign, aiming to elect Maggie Thomas – a Yale School of the Environment ‘15 alumna and climate policy advisor to U.S. presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Jay Inslee – to the Yale Corporation on a climate action, endowment justice, and inclusive governance platform. In September 2020, the Yale Forward campaign qualified Thomas for the 2021 Corporation election ballot with nearly 4,500 alumni petition signatures – well over the 4,394 required, with three weeks to spare before the deadline – making her the first woman to qualify via petition since the signature threshold was increased by nearly 1000% in 2003. As TBS projects, Harvard Forward and Yale Forward share resources and knowledge around university board elections, as well as an ability to fundraise across the country, hire staff, and access legal and HR support as needed.

Immediate Problem

The Boarding School is currently focused on empowering college and university alumni, students, staff, and faculty to organize around the election of young people to their institution’s elected boards. Universities have a unique, direct impact on young people, and in some cases, their boards hold fiduciary responsibilities to the institution and are elected by alumni. While higher education is a great starting point for The Boarding Schools’ campaigns, young people are also vastly underrepresented in boardrooms across industries. As we think about expanding beyond private organization boards to boards of public organizations with private electorates, we seek legal guidance on possible future parameters of our work.

Work & Deliverables

The Boarding School needs a lawyer to write a 1-2 page memo outlining the ways in which its formal support for community-led board election campaigns at private or public organizations with private electorates, falls within its role as a 501c3 organized and operated for charitable and educational purposes. This will require an understanding of both The Boarding School’s campaign work, in addition to 501c3 roles and restrictions. With regards to the first, this volunteer work will entail an initial briefing from The Boarding School’s Executive Director and board members, as well as an expectation of familiarity with The Boarding School’s website. Following this call, the lawyer would research relevant definitions and regulations within IRS code, pulling out the boundaries of 501c3 status and how The Boarding School can stay within them in a draft memo. The Boarding School Executive Director and board members would provide up to two rounds of edits on the memo before including it as part of The Boarding School’s documents and policies on its website, with the lawyer’s name, credentials, and contact information attached.
Project Plan

Preparation Phase

  • Intro briefing with Executive Director and board members
  • Familiarize with The Boarding School’s Campaigns FAQs and attached links

Collaboration Phase

  • Research regulations that might govern 501c3 support in private board elections
  • Discuss with The Boarding School team how do its work within those parameters
  • Draft 1-2 page memo outlining how our work, as discussed, falls within IRS guidelines
  • Round of edits on draft memo

Wrap Up

  • Add memo to The Boarding School’s website with volunteer lawyer’s name, credentials, contact info

This project is complete!

This project has been completed thanks to the efforts of our volunteers.

Visit the Project Directory to check out other projects that still need your help!

Additional Information

  • Time Commitment: 6-10 hours
  • Training Provided: No
  • Site-Preference: Remote
  • Open to Law Students: No
  • Bar License(s) required: Any Bar License
  • Required Languages: None
  • Signup Deadline: October 2, 2020
  • Deliverables Due: October 23, 2020
  • Mentoring Provided: No
  • Supervision Provided: Yes
The Boarding School

The Boarding School is a nonprofit created by and for young people, working to improve the highest levels of institutional decision-making by recruiting, training, and placing young leaders on organization governing boards. Founded in 2019, our work is divided into two main areas. First, we design and execute educational programming that provides young people a knowledge toolkit to leverage their lived and professional experience in boardrooms across industries. Second, we empower university students, alumni, faculty and staff organizing to elect Young Trustees to their governing boards on platforms that are important and directly relevant to their communities. With regards to the latter, The Boarding School's first two projects are Harvard Forward and Yale Forward: coalitions of Harvard and Yale alumni, students, staff, and faculty working to elect diverse slates of recent alumni to the Harvard Board of Overseers and the Yale Corporation, respectively, on platforms advocating for fossil fuel divestment, reserved seats for Recent Alumni Trustees, and socially-responsible investment guidelines. Last week, Harvard Forward succeeded in electing three petition candidates – a majority of the five seats open – to the Harvard Board of Overseers, increasing alumni voter turnout by 7k+. Yale Forward is likely to achieve the required 4,394 alumni signatures to qualify their candidate, Maggie Thomas, a former climate policy advisor to US Presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Jay Inslee, for the 2021 Yale Corporation election ballot by this coming Monday. The Boarding School held its first Young Trusteeship Crash Course for prospective and current Young Trustees in August 2020, with presentations and workshops from former chair of the Harvard Board of Overseers Joan Hutchins, the Intentional Endowments Network, and 2016-2020 Princeton Young Alumni Trustee Azza Cohen. In the less immediate future, The Boarding School aims to build out a consulting services arm that works with companies and organizations whose actions disproportionately impact young people to better incorporate a youthful perspective in their governing boards and decision-making processes.

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