What is a 501(c)3 and why are we different from other organizations?
A 501(c)3 corporation is considered a public charity and receives certain benefits from the Federal Government that are critical to our success and how we operate. We are considered a charitable organization because we support the art of Music which is a benefit to not only our members, but to society as a whole. We received this status when the rules for who could have it were very different. We keep this tax status and recognize that it makes us different from peer organizations because it allows us to take tax deductible donations and participate in special benefits. However, that also means that it bars our organizations from anything that looks like politically partisan or anti-government speech, and it ties our efforts to our mission as an educational organization. Other Greek and national organizations on your campus may have different tax classifications and would therefore have different rules that allow them to do political organizing or campaigning, to support or endorse a political candidate, to advocate for a political party, or to spend money for partisan causes. Please remember, as an individual citizen you have a right to do all of these things, but you should not do them as a representative, intentional or not, of our organizations.
Can my chapter be involved in a protest or organized march/activity?
Yes, but with some important considerations:
- A call for participation should be made as individuals, and not as a chapter, so that you do not intimidate someone or make them feel like they do not have a choice in their participation. You can express your thoughts about participation in a chapter medium like a listerv, but the ultimate decision to participate should be made as individuals.
- As you plan to participate, you should not wear Sorority or Fraternity paraphernalia like the letters or symbols of our organizations or clothing that identifies you as a member of our organizations. This is to ensure the organizations’ fidelity should you or those around you venture into political speech or find yourselves in the midst of a dangerous or escalating situation.
- We feel it important to also mention that your safety is of utmost importance. Unfortunately, no matter your intentions, others may seek to do harm to you or those around you. You should exercise good judgement, care for others and for yourself and remain vigilant at all times.
How can my chapter be involved in donations to other organizations?
Donations to organizations and causes can be made by the chapter if they have been voted on and approved by your Director of Bands. The only restriction regarding donations on behalf of Tau Beta Sigma is that we cannot donate chapter or national funds to groups that are labeled “527” organizations. These are political advocacy committees that expressly advocate for the election or defeat or a candidate or party.
Personal donations made by members of your chapter outside of chapter funds do not put the organization at risk. This effort does not require a formal vote nor approval from your Director of Bands.
Always review the background of who you are donating to so you can be sure that you are actually donating to a cause and not to a political group, lobbying organization, scammers, or a partisan group. If you are unsure please contact your District Counselors or National Council for guidance, and we will work with you on the best way to proceed and help you investigate how to best donate.
How can my chapter make a call to action publicly or online?
Calls to action in any form need to avoid partisan or anti-governmental issues as defined by federal and state agencies. Similar to donations, public calls to action should be voted on by your chapter and approved by your Director of Bands. If you are concerned that your call to action may veer into a partisan space, please reach out to your District Counselors or National Council, and we will assist you. As a reminder, an individual citizen’s calls to action are different from a chapter’s calls to action which should require the chapter to meet, discuss, and approve what is said on their behalf.
How can my chapter decide what it should and should not post online or say publicly?
Your chapter should agree to any post or public outreach that is being done on behalf of the entire chapter. While you may all verbally agree, a vote is necessary to put it on the record and to allow those who are not comfortable to express their concerns, ask questions, and voice any disagreement. You must create an environment where someone can disagree and still be supported and welcome. That is what our Rituals require, so that may mean swift action is not possible until Sisters and Brothers have a chance to be heard. In addition to an official vote, your chapter should also have approval from your Director of Bands.
How can my chapter talk about national, local, and campus issues outside of band?
Please be sensitive to the fact that not everyone is in the same place on their life journey or share identical values to you. Ask questions, provide an open space for dissent or criticism, educate yourself, and identify resources that can be discussed or read before a meeting so everyone understands the same context. This is an area where your campus faculty can be essential as they do public advocacy and collaborative work as academics. They can help provide resources to educate your chapter and guide individuals to find their voice and express their beliefs and values grounded in knowledge and history.
This guidance has been provided as a resource for our chapters so that they can be advocates for Black Lives Matter and other issues facing our country.
Any questions regarding this resource should be directed to your District Counselors, or to the Tau Beta Sigma National Council, Council@tbsigma.org.