Sunday, April 24, 2011

Douglass Alumni Association Name Change: "The Name's the Same"

The Douglass Alumni Association in Kingsport has a new name.

It's not a difficult name to remember.. all you need to do is know the first line of the school song. Or, remember the Alumni Association's website address.

The new name is "Sons and Daughters of Douglass."

Or, more precisely, the "Sons and Daughters of Douglass, Inc."

"We had to change the name of the Douglass Alumni Association in Kingsport, in order to be incorporated as a non-profit with the Tennessee Secretary of State's Office, which we now are," says Alumni President Douglas Releford. "We needed to change from a non-profit association, and it's a situation that you Calvin, first alerted us to, two years ago when you hand-carried our application to Nashville to the state office to be processed."

Turns out, there is ANOTHER Douglass Alumni Association, this one in Memphis, Tennessee. It commemorates the Douglass High School, an all-black high school on Olive Street in Memphis that is still in operation.
To see that Douglass High School's website, click here. That school, too, is named after the great African-American orator, journalist and statesman Frederick Douglass. The Douglass High School in Memphis began in 1940, 12 years after the Kingsport school was formed, but the Memphis school alumni were first to get their alumni organization registered as a non-profit corporation in Tennessee, with the name "Douglass Alumni Association, Inc." That automatically keeps anyone else in Tennessee from registering with that name.

The Secretary of State's Office registered the Kingsport group as a non-profit "association," not a "corporation," simply because the alumni group in Memphis was first to get the name.

"I didn't realize how difficult being a non-profit 'association' instead of a non-profit 'corporation' was, until we started applying for various grants and federal funding programs," Releford says. "Grant program administrators give you more consideration if you're a corporation. We kept getting denied, denied, denied, and then I figured we weren't doing something right."

"I called the Secretary of State's office, and sure enough, just like what happened to you Calvin, I gave them our name 'The Douglass High School Alumni Association,' and the lady said, 'well, you're already incorporated.' I told her, 'no, we weren't' and she proceeded to read off the names of the president, vice president, treasurer, and I said, 'no, those are not the names in our group.' She said, 'you're not located in Memphis?' and I said, 'no, we're in Kingsport.' She read further and then said, oh yes, we do have you, but you are not on the Secretary of State list as a corporation, you're an association.'"

"That explained why we were always getting denied on grant and funding applications."

"I knew then, that we had to make a change to get on that incorporation list."

According to the Internal Revenue Service and the Tennessee Secretary of State's office, the Kingsport organization could not have the same name as another corporation; hence the name change.

Being incorporated, now opens many doors for the Kingsport group.

"It boosts our status as an I.R.S. non-profit agency," says Releford, "because we're now eligible for different funding programs. If you're not incorporated, you're not on the Secretary of State's list, meaning you're not on the I.R.S. list of non-profit corporations and when you go to apply for grants, that's the first thing they look at, is the Secretary of State's list of non-profit corporations. If you're not on that list, you're not even considered for any type of grants."

"We're now able to apply for funding programs to do things that we want to do in the Riverview community," Releford says, "to help out some of our young children, get them on even footing, and get some study grants where we can do some after-school work and help the students in our community. We can also be a help to our seniors with programs that we can do in the neighborhood, without them having to go elsewhere for those programs. Our alumni will also benefit from the programs we will be able to fund."

"Above all, the 'non-profit corporation' status helps people who want to donate to our group," Releford says. "If they give us money, we can furnish them with our non-profit corporate tax I.D number, and they can claim the donation as a tax deduction. That will be the first thing we tell them."

Releford says, the Kingsport alumni organization had no choice, but to incorporate. "We needed to have the incorporation to bring us under the state's umbrella of non-profit corporations to get federal grants and programs, and also to allow people who donate money to us, to claim it as a tax deduction."

"The name change was necessary to make sure that the state knows, we're not the group from Memphis," he says. "We don't want to apply for a grant, and the money go to Memphis by mistake."

Much like the V.O. Dobbins Community Center is now the V.O. Dobbins, Sr. Complex, people will still refer to the Kingsport group as "The Douglass Alumni Association" out of habit, but the name change means there's one thing the Memphis folks won't have.

The knowledge that the folks in KINGSPORT, Tennessee are the true "Sons and Daughters of Douglass."