As of Jan. 1, student philanthropy organization, Impact, will be absorbed by the Student Alumni Associates to create a single group which will give more attention on university fund-raising.
"UT alumni have some of the poorest donation rates in the SEC, and Impact was founded on the idea that much improvement can be made if UT students are educated on the importance of giving back before they graduate," Zach Luze, senior in finance and former SAA Projects Chair, said.
Impact will bring its philanthropic goals to SAA, adding a new function to the 32 year-old alumni relations organization.
"At first I was pretty skeptical," Maya Wimmer, junior in economics and Impact member, said. "I didn't want Impact's mission to be lost in translation. But after speaking with other Impact members, I'm excited for the change. UNITE has managed to hold its own, so Impact should [not] be any different."
Luze agreed that the changes bring a mix of reactions from members of Impact.
"Impact members were, not surprisingly, a bit taken aback at first," Luze said. "They are the founding members of Impact, and are very attached to what they have worked so hard to build. However, once they were assured that Impact's mission will still be very much alive within SAA, I believe many became more comfortable with the idea."
Because Impact is a young organization, formed only a year and a half ago, many of those affected by the merger appreciate the attention the SAA name will bring to the group.
"Not everyone knew about Impact, but SAA is a name that everyone recognizes," Wimmer said. "This merge will propel the visibility of Impact."
Both Impact and SAA serve to improve relations with UT alumni and raise support for the university through various events and fundraisers. Due to similarities in the two organizations' goals and functions, the administration decided their purposes would be better served by a single, united group.
"From Impact's creation, there was a natural tendency for the two organizations to collaborate on events - I Heart UT Week being one example - and these combined efforts always yielded great results," Luze said. "After evaluating the situation, I think the alumni office grew disillusioned with this arbitrary wall placed between the two organizations, and decided to make them one, unified force."
Despite the benefits of combining the organizations touted by the administration, Luze said that the changes are being met with some hesitation from SAA.
"There is some trepidation about how the Impact mission will change SAA programming and events, but I think any anxiety is coupled with an equal sense of anticipation," he said.
Once Impact is brought into the SAA fold, members of the latter organization will participate in several Impact events. In addition, active members of Impact will be invited to become members of SAA.
"Having served on the executive board of both SAA and Impact last semester, I was privileged to interview both SAA and Impact candidates concurrently, and saw many Impact members who I thought would make wonderful SAAs, and vice versa," Luze said. "To see both of these extraordinarily passionate and talented student groups together is really exciting."
Following the changes, Impact will no longer have a separate recruitment process, but will draw its participants from the ranks of SAA.
Although it brings major changes to both organizations, Luze expects the combining of SAA and Impact to further each group's ultimate goal.
"I have absolute faith in the merger," Luze said. "Now Impact's mission can benefit from SAA's larger budget, membership pool and track record of extraordinary service to the University of Tennessee."