Student conservation group expands across state, achieves non-profit status

Assistant News Editor

In an effort to expand community service and environmental conservation efforts, the Human Environmental Animal Team (H.E.A.T.) recently became classified as a non-profit and is implementing chapters at other schools across the state.

H.E.A.T. was founded in 2010 at Texas State with the vision of providing community service, humanitarian work, environmental conservation and animal welfare to the student body, according to the organization’s mission statement.

The organization became a non-profit Jan. 17 when it received official approval from the Texas Secretary of State office. With the new non-profit status, H.E.A.T. will now be a tax-exempt organization and donors can write off their gifts, said Ian Smith, H.E.A.T. co-founder and Texas State alumnus.

H.E.A.T. will grow to include a total of 10 chapters at different Texas universities and high schools by the end of the semester, Smith said.

“We wanted to start off just doing service work and volunteer work,” Smith said. “As the years went by, we started more chapters and defined our niche a little better.”

Currently, there are H.E.A.T. chapters at Texas A&M University, Southwestern University and Austin College in addition to the original at Texas State, Smith said. The organization has one chapter at a Houston-area high school and hopes to implement two more at other high schools in the upcoming months. The University of Texas is in the process of creating a H.E.A.T. chapter and will have official organization status next semester, Smith said.
Members of the organization consulted with lawyers for more than a year to file appropriate paperwork needed to become a non-profit, Smith said.

To qualify as a non-profit, an organization must have three members serving on a board of directors, write a mission statement or purpose and pay a $25 filing fee, said Natalie Berko, H.E.A.T. co-founder and Texas State alumna.

With non-profit status now granted, H.E.A.T. members are in the process of establishing a larger board of directors and creating bylaws to fill out tax-exempt forms for the IRS, Berko said.

Courtney Eberhard, environmental studies sophomore and Environmental Committee director, said H.E.A.T.’s new non-profit status will have a significant impact on the community.

“If whoever you are approaching thinks you are just some group of kids, maybe they’ll help you,” Smith said. “If they realize you’re a group of kids who have been devoted enough to turn a small club idea into a start-up company or non-profit organization, there’s a whole other aspect of credibility earned.”

H.E.A.T.’s funding currently comes from member dues and donations from students, friends, family and local leaders, Smith said. Members are discussing ways to fund the organization’s operations in the future under the non-profit status. Smith said he hopes to eventually be able to pay student leaders of H.E.A.T. for their services.
Co-founders Smith and Berko both graduated from Texas State last May, but are still focused on expanding the chapters to more universities, Smith said.

“My goal for H.E.A.T. is to become a company, and we want the organization to actually become an entity that can really sell activities to students,” Smith said.