Special Interest Groups (SIGs) are a primary means of implementing ASCO’s mission of “fulfilling the leadership role in the optometric education enterprise” and for addressing the Association’s Strategic Objectives of faculty development and faculty involvement. They are a practical way to meet special needs and interests within the optometric education enterprise.

SIGs provide forums for professional staff, administrators and faculty with common responsibilities to communicate directly with each other about issues related to their areas of interest and expertise.

SIGs encourage interaction, cooperation and the sharing of expertise and experience.

General Criteria for Establishment of SIGs

To be recognized as a SIG, a group needs to meet the following general criteria:

  • Have a stated mission, goals and objectives consistent with ASCO’s mission and strategic objectives that are best served through a broader body of individuals with common academic or functional needs and interests
  • Have activities that will benefit from structured participation within ASCO
  • Have operational business to conduct between meetings

Application and Approval Process

  • SIGs are initiated by faculty or administrative staff based on an identified need. SIGs are not initiated by the ASCO Board.
  • A potential SIG must have at least 11 faculty or administrators with positions directly related to the SIG’s special interest declare their interest in ASCO establishing a SIG.
  • The SIG’s initiator is encouraged to submit an application at least three months prior to an ASCO Board of Directors meeting.
  • Formal recognition of a SIG is reserved to those groups with an ongoing purpose consistent with the ASCO’s mission and strategic objectives.
  • A potential SIG must submit an application addressing the “General Criteria for the Establishment of SIGs” as described in this framework.
  • ASCO staff will provide the completed SIG application to the responsible standing committee for review, feedback and action. If the committee recommends approval of the SIG, the committee will present a motion for approval at the next scheduled Board of Directors meeting.
  • ASCO Board of Directors must approve the application prior to establishing the SIG.
  • The SIG initiator can serve as interim SIG chair upon approval of the SIG and can serve in this capacity until the first SIG meeting, when a formal election will be held.

General Operational Framework and Organization

SIGs operate within the organizational structure of the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO).

All SIGs:

  • Adhere to the basic operational framework. The ASCO Board may also approve variances as appropriate.
  • Are assigned an ASCO Board Liaison who is invited to participate in SIG programs.
  • At a minimum, SIGs appoint or elect a chair, chair-elect and program chair/program committee responsible for developing programs and raising funds.
  • Understand that only SIG participants from member institutions may serve in leadership positions and vote, if applicable.
  • Report activities and provide expert counsel and policy recommendations to the assigned ASCO Standing Committee.
  • Set agendas but adhere to special requests from the Board of Directors.
  • Plan at least one annual program or activity and ensure that the ASCO staff liaison is informed of that activity.
  • Establish and maintain a data base of participants, which is shared with the ASCO staff.
  • Provide a written summary or minutes of each meeting to ASCO staff for distribution to the Board and for ASCO’s Eye on Education newsletter.

Criteria for SIG Participation

The Dean, President, or Chief Academic Officer at ASCO member institutions identifies or confirms the individual with primary responsibility for the function or teaching area represented by a SIG as the primary designee.

When a program is externally funded, a SIG may limit funded participation (i.e., one-two participants from each member institution) and set participant travel reimbursement limits. The Deans and Presidents may authorize additional participants if the institution or other sources provides funding.

Participants may also be associated with organizations affiliated with a school or college of optometry such as residency supervisors at external sites and adjunct faculty, or others. SIG chairs are permitted to invite additional participants from ASCO member institutions providing that SIG has enough funds to cover those additional participants. Other persons not affiliated with a member institution may be invited by a SIG to participate at the SIG’s or individual’s own expense.

Funding and Management/Administrative Fees

  • SIGs may be partially supported directly with ASCO operating funds, by the schools and colleges, by program registration fees or by external sources.
  • SIGs that raise less than $15,000 in the previous fiscal year will receive a base amount of annual funding to help support a meeting during the Academy or another national organization’s meeting. The support level is set by the ASCO Board of Directors as part of the annual budget process (currently $1,000 – use or lose).
  • External funds may be required to support program efforts of SIGs. External funds raised for SIGs are reserved for SIG purposes.
  • SIG leadership works in tandem with the ASCO Director of Meetings and Special Interest Groups, as well as the Director, Development in fundraising efforts (see “Fundraising Responsibility” below).
  • A baseline level of staff services (see “Volunteer Leadership & Staff Services” below) will be provided at no cost to all SIGs upon request.
  • A second tier of staff services (see “Volunteer Leadership & Staff Services” below) will be provided on a fee-for-service or project basis.
  • SIGs can charge registration fees for programs. Registration fees will be used to offset expenses and are reserved for SIG use.

Volunteer Leadership and Staff Services

SIGs are volunteer driven organizations. Volunteer leaders are responsible for developing programs and working with ASCO’s Director, Development in raising funds to support them (if applicable). While most SIGs will operate on essentially a minimal staff support basis, others will request or require more staff services.

Baseline Services

ASCO provides a base line of staff services to all SIGs upon request at no fee including:

  • On-going coordination of SIGs.
  • Financial services such as accounting, auditing and professional investment advice.
  • Limited meeting organization, planning and on-site meeting services for breakfast or luncheon meetings held in conjunction with the Academy or AOA Congress.
  • Communication assistance including editing ASCO newsletter articles drafted by volunteer leaders promoting and reporting the SIG.
  • Basic web site services – defined as posting of the ASCO SIG reports, SIG contact person information, and scheduled meetings.
  • Offering of communication tools and online meeting registration is available to all SIGs.
  • Management of specific SIG projects (e.g. Ethics Award, grants, etc.)

Extensive Program Services

ASCO can arrange for more extensive staff services from ASCO staff, or a contractor, chosen by the ASCO Executive Director on an annual basis for SIG workshops/conferences or special projects.

The SIG will subsidize such services from its own outside funding and/or program registration fees. The program subsidy is based on the annual income of the individual SIG interested in such services.


  • Complete meeting organization, planning and on-site support (including staff expenses) for stand-alone workshops, meetings and conferences supported largely from external contributors (i.e., Clinic Directors/Administrators, Ophthalmic Optics Educators, Low Vision Educators).
  • Management of specific SIG projects that go beyond basic services.
  • Web page development (part of ASCO website) and maintenance beyond the “basic website services” defined above. Services will be provided by ASCO staff.
  • Development of special promotional materials for SIGs.

Tiers and Subsidy Levels

Previous FY Year Annual Income                              Program Services Subsidy

                $75k and above                                                               $10k

                $25k – $75k                                                                      $5k

                $10k – $25k                                                                      $2.5k

External Contributors

External support is essential for SIGs sponsoring independent workshops and special projects. SIGs will define the role and access of external contributors at externally funded meetings based on a SIGs’ needs and what is most appropriate to meet those needs.

SIGs are often supported by ASCO Corporate Contributors. Companies funding SIG activities that are not ASCO Corporate Contributors will be required to become a corporate contributor within one year of the sponsored event. A special exception may be granted on an individual basis for a SIG with limited opportunities for corporate support that receives a contribution of less than $5,000 (the current, basic Corporate Contributors program funding level) from a single company.

Individual SIGs will determine the role of corporate and other external contributors at funded workshops and other events. Generally, contributors will be provided time to present at the event, attend educational workshops and participate in planned social events (as determined by the SIG leadership). They generally do not attend SIG business meetings.

Fundraising Responsibility

SIG leaders work in tandem with the Director, Development, to determine potential SIG Corporate Contributors. SIG leaders should notify the Director, Development of funding needs at least 6 months prior to a meeting (12 months is encouraged).

On-going follow-up and coordination with Corporate Contributors is the responsibility of the ASCO Director, Development. The support of SIGs is included on the ASCO list of available funding options for participants in its  Corporate Contributor Program. SIG Chairs are strongly encouraged to send thank you letters to corporate contributors following a SIG activity.


Approved by the Board of Directors on October 22, 2013