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2019 Top 10 30-Something: Thomas Cluderay

Top Ten 30 Somethings

Photo: Thomas Cluderay with his Top 10 30-Something award at ACC's 2019 Corporate Counsel University.

Yellowstone Forever, the official nonprofit partner of the world’s oldest national park was formed in 2016 when the Yellowstone Association and the Yellowstone Park Foundation merged. The organization’s mission is to raise funds and offer educational experiences that connect visitors to Yellowstone National Park, which largely stretches across the lakes, mountains, and geysers of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho.

Thomas CluderayThomas Cluderay, 35, joined the new organization post-merger as its first general counsel and was tasked with leading risk management efforts and overseeing compliance across multiple departments while helping to integrate the two legacy organizations.

Philanthropic support from partners like Yellowstone Forever have long enhanced federal funding of national parks. For example, Yellowstone Forever is raising funds to renovate overlooks and trails in the iconic Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

As a park partner, the organization is bound by guidelines like Director’s Order 21, which stipulates how the organization can fundraise for the park and recognize donors. This directive was revised during Yellowstone Forever’s integration period. Under Cluderay’s leadership, the organization was one of the first nonprofit partners to secure a comprehensive fundraising agreement under the updated guidelines, a potential model for other nonprofit park partners around the United States. 

Yellowstone, with its wild populations of grizzlies, bison, and elk, in addition to winding roads and boiling pools, creates a unique set of risks. Even more mundane challenges like overlapping state agencies and IRS rules, and potential government shutdowns, can complicate operations in one of the most remote places in the United States.

Cluderay quickly moved to set the new organization on the solid path by creating a multidisciplinary team that prioritizes risk-management information sharing among stakeholders. “The biggest thing, particularly for a new organization, is who needs to be in the know, in what sequence, and who has the authority to give buy-in when managing something in real time,” he explains.

From December 2018 to January 2019, the longest government shutdown in history occurred, and the Yellowstone Forever team had to stay in close contact with the National Park Service while also communicating expectations to staff. Cluderay, alongside the chief of staff, vice president of operations, and chief marketing officer, provided real-time recommendations to Yellowstone Forever’s president and CEO through this period. As a result of Cluderay’s and the team’s advance legwork, a situation that could have been chaotic proceeded in a smooth and orderly fashion.

Cluderay splits his time between the nonprofit’s offices in Bozeman and Gardiner, Montana and his home in Washington, DC. In 2016, he was voted onto the ACC National Capital Region Chapter’s board and currently serves as the ACC Nonprofit Network’s secretary. His involvement in ACC has generated compelling programming like a workshop where network members improved their organizations’ conflicts-of-interest policies.

Along with the network’s sponsor and other members, he created a nonprofit events risk management workshop that maps out how to structure a nonprofit event from start to finish, and all the risks that could derail it along the way. “I was really excited to see the idea become a reality and that it was well received by members, which was really rewarding,” he recalls.

Cluderay, who grew up backpacking in the Appalachian Mountains west of Charlotte, North Carolina, has always considered himself a conservationist of public lands. That he has an opportunity to protect one of the world’s great natural treasures is an obligation he doesn’t take lightly: “With a profound love for the outdoors, learning stewardship starting with Boy Scouts, and then through law school and the environmental conservation space, I am deeply grateful to work for Yellowstone Forever.”

More 2019 Top 10 30-Somethings

Fernanda Beraldi

Brian Buckham

Lewis Dolezal

April A. Goff

Sadeq M. Kahn

William K. Piotrowski

Melissa Reiter

Alana C. St. Aude

Erin K. Stewart

About the Author

Joshua H. Shields is the managing editor of the Association of Corporate Counsel.

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