Student Association gives groups budget tips

Student leaders outlined alternative ways to raise money for second-semester activities in a townhall Monday night, offering solutions to groups that have already spent their allocations.

More than 100 students picked up tips for making the most of grants, local business partnerships and alumni networking in the Student Association’s finance-focused event, which was part of a heightened outreach campaign to help groups adjust to this year’s overhauled allocation process.

“It was a way to educate student orgs on ways to get funding outside the SA,” John Bennett, chair of the SA Finance Committee said, adding that he hopes groups can adopt a “more self-sustaining revenue model, and not have to be so dependent on SA funding.”

About 85 percent of the SA’s $950,000 budget was doled out at the beginning of the year, a significant increase from the 50-percent allotment given out upfront in past years. The SA Senate approved a revamp of the allocation process last April, seeking to give organizations cash on hand earlier in the year to cover large costs like speaker contracts.

But getting used to the SA’s revamped financial process has been difficult for some student groups.

After receiving $1,500 during fall allocations, the Philippine Cultural Society has struggled to keep pace with its spending as it enters the second half of the year, forcing the group to turn down recent opportunities due to a lack of funding.

“I found it difficult to plan things coming up that we didn’t consider before,” one of its members, sophomore Emmeline Ha, said.

When the group was invited to sponsor a youth leadership panel at the Embassy of the Philippines in December, members had to scramble for a co-sponsorship – grants from GW organizations to support specific events.

Ha said the group was able to secure enough funds from a Student Association co-sponsorship to host the event sometime this semester.

Midway through the year, the SA co-sponsorship pool has about $85,000 left. When explaining this figure earlier this month, Bennett said he anticipates “many groups will find that the budget they came up with months ago won’t quite cover all the programming that they had intended to offer,” but believes the SA’s budget will cover most groups’ requests this spring.

Though SA funding has steered away from giving out sums throughout the year under the new front-loaded allocations process, Associate Dean of Students Tim Miller urged student groups to seek out other co-sponsorships from across the University.

Six internal organizations regularly give out money to support campus events, including the Mount Vernon Programming Council, the Residence Hall Association and the Marvin Center Governing Board, which has only spent about one-fifth of its annual budget to help fund student events in the building it oversees.

Groups can also apply for grants from the Student Dining Board, whose Sodexo-supported funding pool doubled to $30,000 this year. The Public Service Grant Commission, a program supporting social entrepreneurship, also has $30,000 to give out this year, and the winners of GW’s phone drive – part of the Clinton Global Initiative University – can earn up to $3,000.

Students can raise money in partnerships with area businesses like Crepeaway and FoBoGro, both of which offer a percentage of store earnings to groups that help attract customers.

Aria Varasteh, vice president of student activities for the SA, said he was surprised by the high rate of attendance at the finance event, which he said shows how hard organizations are willing to work for their funds. He lauded the event as the SA’s most successful townhall this year.

“Any time a representative from a co-sponsoring organization provided figures as to how much money they had left for the year, or contact information, I could hear the sound of pens on paper,” Varasteh said.

The SA Finance Committee will complete its mid-year review of student organizations this weekend, taking a holistic look at how groups spent their money last fall. Student groups must submit detailed budgets for second-semester spending and an itemized list of all fall expenses by Jan. 27. Groups who do not comply will be fined at least 15 percent of their leftover funds.

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