Hundreds of student groups benefit from SA budget upswing

Media Credit: Sam Johnson | Hatchet Photographer

The 15 student groups with the biggest budgets now receive 40 percent of total allocations, up from one-third last academic year. 1) Seniors Alex Bonvouloir, Morgan Viehman, Samantha Zeldin splash each other with colors at the annual Holi celebration in Square 80 on Sunday.

Media Credit: Sam Johnson | Hatchet Photographer
The 15 student groups with the biggest budgets now receive 40 percent of total allocations, up from one-third last academic year. 1) Seniors Alex Bonvouloir, Morgan Viehman, Samantha Zeldin splash each other with colors at the annual Holi celebration in Square 80 on Sunday.

Lines wrapped around the Kogan Plaza block on Valentine’s Day as students waited to play with puppies brought to campus by a small student organization called GW Animal Advocates, which operated on just a $153 budget.

The group’s funding will grow by nearly 700 percent to $1,047 next year after its “Puppy Love” event brought in donations and galvanized student support. The organization is one of hundreds of student groups reaping the benefits of a 12-percent larger student fee pool and a sharper focus on programming that will benefit the whole campus.

“Basically every event we’ve had, people will walk up to us, like ‘I had no idea that there was an animal group on campus,’ and we’ve been getting that all year,” said David Myerson, the organization’s outgoing vice president. “Maybe next year we’ll stop hearing that.”

Most of the 300 groups that applied for a slice of the Student Association’s $900,000 pool will receive more cash next year, the result of an overall budget upswing that will mean more programming across campus.

The committee awarded an average of $3,809 to each group, about 30 percent more than what groups received two years ago. Just three organizations that submitted applications received less than $100, compared to a dozen organizations last year.

Some smaller organizations, such as the Chinese Cultural Association, GW Band, the Food Recovery Network and Agape Campus Christian Fellowship, received budget increases of at least 200 percent for next year.

“A lot of smaller orgs that showed they have put forth a lot of programming, had substantive programming that’s benefiting the student body, saw pretty substantive increases [to their budgets],” finance committee chair Ryan Counihan said.

Still, the 15 groups with the biggest budgets now receive 40 percent of total funding, up from one-third last academic year.

The student fee money will also go further next year after the finance committee spent weeks reviewing each group’s budget requests, bringing a sharper eye to each dollar spent.

The added scrutiny offers a clearer picture of the costs of dozens of campus events, such as the combined $84,000 for Fall Fest and Spring Fling, $32,750 for Alternative Breaks trips, $15,000 for the College Republicans’ keynote speaker and $11,000 for Greek Week.

The full senate will finalize all budgets Wednesday.

When deciding groups’ budgets, the finance committee has increasingly emphasized the impact that each organization will have on the campus-wide community.

Media Credit: Katie Causey | Hatchet Photographer
Center for Student Engagement director Tim Miller has noticed an emphasis on funding large campus events.

Center for Student Engagement director Tim Miller said he began to notice that emphasis on larger campus events three years ago amid growing calls for SA budget transparency. Previously, the SA was not able to track how groups spent their lump sum allocations. The CSE is now planning to invest in software that will give the finance committee the ability to approve specific requests and oversee how the money is used.

Miller pointed to the priority of bigger programming – like Program Board’s concerts, which received $14,000 more in funding this year – over small members-only events, administrative expenses and membership T-shirts.

Still, some of the largest campus organizations are not required to disclose each expenditure.

Umbrella groups – including the Student Bar Association, Club Sports Council, the MBA Association, the Engineer’s Council and the GSEHD Association – received a total of $178,193 to dole out to sub-organizations. Those allocations are separate from those of the SA finance committee.

Media Credit: Nick Rice | Visual Director

The Chinese Cultural Association, one of the smaller organizations that also saw a big increase, will receive $2,310. That’s up from $350 last year, and will be used to host events like the Lunar New Year’s Festival.

Outgoing president Irene Sui believes the group’s funding increase was the result of successful events like its basketball tournament, which brought together Chinese students from 28 colleges across the country, and its spring festival that brought 20 colleges together for traditional performances.

Next year, the group intends to expand its programming by partnering with other international student organizations.

“[The group] is not exclusive for Chinese but it sounds like its exclusive for Chinese,” treasurer Ya Gao said. “We probably need to expand more to make [the organization] more well known amongst the entire student body.”

Some organizations saw big dips in funding after botching their budget requests, including the College Democrats and Organization of Latino American Students, which left a combined $24,000 up for grabs.

Those groups will rely more heavily on the co-sponsorship fund – which is about $165,500 next year – to keep up the pace of their programming.

Miller said the co-sponsorship fund is a cushion for student organizations that are willing to cater their programming to a larger student base.

Miller added that student organizations will perennially claim they are underfunded, but groups’ allocations are bound to fluctuate.

“I think [the allocations] should shift every year but it has to be a measured and clear process,” Miller said, adding, “If the SA gave the same money year to year, what’s the point?”

– Sarah Ferris and Allison Kowalski contributed reporting.

This story was updated April 21, 2014 to reflect the following:
Correction appended
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that the SA was only able to track student organization expenditures through a website where groups could upload photos of receipts. The Center for Student Engagement will likely purchase that technology for the fall.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.