For the Student Association, it’s all about presentation.
In the first seven weeks of school, the SA Finance Committee received 34 co-sponsorship requests from student organizations, a 78 percent increase from the same time last year. The committee’s leader said the increase is a result of organizations submitting detailed co-sponsorship requests and groups being better prepared to present requests to the entire committee.
Co-sponsorships are student organization initiatives that are funded, at least in part, by the SA. Just five groups received the exact dollar amount they requested from the SA in May and co-sponsorships are how the SA can fund specific events or initiatives.
Sen. Nancy Mannebach, U-At-Large and chair of the finance committee, attributed the uptick in requests in part to OrgSync, the online platform for student groups which makes requesting funds easier to do, for anything from the Philippine Cultural Society’s 30th Anniversary celebration to a banner for GW Ballroom Dancing.
The new site is a dramatic change from last year when student organizations filled out a spreadsheet to request a co-sponsorship, which meant they could leave spaces blank, she said. This year, the form cannot be submitted until groups answer every question.
Mannebach said in the past, some student organizations have struggled to effectively present their requests to the committee because student leaders spend too much time explaining why their cause is important and not enough time fleshing out how they’ll spend the dollars they hope to be awarded by the committee.
“You have to recognize your audience,” she said. “If an organization just tells us about the speaker and importance to the University, that’s important, we want to see it in a few bullet points. The real core is the breakdown of the cost. We’re the ones making the financial decision.”
Early expenditures last year included $25,000 for Judy Smith, the woman who inspired Kerry Washington’s character on “Scandal,” to speak at the Black Heritage Celebration in February, as well as $10,000 for the Center for Student Engagement OrgSync subscription.
By the first week of October last year, the finance committee had allocated nearly a quarter of its co-sponsorship budget. But this year, the committee has spent just 17 percent of that budget. Even without the OrgSync subscription and Judy Smith allocation, the average request in the same period last year was about $1,800, approximately $300 more than this year.
Mannebach said more realistic and specific requests are a result of communicating with groups between the time they submit their request and the day of their presentation to the committee.
If finance committee members understand exactly why groups request the dollars they do, and are convinced that the group has done everything it can to be cost-effective, Mannebach said they are more likely to receive a co-sponsorship.
She said over the summer, Students for Recovery initially requested $12,000 for recovery month events, and after nearly two months of negotiating with vendors, the group’s request for $5,000 was granted in full.
“They know what questions they’ll be asked in front of the committee,” she said.
Mannebach said the most effective presentations are the ones that show how a group has used all of its resources and explain why it can’t fundraise for an event on its own.
“Let’s say an honorarium costs $1,500 and we never knew you haggled it down from $2,000. We don’t want to overlook all that work,” she said.
Most of the Mexican Student Association’s $900 request for funding for Herencia Mexicana, a Latino heritage celebration event, was approved last month. Miguel Torhton, the president of the group, said he received training on the criteria the SA uses for allocating funds.
“The Mexican Students Association did a great effort to come with a reasonable budget to support our event Herencia Mexicana, which was part of the Latino Heritage celebration. OrgSync made it really easy to fulfill all the requirements for the event,” he said.
The Humanitarian Mapping Society’s request for about $2,500 for climate change events was approved the first week of September. Ellie Davis, the president of the organization, said the group had never submitted a co-sponsorship before this year, but it “seemed pretty straightforward” on OrgSync.