Funding process aids student orgs

MUSG offers funding for student organizations who apply. (Tribune file photo)

It is a well-known fact that college students have limited funds. This is even more so the case when it comes to college student organizations, which must find a number of ways to finance events and keep money in their accounts. One of these ways is the Student Organization Funding process by Marquette Student Government.

MUSG maintains a student organization fund (SOF) made up of the $30 student activity fee every student must pay each year, which they can dispense to student organizations that request funding.

Application Process

In order to get funding, there is an application process. If an organization is approved for funding, they will receive reimbursement for costs from MUSG. If a funding request is not approved, there is an appeal process.

MUSG holds office hours for organizations to receive assistance when completing the application.

Trent Carlson, executive vice president of MUSG and chair of the Student Organization Funding Committee, said that the more detailed an organization is in their application, the higher the chances are of that organization getting funded. He also said that if an organization meets with someone in the MUSG office it makes the application stronger.

“There are no hidden secrets; the more specific the better,” Carlson, a senior in the College of Business Administration, said.

Brittany Riesenbeck, financial vice president for MUSG, agreed.

“Sometimes one sentence throws off the entire application,” said Riesenbeck, a sophomore in the College of Business Administration.

She also said if an organization’s application is not approved, MUSG provides a typed response detailing the reasons for the denial.

Riesenbeck said there are three main questions that must be answered in SOF applications: how much is the organization asking for, how much are they willing to contribute, and whether the organization has the means to contribute.

To serve as a liaison between student organizations and MUSG, the position of SOF Coordinator was created at the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year.

The current coordinator, Brianna Sorensen, is responsible for outreach processes and meeting with student organizations.

Sorensen, a senior in the College of Business Administration, said her position makes the application a little less intimidating.

“In the past, communication between students and the finance department was skewed and not very good. They didn’t know who to contact,” Sorensen said. “Now they know exactly who to contact about SOF and reimbursements if they’re confused.”

Sorensen even uses her personal email rather than a more formal one to help take the edge off student organizations who may be applying for funding.

“Just to be able to put a name on an email makes it easier,” Sorenson said.

Riesenbeck said the MUSG constitution requires that SOF funding must be budgeted for at least 30 percent of the Activity Fee revenue. For the current fiscal year, the budget is set at 33.79 percent.

Joey Ciccone, president of MUSG, said that the fee is supposed to increase $1 every academic year, but MUSG can stop that from happening for a few reasons.

“With the economic hard times and overall tuition increases we decided not to increase it,” said Ciccone, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences.

There are two applications for funding: one for sports clubs and one for non-sports clubs.

“Club sports ask for a lot more money, including referee fees and coach fees,” Carlson said. “Normal organizations enrich the campus intellectually … They have entirely two different outcomes for their events so it makes sense to keep them separate.”

When a student organization is funded for events over $2,500, the Senate as a whole must approve it.

Carlson said this is designed as a check on the SOF process.

“They make sure that we’re not going crazy with the amount of funds we allocate,” Carlson said. “In the past it’s caused a lot of debate.”

As far as how much money an organization can apply for, Riesenbeck said there is no limit, though the request must be reasonable.

“Asking for $1 million isn’t going to happen,” Sorensen said.

Riesenbeck says that annual events have no bearing on whether an organization gets funding or not.

“We look at just the event, no previous historical trends. We approach each event in its singularity,” Riesenbeck said.

Fundraising also an option

Though MUSG is the central hub of student funding, there may be other ways to make money.

Sorensen said certain groups have partnerships with other organizations or campus entities. She gave the example of Active Minds, a student organization dedicated to changing the stigma surrounding mental health issues.

“(They are) correlated with the counseling center, which has a small fund and supports the club,” Sorensen said. “Some clubs may utilize (something like) that as well.”

Fundraising is also an option.

Christopher Reyes, Bayanihan Student Organizationn (BSO) president, said his organization takes advantage of of the SOF process, but turns to fundraising and donations for most of its support.

Reyes, a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences, said he does not fill out forms for SOF. He leaves that to the treasurer or the person in charge of the programming, but he understands the basics.

“I know we fill out the form, we get funded for it, we give (MUSG) receipts, and they reimburse us, ” Reyes said.

According to Reyes, BSO fundraises at least two months prior to an event. But if it is a big event, they fundraise right away, at times every week through bake sales or offering modern dance workshops.

Reyes said that one rule of thumb the organization follows is leaving enough money in the account for the next executive board.

“We try to leave enough … so they’ll be financially stable,” Reyes said.

Also important to the fundraising cause is building relationships with other organizations.

“It’s good to network and be on good terms with other organizations,” Reyes said. He said that because of the diversity of BSO’s membership, this is possible, as members act as liaisons between other groups.

Reyes said reciprocity is also a part of it successful fundraising.

“If an organization buys our things, we’ll go to (their events) and buy things,” Reyes said. “It’s always good to network and try to get your name out there.”

Quentin Menal, vice president of the National Panhellenic Council (NPHC), a combined group of African-American sororities and fraternities, said that his organization is just like any other when it comes to raising funds.

The NPHC is the creator of the annual Brew City Stomp Down, a dance step show and successful fundraiser where organizations compete for a title as champion and a $2,000 grand prize.

“Outside of the step show, we’re just like any other organization with fundraisers around campus,” said Menal, a senior in the College of Business Administration.

He said the organization uses bake sales and parties to raise money.

Menal said that in the past NPHC has used SOF funding. While Menal has no qualms with the process, he said he wishes the SOF committee funded more off-campus events, like conferences.

“It would be beneficial to the campus if organizations were able to go to off-campus conferences,” Menal said. “They could bring what they learned and bring it to life on campus.”

However, surveys taken in 2007 and 2011 by MUSG indicate “94 percent of students want to see their Student Activity Fee spent on campus,” according to the MUSG website.

Riesenbeck said that MUSG heeded the results.

“The SOF committee works towards seeing these funds/allocations go to on-campus events, as this way the  students can see their money back on campus at open and free events,” Riesenbeck said in an email.

There are five funding periods during which the SOF committee considers applications for allocations. The committee is currently in its fourth period. The deadline for the final period of the school year is March 2. For events at the beginning of the 2012-2013 academic year, the deadline for SOF applications is April 20.