MSA gives financial boost to student groups

The MSA Grants Committee will aid U groups with a $50,000 fund.

Tyler Gieseke

 

This October, UNICEF at the U planned to decorate donation boxes for Halloween.

Before they could put them in local businesses as part of the annual Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF project, they needed money for supplies.

That’s where the grant from the Minnesota Student Association came in.

To assist groups not receiving student services fee funding and to encourage new groups to start up, the MSA Grants Committee has budgeted about $50,000 this year to give to student groups in both operational and event grants. This year, MSA increased how much it could allocate to each group’s event, as well as providing more of the funds upfront.

The event grant will cover up to 65 percent of a group’s event costs, including up to half of food costs. In past years, the Grants Committee covered half of an event’s costs and didn’t pay for food.

“When an event has food, more people will come,” MSA Grants Committee Director Mac Cameron said. “We thought that was pretty important.”

Former Grants Committee Director Wesley Halseth disagreed with the committee’s decision to pay for food with an event grant.

He said there are better things for MSA to spend its money on than paying for someone else’s dinner, like getting more events on campus and getting more groups to form.

He said if a group needs to have food at an event to get people to show up, then people are likely showing up just for the food, and it probably isn’t an event that the student body as a whole needs to be paying for.

Giving out ‘all the money’

Without a grant from MSA, UNICEF at the U Treasurer Sam Mcrickard said his group would have had a difficult time raising money for children through Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF.

He said the group hadn’t really considered applying for student services fees because there’s a stigma that it’s really competitive and hard to receive funding.

“We felt like we would kind of be on the bottom of the list for that,” he said, since the group doesn’t require a lot of funds.

Cameron said the criteria for receiving student services fees are not inclusive and that groups must demonstrate their impact on campus in order to receive funding. To qualify for MSA grants, applicants must not be receiving student services fees funds.

Mcrickard said his group also applied for a grant from Student Unions and Activities to help cover the costs of Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF but was denied.

Cameron said a group might be denied an MSA grant for reasons like providing an unclear budget or not following the criteria for the grant. Roughly one in every 10 applicants is denied, he said.

“We want to give out all the money,” Cameron said.

UNICEF applied for the MSA operational budget grant, which covers up to $600 of ongoing expenses like advertising, recruitment events and even T-shirts and food.

The event grant provides student groups money to fund a one-time event. Groups can receive a total of $1,800 in event grants throughout the year.

In the past, event grants would fund up to 50 percent of an event, and groups would receive half of the money up front, Cameron said. The group would receive the second half of the funds after the event, when it filed an audit.

But Cameron said many groups had to cover the event expenses out of pocket, since the grant gave groups only a quarter of the money they needed upfront.

This year, the event grant will pay for 15 percent more of an event’s total expenses, and student groups will receive 75 percent of the funds before doing the audit.

Over time, the committee could potentially raise the total amount of an event it can fund, Cameron said, adding that in the future, he would like the committee to fund 100 percent of an event and claim full sponsorship of events on campus.

Set to launch

One of the goals of the Grants Committee this year, Cameron said, is to help five new groups start up by providing funds. He said MSA doesn’t want a lack of funds to stop a good idea from happening.

Although Rocket Team Treasurer Amir Ener said his group — which registered for the first time early in October — could likely accomplish their work without a grant from MSA, the operational budget grant it received has been extremely helpful.

Rocket Team is a group of 16 College of Science and Engineering students building a rocket to enter into the University Student Launch Initiative, a NASA contest that challenges students to launch a rocket one mile into the air.

Ener said the MSA grant covers almost the entire cost of constructing a half-scale test rocket with some leftover to spend on outreach. The group doesn’t have enough funding to complete the project, so it plans to find other sources of aid like companies that have donated to the University.

“It’s great to get us started,” he said.