Student groups pursue alternative funding options

by David Anderson

Size matters is a lesson student groups learn in trying to find the funds to keep their activities and programs afloat during the school year.
Other than competing for a share in the same $16 million pot allocated by the Student Services Fees Committee, the 31 fees-receiving groups must also compete for the same campus-oriented grants and sales to supplement their incomes.
While larger campus organizations use the resources they already have to continue growing, some smaller ones find it more and more difficult to raise the money they need in addition to the student fees to make ends meet.
“Without money, you can’t get money,” said Miss Alison, office coordinator for the Queer Student Cultural Center.
Of the estimated $32 million total budget of the 31 groups this year, about $16 million came from student fees, $11 million from sales, nearly $240,000 from grants and more than $75,000 from donations.
Seventeen groups rely mostly on student fees, while the rest make use of combinations of grants, gifts and sales to increase their coffers.
And while some groups offer nonprofit services that allow them to increase their budget through sales, others have no choice but to rely on grants and donations, a less consistent fund-raising method. For example, the Queer Student Cultural Center has been unable to obtain certain grants because it does not have tax-exempt status.
“I think that it becomes a frustrating thing, and it’s discouraging when there’s no money to start with,” Alison said. “People are so tight for money, they don’t want to give up their money to a student organization.”
Members of the University chapter of Habitat for Humanity, a groups that works toward affordable housing and against poverty, have had difficulty getting the money they need to continue operating. They did not receive any student-fees funding this year and relied entirely on gifts and grants for their $19,500 budget.
“Unless we receive better types of funding, we’re really afraid our group would go stagnant and maybe even die,” said Laura Taken, the group’s president.
Other groups are able to find enough funding sources to suit their needs.
“We have several places where we apply for grants,” said Julie Yolder of the American Indian Student Cultural Center. “I don’t see (larger associations’ fund-raising methods) as a problem.”
Not all groups have negative gripes about their finances beyond student fees. Although minority cultural centers have similar reasons to be concerned about the issue, members said they are content with what they received.
A number of minority organizations receive Coca-Cola Campus Life Initiative grants, a program that gives priority to programs and projects that promote diversity and enhance the community. But on average, outside funding represents only a small portion of their budgets.
For example, $52,000 of the Minnesota International Student Association’s $58,000 budget this year was generated by student fees.
“We’ve gotten what we asked for,” said Erica Goetzman, the association’s secretary. The association supports a number of smaller international student groups.
Other groups have no reliance on grants or donations. Boynton Health Service, Radio K and the International Study and Travel Center are University organizations that can raise money through nonprofit sales and services to add to their student-fees allocations.
Radio K receives money from federal and state funding because its public-radio status forbids board members from seeking advertising dollars. The University-based station uses underwriting as an alternative means to finance itself. More than 80 percent of Radio K’s estimated $542,000 budget for 1999-2000 comes from outside funding.
“(Fund raising) is never easy, but we’ve been more successful lately than we’ve been in the past,” said Andy Marlow, the station’s manager.
More than one-third of the travel center’s estimated $240,000 budget for this year comes from outside funding. The center, a campus organization that actively promotes international opportunities for University students, sells international identification cards and photographs.
And while the larger groups have the staff to generate the financing, members of smaller groups must also compete with academics and other activities to find funds.
“I think it’s definitely more difficult for students to organize fund raising just because they’re busy,” Alison said.