Philanthropic Funding: Is Our Student Activity Money Being Put To Good Use?

Everyone knows about Campus Kitty and the fundraising events they hold on campus for non-profit organizations in Central Arkansas. However, what students might not think about is how Campus Kitty and other philanthropic student organizations are funded.

Students pay $175 a semester as their Student Activity Fee. This money is pooled together to create the Student Activity Fund, from which Senate allocates funding every spring to various student organizations via the Spring Allocations process.

Recently there has been student concern raised that philanthropic clubs, which use Student Activity money to host events, “double charge” students by requiring an admission fee.

Freshman Leah Crenshaw is the Freshmen Senator and serves on Senate’s Financial Committee (FinCom). She explained that FinCom tries to be responsible with Student Activity money, and thus is hesitant to give much funding to events and groups that might not be able to engage enough students to justify the allocation. This spurred Senate to change the way philanthropic clubs as a whole receive funding, to go into effect during this year’s Spring Allocations period.

The new model is that Senate will loan these clubs the money they need, and then that amount will be paid back after the event or activity. The club keeps whatever is left after the loan is repaid. There is also a minimum limit for the loan: if the event raises $100 or less, then that club does not have to pay Senate back. Crenshaw points out that with the rule change, philanthropic clubs that request Senate funding will be far more likely to receive it since the Student Activity money will be paid back. Smaller organizations will be able to request money to hold bigger events because of these changes, even if they don’t have the same name recognition of more established philanthropic student organizations on campus. One such organization is Campus Kitty.

Junior Kendra Schwartz is the Vice Chair of Campus Kitty, in addition to serving as Village Senator. Her perspective is that as well-intentioned as the change may be as far as student concerns over “double charging,” this new funding model will definitely affect how Campus Kitty operates going forward.

“Basically what this is going to turn into is we might not be able to help as many people [as we have in the past], as we won’t make as much,” Schwartz said.

She hits at an important point about nonprofits: if costs increase, the amount of money for charity dramatically declines.

It could be argued that in the past, philanthropic student organizations have not always operated along the lines of “real” non-profits, in that their costs were subsidized by Student Senate. Still, not every organization has had the benefit of such financial support. This rule change helps smaller fundraising clubs that have not always had much help from FinCom. Yet this change might also have unintended consequences for such groups. Smaller clubs would benefit from more funding, but they also have much smaller margins than clubs like Campus Kitty.

A perfect example is Advocates for World Health (AWH), which focuses on helping hospitals in traditionally underserved communities. Junior Alysha Hemani serves as AWH President, and she has a unique take on the change. As a fairly new student organization, AWH has had to figure out how to raise money without much Senate funding for events—the precise reason for the new loan model. However, she argues that the model could be an obstacle in and of itself.

“Raising money is not as easy as it sounds,” Hemani said. “People think, ‘Oh, do a bake sale and you’ll just get money automatically,’ but if you use money [for supplies, etc.], that comes out of your fundraising money.”

This brings up an important philosophical question for the Hendrix community: How should we best support these student organizations that do great work raising awareness and money for important causes? This rule change raises that question and offers a possible answer. While the debate will no doubt continue on how to best allocate Student Activity money, in the meantime we students can continue to find ways to support our big-hearted fellow Warriors and the hard work their student organizations do.

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