SGA explains club funding procedures
As of May 25, there were 82 clubs registered with the Student Government Association (SGA), and more have been approved since the beginning of the current academic year. Nearly every club on campus receives funding from SGA, but not all of them have the same access to those funds.
In general practice, SGA does not refuse to approve a club once its proposal has been placed on that week’s agenda. In order to get on the agenda, SGA members may ask the leader of a proposed club to clarify the group’s goals or to confirm that their goals cannot be accomplished by working within an existing club. SGA Parliamentarian Morgan Lingar ’13 makes these determinations, working with these leaders to further define their proposed club’s role on campus. Thus far this year, SGA members have not denied a club a place on the SGA budget, but they have asked club leaders to clarify their group’s purpose.
“A couple [of] years ago the way we used to do funding for SGA was that they gave every club a certain amount of money and said, ‘Do what you want with it,’” SGA Treasurer Lane McVey ’12 said. “What they found was that a lot of people were using that money not in the most efficient way….Not really doing things that benefitted the whole campus.”
This system put SGA in significant financial deficit. SGA had no further supervision over the money that it distributed. Giving clubs these set amounts up front, in combination with SGA’s own necessary functional expenditures, depleted SGA’s funds. This left no financial safety net for SGA to fall back on, should unpredicted bills turn up at the end of the year after all its money had been spent. This caused SGA to accumulate debt. Over time, the SGA treasurers have been able to eliminate this debt, finally coming completely out of the red last year.
Under the new system, McVey said that only “the big three” have an “institutionalized budget.” These clubs are The Colby Echo, the student radio station WMHB and the Colby Outing Club (COC). The Echo and WMHB have fixed budgets, while the COC’s budget is re-evaluated monthly.
Over 50 percent of the SGA budget is used by “the big three” and the SGA operational/discretionary funds. One way that the operational/discretionary funds are used is to sponsor or co-sponsor events on campus with the Student Programming Board (SPB), the Pugh Community Board (PCB) and other large campus groups. PCB funds many of the multicultural events on campus, though its budget is much smaller than SGA’s budget.
“The reason those three have [institutionalized budgets] is because the Echo and WMHB need that money to operate,” McVey said. The COC “spend[s] far and above what the other clubs do, and also they’ve been around the longest and they have the most students interested,” she said. “It just made the most sense, since they take trips every weekend, to just say, ‘Here, you have your own treasurer. It won’t help you if we’re micromanaging all of this.’”
All other clubs are required to submit funding requests through a new online system at least a week in advance of their proposed expenditure. Every Monday night, the student-run SGA Finance Committee reviews the requests and other funding issues. Each request is thoroughly reviewed, and every cent of the expenditure must be accounted for in the request. SGA rarely approves requests to fund snacks for club meetings and club-members-only items such as T-shirts. However, SGA wholly supports requests for funds that support on-campus events that involve many people in the College community. The Finance Committee considers when, where and why the event is being held, who is likely to attend or be interested and what benefit the event would have for the campus community.
SGA also considers whether the event would achieve the goals that SGA has set for the year. This year, these include “improving Colby-Waterville relations, school spirit and improving the welfare of students,” McVey said.
Requests for funding are taken on a case-by-case basis, and some are approved based on distinct situational factors. For example, the Financial Committee sometimes pays for club snacks if it is the club’s first meeting and they are trying to attract new members.
“We really don’t deny a lot of requests,” McVey said. “We modify a lot of requests.” The Finance Committee has asked clubs to modify their requests, suggesting using meal credits to get food from the College Dining Services and asking other students if they can help out. McVey cited an instance where a club wanted to hire a professional photographer but decided to find a student on campus that enjoys photography and had the appropriate equipment.
Some clubs also earn revenue to balance against the money they request from SGA. These include the performance groups on campus such as Powder & Wig and Broadway Musical Revue (BMR).
The Finance Committee also looks into budgeting larger SGA expenditures, independent of the clubs, to fund improvements to the campus if they have a surplus of funding.