As club funding boards such as the Student Governing Board and Community Impact are raising concerns about the thought that goes into the funding allocations, some groups are turning to outside sources to keep their coffers full.
The two funding alternatives student groups have turned to—money from other areas of Columbia and corporate sponsorship—provide some solutions but can also create new difficulties for the groups.
According to Activities Board at Columbia President Paula Cheng, CC ’08, one reason many groups are finding it difficult to meet their expenses is that the number of students groups covered by the board has expanded while the student life fee that covers club funding has remained constant.
“We’ve expanded by six to eight groups per year over the past few years, and our groups are expanding too,” Cheng said.
Publications including the Blue and White and the Columbia Undergraduate Science Journal have looked not only to local businesses for additional funding but also to bigger corporations and to alternative institutions within the University.
“We’ve always been funded by ABC,” said Melody Chou, SEAS ’08 and president of CUSJ. “It’s definitely not enough money ... which is why we’ve been trying to get our own funding.”
Chou explained that the CUSJ had contacted Johnson & Johnson and other big companies for donations and had some interested parties, but that they were stymied because they could not accept corporate donations without having a gift account, which is a requirement for clubs to accept corporate donations.
“There was just a lot of red tape,” she said, explaining that to open a gift account to receive corporate gifts, a club has to write a proposal and “have the check in their face,” before anything can happen.
The Blue and White is one of the lucky few that has a gift account. The magazine is planning an alumni event in the spring that staffers hope will help them “utilize the gift account and make use of the fact that is exists,” said Jessica Cohen, CC ’09, publisher of the Blue and White.
Cheng explained that groups were stuck because while ABC could not give much extra money, the difficulty inherent in establishing a gift account made it so that they could not appeal to outside corporations for extra funds.
Another avenue that some clubs have been exploring is looking to other areas of the University to get money for their projects.
The Blue and White, for example, is looking to apply for grants from the Office of Multicultural Affairs, CUArts, and Earl Hall to help aid in their financial needs, including an effort to print on recycled paper.
Cheng also stressed the importance of such avenues of funding, noting that the Kraft Fund, the Provost Fund, CUArts, and different departments within the University will sometimes sponsor events for clubs.
Cheng said that the most important aspect in getting additional funding is to “always be creative. There are always events you can do without spending money, and always other places within the University to look for money.”
Club funding has always been a hot-button issue among those involved in extracurricular life at Columbia. It has been the subject of much debate among club leaders and even the stimulus for the plot of last year’s Varsity Show.
Groups’ allocations are determined in part by the Funding at Columbia University process where representatives of the incoming and outgoing student councils meet with ABC, SGB, Community Impact, and the other club funding boards to determine how the student life fees will be allocated among the boards for the year. Several student leaders have called the process into question this year, and Cheng said that one of the problems is that the student life fee has remained constant for the past few years.