The Student Activities Commission held its semesterly Budget Summit last weekend to allocate approximately $300,000 to over 130 clubs for spring 2020.
SAC is a funding and advisory board that distributes money to student organizations. It is part of a wider system of funding at Georgetown University controlled by the Georgetown University Student Association senate finance and appropriations committee. The FinApp committee received $1,092,000 this year from the $84 Student Activities Fee that all students pay each semester.
This club funding system is complex but has a major impact on club programming, campus visibility and student life. While many clubs fall under other advisory boards with slightly different processes, SAC allocates the most funding to the most groups.
How Does Club Funding Work, Really?
The FinApp committee divides $1,092,000 among nine bodies, including seven advisory boards: SAC, Georgetown Program Board, the Georgetown University Lecture Fund, the GUSA executive, Media Board, Performing Arts Advisory Council, Campus Ministry Student Forum, Center for Social Justice Research, Teaching and Service Advisory Board for Student Organizations and Advisory Board for Club Sports.
Advisory boards work with the vice president for student affairs to oversee student organizations and their role on campus. These advisory boards act as umbrella organizations that distribute funds among various kinds of student groups.
SAC received roughly $320,000 from the FinApp committee for the 2019-20 year, according to SAC Chair Max Curschmann (COL ’20). SAC also received additional funding of approximately $84,000 from the vice president’s Office for Student Affairs and approximately $8,800 in a Coke grant.
Of the nearly $400,000 in funding that SAC receives, roughly $300,000 is allocated for its budget fund and roughly $100,000 goes toward ad hoc and travel funding. Student organizations can request ad hoc funding for larger, more expensive events, according to Curschmann.
Any club with Access to Benefits — which means it is university-approved to receive campus resources — is able to apply for SAC funding via a Google form sent out at the start of each semester. Clubs have until 5 p.m. on the Thursday before the Budget Summit to submit their funding requests.
Fourteen student commissioners serve on SAC, and each commissioner works directly with a portfolio of seven to 11 student groups. The commissioners serve as a resource for student groups and inform them of their final budget allocation.
SAC works to be transparent with its funding process by publicizing its weekly meetings and Budget Guide, which lists SAC policies, according to SAC Commissioner Jake Galant (SFS ’20).
“While many students think SAC is a black box, we actually have a very open process, and students can look at our weekly minutes or see our Budget Guide where we lay out all of our policies,” Galant wrote in an email to The Hoya.
How Does SAC Decide How Much Funding to Give Student Groups?
When deciding how to address each club’s budget requests, SAC looks at the club’s previous two semesters of approved funding. SAC places each organization into a funding tier, taking their prior funding history into account.
Each tier represents a range of funding and each club’s funding is labeled as low, no designation or high. These tiers correspond to the 25th percentile, 50th percentile and 75th percentile of funding, respectively.
The tiers give SAC an effective safety net during the budget summit by preventing the possibility of allocating more funding than is in the total budget.
These tiers provide flexibility for SAC to adjust the final funding allocation for clubs. But SAC has not recently run into this issue, as it has received adequate total funding, according to Curschmann.
A club’s upper funding limit is determined by the highest budget a club received in that time. The highest spring 2020 budgets allocated at last weekend’s summit were $6,000, granted to Georgetown Midwest Club, the Asian American Student Association, African Society of Georgetown and the Ballroom Dance Team.
SAC takes a holistic view when considering higher than usual funding requests from clubs that historically have larger budgets in one semester over another, according to Curschmann.
“So we get that their Fall 2019 budget is like a lot lower, but historically their spring budget has always been a lot bigger,” Curschmann said.
SAC may conduct budget cuts when organizations applying for funding do not follow the Budget Guide.
How Can Clubs Receive More Funding, If Needed?
Often, clubs may not initially receive funding for certain large events because SAC can address these events with its ad hoc funding, Curschmann said.
“We say come back for our ad hoc funding, and then they’ll get full funding then,” Curschmann said. “We just found historically that when groups do come in for ad hoc funding, it’s more accurate, the dollars are used more efficiently and that’s just more transparent as well as where all the student body’s money is going.”
Clubs are notified of their allocated funding for the following semester via an email from their assigned SAC commissioner. Clubs have one week after being notified of their funding to appeal the allocation amount.
This semester’s budget summit adequately addressed the needs of Georgetown Renewable Energy and Environmental Network, according to GREEN President Amelia Walsh (SFS ’20).
“We usually request about the same amount each semester, and we usually budget for about 7 events of about $100, and then extra money for general maintenance (with teams working on bees and gardening, we often have a lot of maintenance needs),” Walsh wrote in an email The Hoya. “We have been happy with our interactions with SAC this year.”
Students should have a vested interest in the work that SAC does in allocating club funding, according to SAC Commissioner Clay Volino (SFS ’22).
“Ultimately I believe the purpose of SAC funding is to give clubs the resources they need to build community within Georgetown. Students who care about that should care about SAC funding,” Volino wrote in an email to The Hoya.
Hoya Staff Writer Riley Rogerson contributed reporting.