GUSA Fund May Shift Focus
Published: Tuesday, November 6, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, November 6, 2012 01:11
Two years after its founding, the GUSA Fund is rethinking its role on campus.
Given changes in sources of funding for campus groups, the fund is looking to alter its mission from providing supplementary funding for existing groups to helping kick-start new organizations and working with groups that are not recognized by the university.
The fund, which is a branch of the Georgetown University Student Association, was established in 2010 to aid student groups that were not allocated sufficient funding by their advisory boards.
Organizations can apply directly to the fund, which is allocated a portion of student activities fee revenue, to receive additional funding for events and programming.
“It is sort of a funding of last resort. Groups come to us when they have pursued all of the other options,” GUSA Fund Chair Cody Cowan (SFS ’14) said.
During the 2011-2012 school year, the fund gave out about $32,000; this year, it will allocate about $16,000.
According to Finance and Appropriation Committee Chair Sheila Walsh (COL ’14), whose committee approves the fund’s allocations each week, the GUSA Fund’s role has changed as advisory boards receive increased funding due to last year’s Students Activities Fee Endowment Reform. This, in turn, allows advisory boards to allocate more money to their student groups.
According to Walsh, the number of requests submitted to the GUSA Fund has not fallen, but the amount of money requested on average has decreased. Walsh said that this presents an opportunity to refocus the fund’s purpose.
“Post-SAFE Reform, we’ve opened up hundreds of thousands of dollars for student groups through their advisory boards, so clearly, it’s time to take a second look at GUSA Fund and determine if there’s still that need for this supplementary funding,” Walsh said.
According to Walsh, the group is not looking to alter its charter but will instead approach its job from a new perspective. GUSA Fund members, along with the Finance and Appropriations Committee, have explored options to allow the GUSA Fund to pursue a different mission. According to Walsh, options include focusing on philanthropy, building new businesses off the ground or allocating funds to groups without access to university funding.
“Our hope is that we can still help out clubs, but perhaps this year, [we can put] more of an emphasis on soliciting applications from individual students or groups that don’t receive access to benefits,” Walsh said.
Both Cowan and Walsh emphasized that the GUSA Fund can play an important role for new organizations.
“It’s really important that the fund remain as a support system for individuals who want to do something but don’t know how,” Cowan said.
Cowan pointed out that the co-founders of the Georgetown University Farmers Market were succesful because they were able to supplement funding from a Reimagine Georgetown grant with support from the GUSA Fund.
“We were able to give them money. But, more importantly, [also] access to benefits that university student groups have,” Cowan said.
Another potential focus for the fund would entail helping student entrepreneurs gain recognition from the university. Currently, groups like H2Bro and Buyback Brothers are banned from campus. Partnering with an official student group with access to benefits, however, would allow them to operate at Georgetown, according to GUSA Director of SAFE Reform Implementation Colton Malkerson (COL ’13).
“There are a lot of students with good ideas for events, programs and initiatives, but they need funding and access to benefits,” he wrote in an email. “The GUSA Fund should provide that funding and access to benefits.”
However, SAC Chair Jack Appelbaum (COL ’14) pointed out that SAC still struggles to fully fulfill funding requests.
“Even after SAFE reform, the total funding requests for SAC groups still exceed our available resources,” Appelbaum wrote in an email. “Because we cannot fund the full needs of our student organizations, alternative funding sources [like the GUSA Fund] are certainly necessary to supplement SAC funding and help SAC groups put on excellent programming.”