Elon’s Student Government Association vice president of finance is responsible for allocating SGA’s $436,000 budget to student organizations on campus — with the help of Elon’s finance board. Senior Megan Curling, the vice president of finance for the 2022-23 term, said this year, SGA funded 104 organizations and 497 events.
SGA’s $436,000 budget is paid for by student activity fees. For the 2023-24 school year, all full-time students will pay $292 for student activity fees.
SGA has a reserve funding budget of $436,000 as well. This budget also comes from student activity fees and is used less frequently for larger-scale projects. Curling said in order for this fund to be used, SGA has to pass legislation — such as for the outdoor infrastructure legislation passed in 2021. This included funding for the adirondack lawn chairs on campus, the string lights outside of McEwen Dining Hall and fire pits across campus.
Curling said one of her goals going into this school year was to allocate at least 75% of SGA’s budget by the end of the academic year in May, as well as get more student organizations to request funding.
According to Curling, the finance board surpassed its goal and has allocated 80.15% of its budget as of April 4. Last year, SGA allocated 65.6% of its budget, while they allocated 33.9% the year before that due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the 2019-20 school year — the first year SGA allocated money to organizations by event request model — SGA allocated 77.8% of its budget.
Prior to the event-by-event request model, SGA allocated a larger sum of money to each organization who requested funding at the beginning of the year, based on each organization’s projected events and budget.
Curling said while SGA’s budget can vary year to year, the goal of SGA and the budget is to be able to meet all of the needs of the student body. Any money that isn’t used in a given school year is reallocated to Jon Dooley, vice president of student life, to use for larger projects that are more student facing.
“It's not like we're ever going to set this ridiculous budget that it becomes this crazy competition to get it,” Curling said. “A little bit of that room is purposeful, but I think as we get further out from the pandemic, we understand more about how this campus operates. Post-pandemic we'll get an annual allocation that has a higher percentage utilization and we'll have just a better idea of what event by event funding looks like.”
In order to increase funding, Curling made it a priority to be transparent with everything she did and stay in close communication with student organizations. This year 14 organizations requested funding from SGA for the first time.
“I've joked that like 75% of this campus has my phone number now,” Curling said. “Because that was just something that I wanted to be very clear that if anyone had questions there should be no hesitation and no barrier.”
Gabby Gutierrez, vice president of finance for the 2023-24 school year, said she wants to build on the relationships Curling created with student organizations. Gutierrez has previously served on both the finance board and in the senate and has helped different student organizations she’s been a part of to submit budget requests. She said through this experience, she understands both ends of allocating funds.
“One of the ideas that I had was to have different members of the finance board go to the org fair and also be almost a liaison between the Finance Board and the student orgs to be just someone that they could easily go to if they have any questions about funding,” Gutierrez said.
Gutierrez also said to help student organizations as early as possible — noting that if any new student organizations are created, she wants to create a meeting and explain the allocation process in person early on. This year, a more personal style of training is something Curling found to be successful.
Curling started the year the same way previous people in her role have: by presenting to treasurers of student organizations at the beginning of the fall semester on how to request SGA funds. From there, something new Curling did was hold two separate training sessions in the fall semester where she was able to answer more specific questions. Curling said while only one organization came to each session, which was initially disappointing, it allowed her to be more personal in a way that wouldn’t be possible with a larger group.
“It also gave me a chance to sit one on one with someone for 25 minutes and talk to them about what they could and couldn't use our funding for, which I think was more beneficial than it would have been if a lot of people would come so that was really nice,” Curling said.
Curling said SGA’s budget has not been a barrier to meeting student organizations’ needs. According to Curling, 61 events were rejected and 55 events had the amount requested adjusted before approval. Requests were rejected or modified if they didn’t meet SGA’s guidelines for funding. An example of this is events not meeting SGA’s spending caps. As per SGA’s finance bylaws, the finance board isn’t able to allocate more than a certain amount for specific items such as meals, flights and gas.
Another goal for funding is to make sure funds are being evenly distributed across organizations. Curling said the organizations who received the most funds in the fall were Black Student Union, Asian-Pacific Student Association, Model UN, Cinelon and Hillel.
“That was something this year that we're kind of planning ahead, knowing that as we get further out we might be getting more and more critical with budget requests, knowing that more groups are going to be asking for more money,” Curling said. “We've been trying to work with the groups that are requesting more to have really open lines of communication and prep them.”
Curling said with these five organizations receiving the highest amount of funding, it is important to look critically at why this is the case. She said both Model UN and Cinelon tend to have larger conferences or projects to fund, which cost more, and the other three organizations all serve minority communities across Elon whose needs might otherwise not be met.
“You're creating a community that appeals to students who don't have as many organizations and so they tend to be concentrated,” Curling said.