“Congratulations, you’ve been elected to the hardest eboard position!” Deputy Treasurer of SAAC junior Cole Okuno declared at the beginning of the business manager training session of Fall Leadership Training. Okuno and SAAC Treasurer junior Murimi Kanyogo went on to explain the multitude of business manager responsibilities while I attempted to take notes and photos of slides that seemed important. This was my first time as a business manager and my first year on the e-board of a club, so I was admittedly quite nervous as to how the year would go.
I am the business manager for UR’s chapter of Habitat for Humanity, a non-profit organization dedicated to building affordable houses. The club has spent years raising money toward a massive goal of $10,000 to fund a house in Rochester, and we have a solid chance of reaching our goal this year! However, for that to work, we obviously need our fundraisers to be successful, something more easily said than done. Our first and biggest fundraiser of the year is Build-a-Thon, which usually relies on donated materials from local construction companies. Every club’s budget this year is the same as their approved budget for the 2019-2020 school year, with no account given to how COVID-19 may have changed the club’s financial requirements. This makes it incredibly difficult for clubs that rely on the generosity of others for support.
Habitat’s co-fundraising chairs reached out to nearly 20 construction-related businesses asking for donations or discounts, with the majority saying no or never responding with an answer. Only one location, ReHouse Architectural Salvage, was able to donate some small supplies. The pandemic clearly caused economic struggles for many businesses, which I’m assuming left many businesses unable to donate. I couldn’t even get Salvatore’s to donate a few pizzas after visiting them in person, calling many times, only to finally be told to email someone, and for said person to not respond to my email. We gave up on supplying food at our event, but we couldn’t proceed without the construction materials. Our current budget of $60 for supplies just wasn’t going to cut it. Our only options were to cancel the event (as some people suggested) or to apply for supplemental funding.
Thankfully, after weeks of online forms, multiple meetings, a hearing, and more forms, we were able to receive supplemental funding and purchase all the supplies we needed. Unfortunately, now we only have one more supplemental funding request for the entire year. If you want an exception to this rule, you must have more meetings and fill out an exception form to attempt to override this limit. While I’m grateful that the supplemental funding process exists, it was quite time-consuming and stressful for me to balance on top of the ever-increasing workload of my classes. I would have appreciated it if SAAC and SOFO had anticipated potential challenges to club events with our economic situation and allowed clubs to submit an updated budget at the end of spring 2021 that would have helped clubs adjust to hosting their pre-pandemic events in what is still an ongoing pandemic.
The only other money in our budget is for a pie sale and two bake sales, one of which none of the older e-board members have any recollection of. Any new fundraisers the club wants to try must cost us nothing, which severely limits our options. The current slow-moving budgeting and funding processes can be incredibly frustrating and limiting, especially when clubs that rely on SAAC funding want to branch out and try new events that aren’t in the budget for the entire school year. If more flexibility was provided to organizations’ budgets to account for the circumstances posed upon them, it could kickstart significant impact within the University and the Rochester community at large.