Bank account program for student orgs pushed to fall


Kaycee Orwig | Senior Staff Photographer

The Cathedral of Learning and William Pitt Union.

By Donata Massimiani, Staff Writer

Accessing funds can be a difficult and time-consuming process for student organizations at Pitt, and a potential solution for these issues still remains on the horizon.

Student Government Board planned to run a pilot program this spring to provide student organizations with private bank accounts at PNC Bank, but the program was yet again pushed back and is hopefully launching in fall 2022, according to SGB member Brennan Conway.

“We’re really close and we probably could launch it now if we wanted to, but we decided since it’s so late in the semester, it didn’t really make a whole lot of sense,” Conway said. “Most clubs change their business managers over for the next year, so we thought that April is not really a great time to start something like this.”

The program, spearheaded by Conway, involves giving student organizations access to private bank accounts through PNC Bank which he said will limit University involvement in the management of their funds. He said this would allow student organizations to utilize mobile payment services such as Venmo and Cash App, and get a debit card.

“We want student organizations to have more independence and a more streamlined process for managing their own funds,” Conway said.

Conway said the idea for this program has existed for a long time, but past SGB members never made much progress. The board decided to make establishing the program a priority this year, but ran into several obstacles along the way, according to Conway.

One of the setbacks has to do with the University’s Philanthropic and Alumni Engagement division. Conway said any money an organization raises either on Pitt Day of Giving or through its Engage Pitt account is technically donated to the University for tax purposes, in order for donors to get tax write-offs.

“There were some concerns about transferring that money to an external account because under the current proposal each group would register independently with their own tax code with the state,” Conway said.

Another setback has to do with Student Affairs. Conway said most student organizations receive part of their funding through the Student Activity Fee — but all students pay this fee, not just those in student organizations. The fee is managed by Student Affairs, so SGB has had to work closely with Pitt officials to ensure this element of the project aligns with “what they wanted,” according to Conway.

“Any money that does come from the Student Activity Fund, there will be a variety of bylaws and guidelines that they have to follow, but they will still get to make the purchases themselves and things like that,” Conway said.

George Shiarella, the business manager for Pitt’s Running Club, said he signed up for the pilot program because the organization was tired of having to go through the Student Organization Resource Center for “every little thing” when trying to access funds. He said the current process is difficult, but the SORC staff help make it less of a pain.

“I’d say SORC itself is pretty easy to work with, if you go to them in person, like the people there are great and helpful,” Shiarella said. “I think it’s more so the practices that are set in place and what needs to be done is a little more arduous and hard to deal with.” 

Lynne Miller, the SORC coordinator, said the private bank account program will allow students more flexibility in their spending and timelines, but also comes with greater responsibility. She also said the shift will provide SORC with more time to focus directly on helping student organizations.

“Moving to outside accounts would allow the resources invested in that process to be reallocated to other areas for student organization development and provide more individual attention to student organizations,” Miller said. 

Madison Danfield, the business manager for Pitt’s Habitat for Humanity Club, said she was disappointed that the pilot program was pushed back, and hadn’t received any information regarding the program from SGB since last fall.

“I’m kind of bummed out because I’m the outgoing treasurer, so the person filling my shoes next semester has no idea what it is,” Danfield said. “I’m excited for them to experience it, but I don’t have any experience with it myself, so it makes officer transitions harder.”

Danfield said she believes the program is something all student organizations can benefit from and signed up for the pilot program because of the convenience she hoped it would provide. 

“Organizations would benefit fundraising-wise. Implementing this PNC outside financial account would allow for the use of Venmo, which is a large source of where our money is pulling in from,” Danfield said. “I think it’d be easier because we do these canning events at sporting events, like the Steelers or a Pitt basketball game, and a lot of people will tell us, ‘I’m sorry, we don’t have cash to give you, we wish you had Venmo.’”

Conway said he hopes next year’s board continues with the development and implementation of the program.

“The good news is a lot of people on the new board do have a strong interest in making this happen because as I mentioned before, this is something students have wanted for a long time,” Conway said. “It’s really just a win-win for both administration and for students.”