Club sports respond to allocations changes

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Club sports respond to allocations changes

By Emma Solak / Staff Writer

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When family members of the Pitt women’s club soccer team open up their mailboxes this semester, they’re going to find more than just bills and catalogs. 

Because of a significant change in club sports funding, the team has implemented a letter-writing campaign asking team members’ family and friends for money so it can continue to operate as a team this season. 

At the end of 2014, the previous Student Government Board passed Bill 025, which dictated a new formula for club sports team allocations based on how much the club sports teams fundraise on their own. The bill updated section 3.05 of the allocations manual.

Some teams said they are in favor of this new policy, as it will give them a clearer idea of how much funding to expect from SGB. Others, who have never done much fundraising before, are walking on new ground.

Under the new policy, for the first $5,000 accrued in the team’s Student Organization Resource Center (SORC) account, from fundraising or other means, SGB can match up to one-half of this amount at a $1:2 ratio, according to the updated allocations manual. For example, if a club needed $1,000 to attend a tournament, it would have to raise $666.66 themselves and SGB could allocate $333.33.

For amounts over the initial $5,000, SGB may match at a $1:3 ratio. For example, once over $5,000, if a team needed $1,000 for new equipment, the team would have to raise $750 themselves and SGB could allocate $250.

SGB also capped its funding at $10,000 for any team with 50 members or less and at $15,000 for teams with 51 or more members. For teams choosing not to participate in the new policy, SGB has capped its funding at $1,000.

According to SGB executive vice president Nasreen Harun, clubs can still request money, but the new rules give them a clearer idea of whether or not SGB will grant their request. 

“People seem to like the policy because it provides them with more clarity,” Harun said. 

These changes, according to SGB President Graeme Meyer, resulted from a reevaluation of SGB’s spending for the 2014 fiscal year, which showed that club sports received 35 percent of the funds allocated by SGB — more than any other category. SGB also looked at the increase in the funding of club sports versus other student organizations from 2011 to 2014. SGB reported a $70,401 increase in club sport spending, with the next highest group — academic groups — increasing spending by $37,492. SGB also saw a 62 percent increase in growth in the number of academic groups — more than 2.5 times the amount of growth in club sports teams — but not an equal increase in funding.

Meyer said the new policy allowed SGB to “to continue to support [club sports] while ensuring fiscally responsible funding practices.”

Club sports also have the option to pursue alternate fundraising support from the University, such as Pitt’s new crowdfunding platform, EngagePitt. 

Abby Takacs, who will take over as president of the women’s club soccer team in the fall, said the changes will force to the team “to make a dollar go further.”

Takacs, a junior majoring in natural science, said that, because of the busy and unpredictable nature of the season, the team needs to fundraise as much as they can before its season begins.

“When the need for money arises, such as qualifying for regionals, which could be as close as two weeks away, we can’t just fundraise for these certain monetary needs at the time that we need them,” Takacs said.

Takacs said she implemented a preemptive fundraising pitch, a letter-writing campaign in which each member of the team submitted ten mailing addresses of family and friends to receive a letter explaining SGB’s changes and how her team would be affected. The letters concluded by asking for donations. 

Takacs said she did not wish to discuss how much money the campaign has brought in so far.

In the letters, Takacs said she explained that the team plays for fun, but, in order to keep the program functioning, the team needs to attend as many games as they can to qualify for tournaments.

Though they don’t receive the same recognition as the varsity teams, club sports at Pitt are just as successful. For example, the women’s club soccer team has gone to nationals the past four years, according to Takacs, and the men’s club volleyball team has traveled to tournaments as far as Dallas, Tex., Reno, Nev. and Orlando, Fla., according to Cummings. 

“Being a part of this team has helped me learn how to create and maintain a cohesive working environment just as much as it has helped me find a competitive outlet,” Cummings said.

He said the men’s club volleyball team contributes to the University by working for the varsity team and engaging with the campus community via fundraisers. Cummings also said the team worked with SGB to improve the allocations process by offering their insight and opinions. 

Unlike competitive club sports at several other schools, club sports teams at Pitt are certified student organizations. 

According to Tommy Otterbine, program director of club sports at Penn State, club sports at Penn State make annual budget requests for funds from the Athletic Department. Otterbine said the department typically has a fund of about $200,000 that it allocates to the 77 club sports teams at Penn State. 

At Penn State, club sports teams submit their requests to the club sports program and the Athletic Department funds about 10 percent, which can be increased for every team if there are funds left over, of each club’s overall budgets. For example, if a club sports team has an overall projected budget of $10,000, the department can fund about $1,000 of the group’s budget. 

Otterbine also said that the process is undergoing some changes and Penn State’s Office of Student Affairs will distribute funding instead of the Athletic Department, but he added that he does not think club sports will go before a student group, like Student Government, to request funds, as some club sports travel to competitions every weekend. 

“To ask [club sports teams] to present in front of a committee every two weeks to go on a trip is kind of crazy,” Otterbine said.

Pitt has a similar budget system, but most club sports receive funding via allocations. Meyer said that, while he and other SGB members prefer budgets, he doesn’t want to limit student groups to one means of funding.

“The [budget] process is much more streamlined,” Meyer said. “But there are situations where you don’t know what the whole semester will look like. We don’t want to hinder student groups.”

According to men’s club volleyball president Tim Cummings, the Board allocated $6,934 to the the volleyball team this year. Because the volleyball team raises between $15,000 and $25,000 over the course of each school year, the ratio system will work in its favor, Cummings said, and the new system will help the team budget with more certainty. 

Cummings, a senior majoring in political science and economics, said that, although the team raised a large amount of money to go to its national tournament last spring, it felt its allocations request from SGB was not unreasonable. But, when it received less than its required amount, the team needed to quickly find a way to raise the difference. With the new system, the team has a clearer idea of how much money SGB will give them based off their fundraising. 

“We’re thankful,” Cummings said in an email. “It’s just nice knowing there’s a system in place that SGB will follow, as opposed to in the past where we kind of walked blindly into the allocations meeting having no idea what they would give us. 

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