Monday, October 1, 2012

A Historic Day For AHA

We've been working on something pretty big here at the AHA HQ.  
It's a long story, so bear with me.

Every semester, in addition to our normal tuition, UW - Madison students are required to pay "segregated fees" to the tune of about $1,400 per person per year.  This money goes on to pay for a multitude of things on campus - all of which, at least in theory, directly benefit students. Most of the $32 million pool goes towards paying for student health services (UHS), building projects on campus, bus passes, and gyms.  (See figure below)  Our student government, the Associated Students of Madison (ASM), have some degree of oversight on how these funds are allocated.  About 3% of the total segregated fees are distributed by ASM to support the hundreds of Registered Student Organizations (RSOs) on campus.  Student orgs can apply for this money via a variety of funding streams.  For example, there are "Event Grants" to support groups organizing events, "Operations Grants" which cover day-to-day operating expenses of organizations, and "Travel Grants" for sending students to attend leadership conferences.  AHA has a long history of successfully tapping into these funding opportunities.
Where does your money go?













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Then... then there is the GSSF - the  General Student Services Fund, the holy grail of student organization funding.  The GSSF is sort of a "one stop shop" for exceptionally large, well organized, and indispensable organizations on campus.  Rather than applying for the multiple event/travel/operations grants described above, GSSF groups receive a single budget to cover all of their services, programming, operating expenses, travel, and paid student staff. Thus, the budgets can get pretty large...

A few of the major GSSF groups receiving funding recently.  Average budget: about $100,000.





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GSSF funds are administered by another acronymed organization, the Student Services Finance Committee (SSFC).  The SSFC is a board made up of 15 student representatives who make recommendations to ASM on the allocation of segregated fees, and also get to decide which groups are eligible to receive GSSF funding.  When this much cash is at stake, you can bet your sweet ass that GSSF funding is not easy to get.  AHA's completed application was just shy of 50 pages long. There are a litany of strict requirements that all must be met in order for RSOs to be considered qualified for the GSSF.  Probably the single most important requirement is that: "The group must provide to the students of the university a specific and identifiable direct service."  In order for programming offered by an RSO to count as a direct service, it must meet all of the following criteria.
  • The program must be available upon request by recipients 
  • The program can be tailored subject to the needs of the recipients within the mission of the group.
  • The program must be accessible to the recipients regardless of recipient’s participation and/or membership in the group.
  • The program must be available to recipients continually throughout the course of the fiscal year.
  • The program is not an individual event, publication, or a leadership development opportunity for group member.

AHA will offer two direct services: "Faith Questioning" and the "Secular Support Group"
Faith Questioning is a peer-to-peer religious advising service, designed to help students struggling with their faith, and to encourage all participants to develop their own religious identity.
Secular Support Groups are discussion-based meetings for nonreligious, questioning, or any students interested in discussing topics relating to religion in a large group setting.

Today, the SSFC voted 11-1 in favor of granting AHA GSSF Eligibility!  This is an honor that perhaps 20 out of the over 750 student groups on campus have ever received.  We have submitted a budget request of  $90,014.20.  We'll have an additional budgetary hearing with the SSFC within a month, which then gets sent up to the ASM Council, then the UW-Madison Chancellor, and finally the UW-System Board of Regents for approval.  Stay tuned...

Update 10/10/12:
Our budget hearing with the SSFC has been scheduled for November 5th.  This will determine exactly how much of our original $90,000 request will be approved. 

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