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Society funding: Who pays for the free pizza?

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Warwick University is home to over 250 societies which have probably been, or will be, an integral part of your socializing activities. The impressive catered events, balls, bar crawls, circling and ‘free pizza’ occasions come at a high price and negotiations with sponsors and departments bound by SU protocol.

The Student’s Union is officially and legally run as a charity, meaning that every society belonging to the SU encounters the same benefits and restrictions this format entails. Societies in Warwick typically and most basically fund their activities through department or corporation sponsorships alongside substantially smaller contributions involving membership fees and fundraising activities. Thus, funding can be an external process where societies and sponsors collaborate or an internal activity reliant on its member’s efforts.

Societies typically fund their activities through department or smaler contributions including membership fees.

Society executives also build on these usual formats on more ad hoc bases. The President of the Warwick Consulting Society explains they host events such as workshops or targeted talks given by consulting companies which are not official sponsors. In these cases, the company in question will cover the costs incurred in the organization of the event which usually fall on catering. The Pakistani Society instead relies on the revenue from a ticketed event to fund subsequent events.

The main restriction presented by the SU to societies is that money must be used to the benefit of all members.

In according external sponsorships, the SU negotiates contracts on behalf of societies, verifying they lie within legal possibilities. Primarily, societies must be run as charities and not-for profit. Societies are asked to present packages to sponsors outlining their expected costs and asking for a degree of financing directed to specific purposes. The main restriction presented by the SU to societies is that money be used as possibly beneficial to all members unless otherwise specified in the contract. An exception would be costs incurred for exec merchandise.  

The restriction on profit-making can be a source of deterrence for societies to register with the SU, however it also involves benefits on the financial level. The SU provides legal support to students in understanding and judging the value of contract packages with sponsors, and carries out risk assessments advising how big an investment it is safe for a society to take. For instance, they carry out risk assessments for society tours to avoid big losses if they fail to sell all their tickets to members. An aspect of this can also be hindering in that whatever the investment, the society’s existing funds must be able to cover 60% of losses. If a larger loss is incurred, the SU will cover it from a stress relief fund.

An aspect of this can also be hindering in whatever the investment the society’s existing funds must be able to cover 60% of losses.

Societies stem from shared interests and are based in a desire to build a mutually helpful community around these. Sponsors can become an intrinsic part of this community, firstly enabling it to pursue activities through funding, and secondly by offering professional experience which can be put to use in creative ways to bridge the gap between university life and the external world. The ways societies and their sponsors interact is largely dependent on their respective aims.

The Boar spoke to the presidents of four different societies, to find out the different financial strategies they undergo and their relationships with sponsors.

Name: Warwick Consulting Society

President: Kasia Urban

Source of funding: Corporate sponsors; Accenture and PwC

How does the society benefit? “Sponsors provide financial support, workshops, tools to equip and assist members to secure opportunities with consultancies and beyond. They offer material and professionals to lead case studies and mock interviews.”

How do the sponsors benefit? “We provide them with exposure to our members, and allow them to assert a presence on campus. In their hands, we are a way for them to get Warwick student to apply to them.”

How much does this funding cover? “We don’t have to fund anything in other ways, we cover all costs through sponsorships. Some companies with which we work on an ad-hoc basis cover the costs of their catering- which are the only costs associated with running an event.”

“We provide them with exposure to our members…we are a way for them to get Warwick students to apply to them.”

Name: Warwick MUN

President: Darius Stasiulevicius

Source of funding:  “The main sources [of funding] are from the PAIS and Economics departments, as well as our membership fee of £3.50, and the yearly WarMUN conference which delegates pay to attend.”

How does the society benefit? “Besides the financial help, the society is able tofunction with regards to buying banners and merchandise for the purpose of advertisement, as well as purchase necessary things for the conference.”

How does the department benefit? “The membership base of our society comprises of students from more than two departments. Every student brings something interesting with a background from his department’s studies. So it is a good thing that departments can sponsor their own students, but also the department’s work is advertised and beneficial to all students. Importantly, It’s not strictly beneficial for our society, or the departments, but for the members since their work is being sponsored by the university departments, and we can have quality events and products that MUN procedures require.”

“It is a good thing that departments can sponsor their own students, but also the department’s work is advertised and beneficial to all students.”

Name: Warwick Pakistani Society

President: Behram Khan

Source of funding: Pakistan based food oil company ‘Sufi’ and a ticketed event.

How does the society benefit? “The sponsorship package gives the Pakistani society “a good starting point” to organize meet and greets and gain traction with new students who might want to be involved.”

How do the sponsors benefit? “The head of Sufi is a Warwick alumnus, and appreciates the visibility the society gives the brand on campus from a business perspective, and a lasting connection the University on a personal level. The relationship is also grounded on a cultural aspect, promoting a Pakistani brand abroad, and reaching out to Pakistani students in Warwick.”

How much does this funding cover? “We use the sponsor’s money for a free meet and greet, this is how we pay for the Biryani, and then to organize a big event later in the year,” the tickets sold for this event fund our activities thereon.”

“The [sponsorship] relationship is also grounded on a cultural aspect, promoting a Pakistani brand abroad, and reaching out to Pakistani students at Warwick.”

Name: Warwick Glee

President: Rebekah Hesmondhalgh

Source of funding:  “Our funding comes entirely from the SU, we don’t spend a lot throughout the year so we can make do with that money! Our membership fees help us out, and if we need any contributions towards costumes for shows, we usually ask our members to subsidise some of it, but then they can keep what they buy!”

“We don’t spend a lot throughout the year so we can make do with [SU] money!”

 

How much does the SU funding cover? “Luckily our SU funding covers most of our spending, which includes our entrance fee for our Masters of Show Choir competition, costumes and new equipment when we need it.”

 

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