Amid Boston Overdose Crisis, a Pair of Harvard Students Are Bringing Narcan to the Red Line


At First Cambridge City Council Election Forum, Candidates Clash Over Building Emissions


Harvard’s Updated Sustainability Plan Garners Optimistic Responses from Student Climate Activists


‘Sunroof’ Singer Nicky Youre Lights Up Harvard Yard at Crimson Jam


‘The Architect of the Whole Plan’: Harvard Law Graduate Ken Chesebro’s Path to Jan. 6



By Andrew K. Mandel

Everybody needs some money sometime.

But for those who manage the bank-book of a student organization, lots of money is needed all the time.

Between photocopying flyers, funding events and paying for food, financing a student organization can be a huge task.

Eric S. Olney '98, president of the Harvard-Radcliffe College Democrats (HRCD), says that the little things--miscellaneous expenses like copies--can add up.

"You'd be surprised how often we poster, and how much that costs," Olney says.

Fortunately, for student groups in search of cash to fund isolated expenses and special events, there are several outlets to turn to for much needed cash.

Where to Make the Dough

Established organizations like HRCD have been creative in fundraising.

Although HRCD asks students to contribute an annual membership fee, the organization decided to combine these dues with the selling of Clinton/Gore t-shirts during the campaign. Students who bought the $10 shirts were automatically granted membership into the group.

Through this endeavor, HRCD not only raised a significant amount of money but they also increased their membership from 50 to 200 students.

Taking advantage of a special event like an election is a promising way of raising funds, but other special days work as well.

The Boston Youth Refugee Enrichment (BRYE) program did just that with Valentine's Day flower sales.

BRYE Director Steven T. Prior '98 says that concentrated effort and a one-week advertising blitz for the annual fundraising event effective this year.

This year's BRYE flower sales netted approximately $2500.

Prior attributes the success of the endeavor to the "spirit of the counselors"--the dedication of the staff members who volunteered to work shifts selling and/or delivering the flowers.

Although other groups, like Harvard Student Agencies, also sold Valentine's Day merchandise, Prior says the extra advertising, the BRYE staff's committed initiative and the offer of "free delivery" made the difference.

BRYE needs this project to be successful to maintain itself.

With costs ranging from transportation to activities with "little siblings," Prior notes that "this is the fundraiser that keeps our group going."

Phillips Brooks House Association (PBHA) helps BRYE financially as well, contributing money and offering van usage to their cause.

Grant Me a Grant

Another approach to fundraising is pursuing grants offered by various philanthropic groups on campus.

Hillary K. Snow '97, producer of "Princess Di: A Fairy Tale" (an original musical by Joel Derfner '95) says mounting a dramatic performance requires heavy grant searching.

Theatrical groups need to pursue various channels in order to be financially solvent.

The regular route for dramatic productions is to apply for grants offered by the Undergraduate Council, the Institute of Politics (if your show is political), the Radcliffe Union of Students (if your show deals with women's issues) and the Office for the Arts.

Student groups may be frustrated with the grant process, as different organizations have different deadlines, and most groups do not provide money up front, but rather reimburse their selected recipients.

In addition, some donors do not make their decisions until after the money is needed.

With disjointed guidelines among the various organizations, producers like Snow end up in a bind.

"You may not find out about your U.C. grant until after spring break," Snow says. "And if your show is in March or even April, you'd have to spend money without knowing how much you really have."

Stephen Weinberg, chair of the U.C. Finance Committee, says that a group needs to know how much they're going to spend ahead of time as well as their definitive goals.

"You will be competing in a very competitive market for members and funds, and you need to know what you're offering," Weinberg says in an e-mail.

Weinberg offers a number of tips to organizations in search of grants.

*"Diversify your funding sources." When applying for any grant, it is important for the donors to know that you have done your homework and considered all options.

*"Find out how much things cost." For example, you shouldn't blindly deal with a photocopying store that charges seven cents per page. Try to negotiate; perhaps ask for free copies in exchange for free advertising in your program or journal.

*"Don't expect the Undergraduate Council to fund your wildest dreams." This advice is true of most donors. Each funding source has a limited amount of money, and it would not be the best idea to apply for one grant and ask for thousands.

Beyond Harvard

Student groups do not necessarily need to stay within University borders while looking for funds.

PBHA student fundraiser Jante C. Santos '99 recommends that students look to foundations and corporations for funding, noting that these organizations often have an overflow of grant funds available for student groups.

But Santos warns that it is important to know the guidelines of each foundation.

"People apply to everything," Santos says.

She explains that she knows of cases where students have applied for inappropriate types of funding.

Santos recommends that in order to save time and effort, students should learn about potential benefactors before going to the trouble of applying.

Santos also suggests drafting a specific proposal because "people like to see where their money is going."

Finally, Santos recommends that groups designate a contact person; personalizing the request in the eyes of the foundation is always a plus.

"It's much harder to say 'no' to a person than a project," Santos says.

Last Resorts

Often, though, the answer is 'no.'

The newly-formed Harvard-Radcliffe Juggling Club (HRJC) faced disappointment earlier this year.

The club did not receive official recognition from the Dean of Students' Office, recognition that would have channeled funds to the new organization.

According to Daniel A. Cousin '00, the founder and president of HRJC, the Dean of Students' Office told him that the potential of "personal injury" denied the group the recognition they sought.

Yet Cousin is not discouraged.

After Lamont Library decided to subscribe to Juggling Magazine and the Arts First Committee decided to feature the club in their May celebration, Cousin realized that the club's efforts to establish a presence on campus took initiative and effort, not just money.

Although the process is "difficult, it's also do-able," Cousin says.

"People who want to help are there, you just need to find them." Cousin says.

Weinberg agrees, and says he believes new groups can survive and prosper.

"If you're offering something people want, if you're planning ahead and thinking realistically, if you're determined, if you're careful and above all, if you know your priorities, you can become an entrenchment in the Harvard-Radcliffe organization scene," Weinberg says.

Students seeking group resources are encouraged to look at the Undergraduate Council grant website at

Want to keep up with breaking news? Subscribe to our email newsletter.