Refusing to accept school funds for club programs is a self-defeating trap that immediately impedes an activist’s effectiveness.
Two arguments made for declining school funding include:
– Libertarian students argue they should not accept funds from the student activities committee or the university because they are against “forcing” students to pay for events and activities with which they philosophically disagree.
– Other conservative groups don’t want to be held accountable to their university’s funding guidelines and rules.
You do yourself a disservice by falling into this trap. Even though you may want other students to adopt your ideas, it will be impossible for you to effectively compete with the amount of resources and funds the Left has at its disposal. The Left has access to hundreds of thousands of dollars, and they will use those funds to drown out your activities. The Left will be able to afford prominent leftist speakers who charge upwards of $20,000 or $30,000. These speakers will draw thousands, and you are funding them! Meanwhile, your group will be trying to scrape by on a yearly budget of just a few hundred dollars, hosting unknown speakers who draw few students.
In regards to the two arguments made above, please consider the following alternative viewpoints. If your school truly embraces the concept of diversity, this should include the diversity of ideas. Students come to your campus expecting to hear different viewpoints. They do not come to be indoctrinated with a steady helping of Leftist thought. Therefore, you need to at least push the school to use its funds, whether they are from student or public sources, to host conservative speakers. Even if you hold libertarian beliefs, as an enrolled student, you or your parents are paying hard earned money for tuition. You may also be paying a student activities fee. Would you rather have all of your money going to only leftist and socialist programs and speakers? Or would you prefer to know that your tuition is also going to support programs featuring libertarian speakers?
By asking for school or student activities fees to pay for your speakers or programs, you ensure at least some of those funds go towards programs that fit your beliefs. This tactic results in the college using part of its resources for a more balanced education. It also ensures that the Left on campus has fewer funds to bring in liberal speakers, since control of campus lecture fees is too often a zero-sum battle. If they refuse to provide balance by inviting conservative and libertarian speakers, you can inform the local media about the imbalance and the left-wing bias of your school.
The second argument against accepting student funds also inhibits conservative students from maximizing their impact on campus. The university funding process can be cumbersome and hard to understand. The regulations and penalties that come with accepting school funds described above can be severe. However, every funding source will have rules and guidelines that you will need to follow if you are to accept its funds.
For example, the team at Young America’s Foundation knows firsthand what is necessary to be an effective organization in both disbursing financial support to campus groups and receiving support from private donors and charitable foundations. Young America’s Foundation helps underwrite campus lectures. However, student groups wishing to receive financial assistance, must abide by our rules and guidelines for accepting our support. For instance, a Foundation-sponsored lecture must not be a political event where the student organization endorses a candidate for election. The student group must list the Foundation as a sponsor on all advertising materials and provide the Foundation with newspaper articles and photographs.
On the other hand, Young America’s Foundation and other national conservative organizations must follow the wishes and guidelines for accepting funds from supporters and private charitable foundations. Donors may want their donations to be applied to a certain program or cause. To receive grants from charitable organizations, Young America’s Foundation must follow their rules for submitting an application and ensure that the grant we are requesting fits with the goals of the charitable foundation.
It is worthwhile to fundraise from local supporters in your area, but you may find it difficult to financially match the Left’s resources by relying solely on private donations. Most supporters are unlikely to give you thousands of dollars at first. A supporter’s first donation will most likely be a test gift to see how you handle their initial financial support. Before he invests further in your organization he will want you to prove you can deliver on what you promise. You will also be competing with other national organizations that have more polished proposals and programs for the donor’s support.
Therefore, it is beneficial for you to take advantage of the funds provided by your school. It may be initially frustrating to grasp the intricacies of the funding process, but you will find it much easier in the long-run to solicit funds from your school to pay for your programs.