Your Guide to Student Senate Funding
Published October 2023.
The University of Kansas Student Senate provides more than $100,000 each year to student organizations across campus. We’ve prepared this booklet to give comprehensive guidance for students who are new to our funding process—to walk you through each step, let you know what to expect, and fix common issues before they happen. (Paper copies are available at our office, Kansas Union Room 410.)
If at any point you have questions, contact our Treasurer or Fund Development Director. They can walk you through creating a budget, help you strategize your funding requests, and point you to other resources on campus. If you’d prefer to meet in person, check the office hours for our executive staff.
We’ve broken the funding process down into four steps. First, preparing your budget. Second, submitting a funding request to Student Senate. Third, presenting your request for approval. Fourth, ensuring your funds are paid out in time.
As you work through the process, keep in mind two things:
- Time is the most important factor for a funding request. We work with a two-week cycle of meetings. If you miss the deadline to submit your request for one cycle, you’ll have to wait for the next. In addition, we recommend two weeks between when your club receives a funding allocation and when you need your funding. This period is due to KU’s strict financial controls, which require approval from several departments before we can move any money.
- All our funding decisions are made by students, like you, who want to see your club succeed. Too busy with studying to make a full presentation? No worries. At the same time, though, our representatives are tasked with ensuring equitable funding for all clubs. We’ll always try to work out a solution, but sometimes you may not get all you asked for.
Background: Our Structure and Democratic Process
Student Senate provides two kinds of funding to student organizations: all-club funding and diversity, equity, and inclusion funding. All-club funding is formally called the Unallocated Account and sometimes called the Wednesday-Night Fund. Which parts of Student Senate you interact with depends on what funding you’re eligible for. All-club funding is decided by our whole legislative branch, while DEI funding is decided by a smaller group of students.
The Legislative Branch
Our legislature provides multiple opportunities for student input before any decisions are made. The first step is the student councils. There are three councils, each with a different focus:
- Finance Council—wise use of student money to enhance campus.
- Social Justice Council—just and equitable decisions, advocating for programs that benefit low-income and marginalized students.
- Student Rights & Affairs Council—ensuring that our rules and things happening around campus are in line with the needs of students.
You’re most likely to deal with the Finance Council and the Social Justice Council. All legislation is heard by two councils, and must pass both.
The second step in the legislative branch is the full Senate—what we call the Students Assembly. Elected representatives from each school come together to have the final say on all legislation passed by the councils, alongside our executive staff and university advisors, who do not vote. This is the last time you’ll present.
The legislative branch runs on two-week cycles. Councils meet one week, the assembly meets the next week, and then we start over. All meetings are held on Wednesday evenings—usually between 6:00 and 9:00 PM—in the Kansas Union. You can stay apprised of all meeting updates and legislation by joining our workspace on Teams. There’s a link on our front page.
The DEI Fund Board
Alternatively, if you’re part of a club that promotes diversity, intercultural education, or support for marginalized students (or if you’re hosting an event to achieve those goals), you can instead request DEI funding. The DEI Fund provides a separate source of funds that are designed to be more flexible. DEI funding is overseen by the DEI Fund Board, which includes representatives from the student councils, Office of Multicultural Affairs, Center for Sexuality and Gender Diversity, and Emily Taylor Center for Women and Gender Equity.
The board meets once every two weeks, usually the day before student council meetings. Most importantly, requests for DEI funding are decided in one week, not two, and board meetings usually run shorter than legislative meetings. This allows faster turnarounds compared to all-club funding.
|Our Treasurer keeps track of all-club funding, and our Fund Development Director is responsible for DEI funding. Feel free to contact both if you aren’t sure what your club qualifies for.
Step One: Preparing Your Budget
Your budget provides the foundation for the entire funding process. What you include is up to the needs of your club. Do you need to buy streamers to decorate for a celebration? Posters to get the word out about your event? Catering by a local restaurant? That all works great. Here’s an example of a budget we’ve worked with previously, to give you an idea of how to set yours up.
For each item, include the vendor, a purchase link if one is available, the unit price it’s sold at (without sales tax), the quantity you need, and the total price (unit price × quantity). How much detail your budget includes depends on what you’re requesting, but try to list each distinctive thing separately—each Amazon listing, each menu item, each third-party service, and so on. This lets us best evaluate the budget for rules compliance and a fulfillment timeline. Don’t include sales tax because the university pays and is exempt from sales tax.
Tip: You can hyperlink the purchase URL to the vendor’s name to avoid excessive width.
|Student Senate general funding, shown on the example budget, is a $100 allowance for office supplies that can be used throughout the year. General funding is usually approved for all clubs, so it’s a good idea to include it in your request.
We try our best to be flexible with the vendors you choose. However, please consider the following:
- Supplies and equipment. Check Staples first, then Amazon, then Walmart, then your vendor of choice. The university has an exclusive agreement with Staples for office supplies. If your item is available from Staples, then you must get it from Staples. Amazon and Walmart are not required, but they’re the easiest for us to work with since they’re integrated into KU’s financial software.
- Promotional materials. Check Jayhawk Ink first, then Blue Collar Press, 4imprint, FedEx, or Lawrence Sign Up. Jayhawk Ink isn’t required, but it’s the easiest to use since it’s part of the university. Also, it offers discounts for clubs. We prefer that you work out an invoice for the promotional materials first, with your design specifications, and then send it to us. That makes sure we get everything right. Remember to leave out sales tax because KU will pay the invoice.
- Catering. If you’re planning to host your event in the Burge Union or Kansas Union, what food you serve is controlled by the University Food Policy. The full policy and exception form, is available here. Basically, the food policy requires you to use KU Catering. (KU Catering includes Toppers for pizza, at discounted rates.) If you want to get your food from another caterer, you’ll have to fill out the exception form with your event, caterer information, and an appropriate justification. Want to make your own food instead? You’ll need to host outside, off-campus, or get permission from the unit of KU whose building you plan to host in. Again, when preparing your catering invoice, leave out sales tax.
- Third-party services and honorariums. These can include, for example, photography or a paid speaker. For your budget, write them in as a regular item, but be prepared to submit additional documentation if you’re granted funding. Our turnaround for these kinds of payments is around 1–2 months, because the university will need to add the providers’ information into its database and prepare a check or direct deposit. Please plan accordingly.
- Travel and purchase reimbursements. These are not usually allowed. Contact us for more information.
Payments are usually made directly to vendors. KU maintains a database of these vendors, used by Student Senate or other units of the university. If a vendor isn’t currently listed in the database, we’ll need to collect a W-9 to set them up, which lists their business name, address, and employer identification number. Some payments will be mailed as checks, others will be made with a purchase card (like a credit card, but for the university), and we also have a form to authorize direct deposits to the vendor if needed.
How you design your budget is up to you. Breaking it down into sections for separate events or categories of items is greatly appreciated.
Step Two: Submitting Your Request
Once you’ve worked out a budget for your club’s events or activities, you’re ready to submit it as a funding request. You can submit the entire budget for Student Senate funding, or just parts of it. We take all funding submissions through forms on Rock Chalk Central. They’re listed as “Student Senate Funding” and “DEI Funding” followed by the appropriate year.
Follow the instructions on the form. Clearly mark what budget items you’d like us to provide. Include an event flyer or Rock Chalk Central event listing to verify your event to KU accounting. Read through the applicable rules and schedules.
Once you’ve submitted the form, you’ll be contacted by the Treasurer or Fund Development Director to let you know of any issues that will need to be dealt with. If your budget looks good, they’ll let you know when you’re scheduled to present. On our side, we’ll write up a legislative bill or a formal DEI funding request for presentation to our representatives. These write-ups include a condensed version of your budget and details.
|Clubs working with an experienced senator may submit a funding bill directly to save time. That senator will be responsible for communicating presentation times and connecting the club with our staff for budget fulfillment. This is not an option for DEI funding.
How much should you request? It depends. We don’t have specific estimates because our representatives consider the goals of your club and your activities, your fundraising efforts, and our current account balances. If your request is too high, they will most likely attempt to reach a compromise through removing or reducing specific items, rather than rejecting the request altogether.
Step 3: Presenting Your Request
There are no set rules for funding presentations, but most follow similar notes: the goals of your club, how you improve student life, and why you need funding from Student Senate. It’s a good idea to highlight additional fundraising efforts, show off attendance at your events, and include member testimonials.
Adjust the length of your presentation to how much you’re requesting and how complex your budget is. If you feel your request is fairly small and straightforward, you can present without a visual aid. Otherwise, it’s best to have slides we can follow along with. In either case, make sure that your presenter or presenters are familiar with your club and event details. This will make it easier to work out compromises, if they’re needed. Attend all meetings on time so you don’t miss your opening to present.
Recall that the legislative branch works in two-week cycles. Council meetings are first up. Check Teams for the meeting rooms and times, which will be posted by each council’s chair. You should start with the Finance Council, which usually (but not always) meets at 6:00 PM in the Alderson Auditorium, Kansas Union fourth floor. Take a seat wherever there’s one free, help yourself to some pizza, and wait until the chair calls you up to present. You can plug your own laptop into the projector’s HDMI input for your slides, or send your presentation file to the chair through Teams instead.
After your presentation, be prepared to answer questions from the councilors. These may include the following: budget clarification, your membership and past attendance, your venue arrangements, your fundraising efforts, and how you would adjust your activities if you received less than your requested amount of funding. At the end of questions, you’ll step down from the podium. The council may want to amend the request or (rarely) postpone it to a later meeting, which you can weigh in on. You’ll see the results of all votes, including amendments and whether the bill passes, on Teams. After all that, you’re free to head out.
|As discussed earlier, your request will be reviewed in a second council as well. However, since council meetings are all held at the same time, we only expect you to pre-sent to the Finance Council. If you can make it to both meetings, then that’s great. If not, you’re fine.
Next week, if your bill passes its two assigned councils, you’ll present to the Students Assembly. These meetings are also held in the Alderson Auditorium, but usually at 6:30 PM. Again, check Teams to be certain. You’ll present the same as you did to the student councils, though you may be given less time if the agenda is particularly busy.
If your bill passes the Students Assembly, then congratulations! You’ve got your funding allocation, and we’re ready to work with you to execute your purchases and payments.
|One last note: The councils and assembly consider a lot of legislation each cycle. To help with this, the presiding officers may schedule some items for their consent agendas, allowing them to be passed together with one vote. If it’s scheduled for the consent agenda, you likely won’t have to present your request, though you should still attend to handle any issues. Generally, requests around $500 are included in the consent agenda, as long as the club hasn’t submitted several requests. You can check the meeting agendas on Teams.
Requests submitted to the DEI Fund require only one presentation. The fund development director will keep you updated over email. At the meeting, groups will be called in one by one to present. You should cover the presentation topics described above, and also how your club and your events aim to promote diversity and support marginalized students. The board members will have the opportunity to ask you clarifying questions. You’ll then be excused from the room so the board can discuss and vote on your request.
The fund development director will notify you of the board’s decision—granted in full, granted in part, or denied—within a day or two of the meeting. The DEI Fund Board has no consent agenda, so all requests require some sort of presentation, with slides or without. You can view the board’s agendas and other requests on Teams.
Step 4: Fulfilling Your Budget
Once our representatives voted to grant your funding allocation, you’ll be contacted within a few days by the Treasurer or Fund Development Director to handle fulfillment details. Check your email often to avoid delays.
Budget fulfillment is handled by a member of KU’s career staff, usually within the Student Involvement and Leadership Center. Keep in mind that most purchases and payments require an extended approval process, as well as cooperation with the Shared Services Centers (KU’s general accounting staff), Procurement Services, Accounts Payable, and more. We recommend you plan at least two weeks between when we decide your request and when you need your funding, and more if your budget involves third-party services or honorariums.
|Unlike other beneficial groups, Student Senate does not usually disburse funds directly to clubs. We handle purchases and third-party payments on their behalf, based on their instructions. We understand this may be awkward for clubs that are used to handling their own funds. However, it’s necessary to accommodate clubs that don’t have access to a financial institution or book-keeping. Direct disbursement is available rarely, mostly when a club is backed by a larger organization.
A few notes on how club items show up:
- Amazon purchases. We usually have Amazon orders and other deliveries brought to our office, Kansas Union Room 410, where you can pick them up whenever one of our staff is working. If you’d like, you may select another location on campus that’s more convenient for your club.
- Walmart purchases. For Walmart pickups, you’ll choose a couple weekly time ranges when you or another club officer will be available.
- Catering, promotion, and venue payments. Make the invoice payable by Student Senate or the University of Kansas (without sales tax), and then send it to us over email once we’ve started the fulfillment process.
Third-party services and honorariums require additional documentation and time. You’ll need to submit the following:
- An invoice for each service provider with an itemized list of their services. If your providers didn’t give you invoice, we have a template you can fill out instead.
- A W-9 filled out by each service provider, with addresses and identification. We prefer that the W-9 be filled out by an individual instead of a business entity.
- An independent contractor decision tree. This is a form available from Procurement Services that asks for information about your service providers. The university requires you to complete this form to comply with labor and tax laws.
Usually, we send out contractor and honorarium fees as checks to the address listed on the service provider’s invoice and W-9. We can also make direct deposits to the provider, but this requires an additional form to collect their banking information and permission for deposits. Contractor and honorarium payments take 1–2 months.
Once we’ve collected this additional documentation and your fulfillment details, we’ll forward your budget to our funding coordinator to start executing your purchases and payments. The coordinator may alert you to issues with your funding, such as items being out of stock. Be ready to respond and submit revised budget materials to handle these issues. If the coordinator has no further questions, then you’re all done. We handle several budgets at once, but you’ll be kept up-to-date about your purchases through email. You can always check in if you’re worried about not receiving your items in time.
Thank you for taking the time to read this guide. We hope this will help you feel more confident approaching our funding process, so you can get the support you need to keep improving student life on campus. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions. We’re always happy to work with clubs on funding requests, especially if they’re new to the process. Good luck!
Down the line, you may be interested in other funding opportunities offered by Student Senate. Established clubs may be eligible for Line-Item Funding, which allows you to reserve funds for next year. Line-Item funds are allocated in spring and provide a pre-approved lump sum for special events, like festivals or competitions. If you’re interested in applying for Line-Item Funding, keep an eye out for applications in late fall and early spring.