Steve Toscano, a sophomore computer engineering major, can almost always be found donating to a cause that tries to raise money at Manhattan College. He often donates as much as he can to whatever group sets up a table outside of Thomas Hall or in the Kelly Commons to fundraise for L.O.V.E. trips, student clubs or charities.
In fact, so do most students on campus, almost all of whom are certainly familiar with the neatly prepared tables, which are positioned at the base of Founder’s Bridge with assorted goodies. They’re placed behind the blinding sheen of the brightest colored construction paper the group can find that bears a message beckoning students to spend money on some worthy cause.
This is the culture of giving at Manhattan College.
“Growing up I was part of youth groups and we did a lot of fundraisers,” Toscano said, who continued, “It makes me feel better that I have things to give and that I am giving.”
Fundraising by student organizations and charities is a huge part of any college life, but especially here at Manhattan College, where the school’s Lasallian tradition of service towards others is evident in the recognition and importance given to campus ministries and charities.
“There are so many fundraisers going on, that it’s sometimes hard to keep track of it all,” Toscano said, referencing some of his friends, many of whom are involved in charities themselves.
But since fundraising is such an important part of our campus culture, what are some of the guidelines? What makes a good fundraiser? Many students often misunderstand or misinterpret the rules and how they apply to different organizations.
The first—and perhaps greatest—misconception is that students are not allowed to sell food at fundraisers because of the college’s contract with Gourmet Dining Services. Many claim this policy results from a fear that GDS will lose revenue if forced to compete with student clubs and organizations.
“If I were a student, that would be my first reaction—it totally makes sense,” Student Activities Director John Bennett said with a chuckle. “It’s not because Gourmet Dining is afraid that they are going to lose $25 from cookies.”
Indeed, most student clubs are not allowed to sell foodstuffs at fundraisers. However, Bennett suggests a much more practical explanation.
“There’s a public safety issue of food on campus, where—God forbid—if someone gets a food sickness, allergy or something isn’t cooked correctly, it can create a lot of liability issues.”
However, while many groups do not sell food, others are notorious for selling it around campus. For example, most students are aware of the signs plastered along the walls of Miguel, De La Salle and Thomas Hall, which advertise bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches, grilled cheese sandwiches and baked goods sold by Lasallian Outreach Volunteer Experience trips, better known as L.O.V.E.
The L.O.V.E. program is the part of Campus Ministry that sends students on domestic and international service trips to cater to the specific needs of a given community. Every semester the program sends out an average of five groups of students to work in places like Haiti, Arizona, Texas and El Salvador, to name a few.
“We give the L.O.V.E. trips $27,000 per year to operate, but beyond that they are not a club, they operate under Campus Ministry and Social Action,” Bennett said.
“We are not a club,” Jenn Edwards said, the woman in charge of the L.O.V.E. program, continuing, “We don’t operate on the same guidelines as other organizations.”
Edwards went on to state “Gourmet Dining actually donates the food we sell,” listing ice cream, bread and cheese on those lists.
Another major issue is the question of how much student clubs can donate to specific charities.
Bennett said that Student Government implemented a rule a few years ago that clubs are allowed to donate 50 percent or $500 to any charity after a fundraiser.
“For example, if a club raises $700, they can donate 50 percent of that money to a charity, but if they make $2000, they can donate $500,” Bennett said, specifying that the rest of the money go towards the club budget, managed in a joint effort by Student Activities and Student Government.
“Every club has a budget, and of course some get more money than others but that relates more to expenses than importance, no one club is more important than another,” Bennett said, regarding how money is distributed by clubs.
There is certainly a great deal of controversy any time that money is involved in a conversation. Some may feel that the policies around fundraising are unfair or biased, however I must admit that I have not seen that at Manhattan College.
One huge contributor to this belief is how much is offered to students on campus for free. Not a single event on campus requires payment – not a play, not Manhattan Madness, not Springfest, nothing.
Bennett highlighted his focus on this issue by saying, “We will never let a club require that students spend money for an event, they can have suggested donations, of course, but never should students have to pay for something to do on campus. You guys already pay enough in tuition and fees that everything you do on this campus should be free to you.”