Financing Your Chapter

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So, you have started a SEDS Chapter. Everyone is eager to start building cool stuff or just hanging out with other space nerds. But there is one thing in the way. You have no funds. Building Rockets, Cube Satellites, Weather Balloons, and all the other engineering projects that SEDS Chapters participate in cost money. Not only that, but to keep everyone interested, social meetings also cost money for food, technical equipment, speakers, travel fees, and everything else that comes with just having a club. There are 3 major contributors to local chapters:

  • University
  • Companies
  • SEDS Chapter Grants

The following sections will describe how to take advantage of these resources as well as show templates that have worked in the past for requesting funds.

Requesting Money from your University

Universities support active organizations that bring recognition and prestige to the institution. Every project that your chapter does, every conference your chapter networks at, and every event that your chapter puts on raises the awareness and the ability of the students of your University. The Universities appreciate and will support clubs and chapters that execute the above well. The more ideas that can get your university popular and have more people talking about your club, the better the chances are that the university will be willing to support your chapter. There are typically a couple of ways to ask your university for money being either some club organization that runs and organizes all the clubs on campus or from departments that would have an interest in the projects and events being run by the club.
Many Universities also have some form of club organization that has grants and scholarships that can increase the club budget. These scholarships and grants are mostly granted to organizations that positively impact the student life on campus either by providing a community of some sort or by offering skills that the students of the university would want to take advantage of and learn. Departments will typically only support groups that specifically impact the educational experience of the field of the specific department that you have contacted. The one thing that no matter who you ask money for that must be stated when requesting funds is SPECIFICS. It is also a nice touch, when asked to attach your budget, is to include your entire club budget for the year, and then highlight the exact plans/purchases that would be supported with the specific money you are asking from a school program.
Your chapter should have clearly defined goals and missions so that everyone can know exactly what your club is and how it will impact the interests of the organization’s or departments for the students. They will also want to know specifically what you plan on spending the money on, and how much the total cost probably will be. You are more likely to attain funds for a conference saying:

  • “I would like funds to the SpaveVision 2019 conference put on by SEDS USA to present the research on space exploration that has been done here on campus through our rocket competitions in order to further the opportunities and directions we can go into the future with our research as well as showcase the university’s hard work. The conference flights cost $XXX and we would like to stay in this hotel that costs $XXX. We currently do not have the total funds however and are requesting funds for the flight costs.”

Compared to:

  • “I am requesting funds to a conference.”

Key takeaways with university funding:

  • Be Specific
  • Be Active

The more active you are, the more credible you are. The more specific you are, the safer the organization will feel investing in your chapter. That is what you need the organization to think, this is a safe guaranteed investment that aligns with my goals and interests.

Company Aid - How to Start

Companies, just like universities, want to spend their money into safe investments. The biggest difference between universities and companies is the goal of the organization. Companies want to hire established students and they want students to know about their company to apply. The more people that know about their company as well, is more future clients. With this being said, companies need to know that the sponsorships they give, advertises to the top students. This is different from universities in that the goals of the universities is to make themselves look better by providing students with opportunities.

So, the goal of companies is different. The advertisement to them is also different. Often, companies want to see more options in what they can purchase. I would recommend developing a tiered sponsorship plan which lists the benefits of donating increasing amounts of funds to the club. The tiers should each also list specifically how you plan on advertising and getting your students to know about the existence of the company and what they are doing. It could be things such as:

  • Designing your project with the colors and logo of the company integrated into the aesthetic
  • Social media posts thanking the company
  • Logo placement in your chapters meetings
  • Clothing attire
  • Anything that will get other students specifically to see the company name

Companies and universities both want to support active clubs. Companies will also be looking for a breakdown of the expenses that the chapter plans to have, or has had in the past to get an idea of the needs of your chapter. They want to know how their money will be spent to help create established engineers giving the company a better reputation at the university they are supporting. The company wants to have strong relationships that can also continue over time to build its opportunities in your chapter and on your campus. With that being said, another big part of company sponsorship is maintained communication. Updating the sponsor with how well your projects are going is a good way to keep up strong relations for future sponsorships from the company.

Now all of this information about what companies are looking for to sponsor and how to get them involved and stay involved leads to the idea of developing a sponsorship package. A package that just has and explains everything that has been discussed so far. A nice compact form will allow the company to quickly read through everything that you have and make an easy decision of giving you that sponsorship you want. Amazing examples of sponsorship packages are below thanks to the SEDS ASU Rocketry Club!

Now you have created a sponsorship package. It's detailed and you have used the examples and knowledge here and your own to create an informative, compact package ready to be sent to all the companies near you. But how do you deliver this sponsorship package to these companies? This is where networking with alumni and faculty comes in. Ask alumni that work for companies you want sponsorship at to come by and look at your project you are working on and see if they have any advice for the project. Once you can meet with alumni or faculty that you have strong relations with at the companies you are looking for sponsorship from, get them to bring up cool ideas that would cost more money than you have. As soon as they bring up some cool ideas that you do not have the funds for, tell them that it is a cool idea but the club sadly does not have enough funds to cover this project. And then pop the big question, "hey, your company wouldn't happen to be willing to sponsor student clubs would they?"

Usually, from here, you will be able to meet another person from the company that you can bring your sponsorship package to and talk to the company representatives that can get you the money. The conversation also does not need to go and probably will not go exactly as outlined, but the idea is that you need to use people your club may already know to get in contact with the right people at companies. If someone inside the company does not come to the sponsorship department, selling the idea will be incredibly more difficult and result in a lot more failed attempts at getting the support you need.

So for a brief recap of company sponsorship: 1. Be safe Be a safe investment with designs already made and show any successful history you have to build credibility in that your chapter is producing capable engineers worth an investment from a company. The company should feel like once they give you the money you need, the project simply will happen smoothly. 2. Be Specific Detail the benefits of what the companies will be getting in return for their investment and exactly how much money you plan on spending. 3. Make a Sponsorship Package Develop a nice package that displays that your chapter will be a safe investment with every benefit listed and what you plan to spend your funds on. Have a page of it dedicated to what you are doing as a chapter, why are you doing it, and how will it affect the team, the university, and the community. 4. Use Existing Connections Talk to student alumni or anyone you know that works for a company that you would like sponsorship from. By talking to them, your odds of getting sponsored increase significantly.

A tip from the UNH SEDS Chapter

For the first two years, finance initiatives were put to the sidelines at UNH. As a chapter of mostly engineering students, it was very difficult to motivate the team to spend a few hours a week contacting companies in a structures, smart manner. This 2019-2020 school year, I wanted to try something a little different, and at my own expense, unfortunately. I implemented two things: a transparency tracker via google sheets (pictured below) and a team-oriented competition.

Finance transparency.png

What the tracker did for us (and it was shared on our google drive folder for all to see/edit) was show the current status of all of our contact, and who is responsible for them. Every meeting, went over the list, showing who was doing a great job, and who was not. It wasn't meant to cause any resentment, but helped us pinpoint the companies that weren't getting attacked with emails as much as they should, and who wanted to take on that company. The second pairing was the competition I started. I will not go into huge detail, but basically as we were donated money (or services that were values by me), we counted the total in the live tracker, and as certain goals were reached, the team unlocked a reward. A couple examples were wearing my full body chicken suit to Spacevision 2019 on the first day (and during travel...), a BBQ for the team, dying my hair, and lastly getting a tattoo chosen by the team on my bottom. That last reward requires a lot of funding, and it has not been reached yet, thank god. From obtaining $3,000 dollars our second year, I am pleased to say we are already past $13,000 dollars in total funding this 2019-2020 school year. Feel free to take this idea as it is, but wanted to throw it on here because it worked for us.
Charlie Nitschelm

SEDS Chapter Grants

SEDS USA offers chapter grants every semester. This is another great opportunity to get funds for your chapter. The grant application is on the main website under the Projects tab. The application process is usually a 10 section questionnaire looking for who you are, what you are requesting the money for, and how much money you are needing. This process, however, does ask for one big part, that being a grant proposal. Typically, a grant proposal should include an introduction to who your chapter is and what does your chapter specifically do. This could be ranging from rocketry competitions to giving presentations at the local school system on space stuff. This section should also include a small section on what getting a chapter grant will accomplish. The next sections should then be specific outlines of everything mentioned in the introductory section. They should also include how much money everything costs specifically and the impact each of the expenses has had in helping the projects reach the goal they have. Finally, a conclusion section should come with the actual total amount of money the club is requesting.

Use the knowledge from the past sections too to help write out what your projects are!

Point of Contact

Matthew Barr