Budgets and Funding: What Your Student Org Needs to Know

Map your AAUW student organization’s road to success with a budget that is both effective and efficient! This guide will show you how to make a budget and find funding for your AAUW projects.

AAUW Fundraising Guidelines

The key takeaways from this policy are

  1. Funds raised must go to support your student organization’s campus programs and must directly relate to AAUW’s mission. You can also raise money to support student organization members attending the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders (NCCWSL) or other AAUW campus leadership programs.
  2. Fundraising for other organizations at meetings and events is not allowed.
  3. Feel free to collaborate with other like-minded student organizations or work with local charities to provide in-kind donations like services or goods.

If you have any questions about AAUW’s fundraising guidelines, please e-mail coll-univ@aauw.org.


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1. Make Your Budget

No matter what your source of funding, your student organizations will need to know how to create a budget. AAUW student organizations are typically funded by their institution, through fundraising efforts, or from a local AAUW branch or other outside source. Managing a budget is also a great skill to put on your résumé. Here’s what you need to get started.

Use AAUW’s Diversity and Inclusion Tool Kit as you plan.

Our guide will help you be more thoughtful about when you hold events, what type of food you offer, and room accessibility.

The budgeting process involves three key steps:

1. Define your student organization’s goals.
Use AAUW’s mission and your student organization’s mission statement to guide your goal setting. Always ask yourself how your event is directly related to empowering women and girls. Every other step should work toward achieving your aspirations.

2. Develop a budget and strategies for achieving those goals.
Select a few events or programs that will help you reach your target. Do not attempt to do everything at once. Spending too much money on any one item will restrict your outreach. And remember, you can build on your events year after year.

3. Be realistic about how much things will cost, but be resourceful.
Create a checklist to make sure that you’ve considered all the different financial aspects of the programs that you plan. The sooner you take these costs into consideration, the more time you have to fundraise and find collaborators on campus who can share costs. (And fundraising can be easy — see below!)

You should take into consideration costs like

  • Promotion: The wise planner budgets for the printing of posters, flyers, tables, tents, tickets, giveaways, and any other marketing materials necessary to advertise an event. Better yet, find a friendly neighborhood printer to sponsor you and give free printing!
  • Food and beverages: It’s well known that college students love free food — and are much more likely to come to an event that offers refreshments. Obviously, you’ll have to consider the cost when planning your budget. Even with a small budget, you can use inexpensive snacks to attract a crowd to your event.
  • Performer fees: Big-name speakers require big fees, so you should look at new performers who are still establishing their reputations as speakers. You’ll not only negotiate a great rate for your organization, but you’ll help a performer establish their credentials! Don’t forget to make clear whether travel, lodging, and other expenses are being covered by your organization. Confirm all costs with your adviser or program board before signing a contract to make sure you’re following university policies. Be creative and see if you can check out a university-owned van that can be driven by a university-approved employee, or pick your performer up yourself.
  • Facility rental: Check with your adviser to see what charges apply for the use of campus facilities (many rooms are free or cheap for student organization use). If there is a cost, negotiate, negotiate, negotiate! Just because a price is quoted does not mean that’s the price you need to pay.
  • Setup: Always check with your university’s policies. Your student org can often provide much of the labor and incidentals, but depending on your contract, these might have to be supplied by your university (and paid for by you). Read the fine print!
  • Production: Production costs are for sound, lights, staging, insurance, professional labor costs, security, licenses, permits, legal advice, accounting, or other expenses associated with the program. Your adviser can help determine what’s necessary for your event.

2. Keep Stellar Records

Maintain accurate and timely financial records for your organization. Serious problems can arise when the student responsible for the record keeping (usually the treasurer) gets behind in their duties.

Accurate budget records will also be a big help when it’s time to create next year’s budget. When you’re looking ahead to next year, you should answer questions such as

  • How much money was spent on a specific program/event in the previous year?
  • How much are we proposing to spend in the upcoming year?
  • Do we know of any costs that are increasing?
  • Which items are new to this year’s budget?
  • Which items did we eliminate compared with last year’s budget?
  • Where is our money coming from?
  • What are some of the fundraising challenges we might face in the upcoming year?

Get everyone involved in planning your fundraising and spending, including your adviser. Budgeting is a group process. Questions asked and answered during a budget session will help your student organization plan the most strategic budget possible. Even if you’re not the treasurer, don’t ignore your budget — no matter how small. Your officers should stay informed on a regular basis.

3. Make Your Proposal Stand Out

You have a stellar budget planned. Now, make sure you have the funding you need! Every campus is different, but some schools allow you to apply for funding after you register as an official student organization. Once you learn the protocol for student organizations at your school, work with your adviser on submitting a budget proposal.

Here are some tips to make your proposal stand out.

  • Describe in detail your budget proposal, monetary requirements, and the benefits that your proposal will give to your campus community.
  • Collaborate with other student organizations with similar missions to amplify the impact of your events. Meet with your collaborators ahead of time to strengthen your application.
  • If you received funds in the past, make sure you describe how effectively you used those funds and how you will use them this year for an even better event.
  • Most schools do not consider a regular meeting of your organization an event. Host a panel presentation, a speaker, or something else that would qualify as a unique program.

4. AAUW Can Help Fund Your Work

If your school doesn’t offer your AAUW student organization funds or you fall short of your desired budget, there are other funding options to consider.

Apply for an AAUW Campus Outreach Grant!
AAUW student organizations can apply for up to $750 to support campus programming that aims to eliminate gender discrimination.

  • Apply for up to $750 with an AAUW Campus Outreach Grant to plan an event that promotes AAUW’s public policy priorities. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis and allow students to plan events that make an impact on campus. Members of Ohio State University’s AAUW student organization used the grant to plan a Take Back Our Campus event in October 2014 to raise awareness about campus sexual assault.
  • Apply for an AAUW Campus Action Project grant to receive up to $5,000 to implement a project promoting gender equity in your campus community.
  • Apply for an AAUW Community Action Grant to receive up to $10,000 to create a community-based project that promotes education and equality for women and girls.

5. Fundraise

As you develop your fundraising plan, think of the needs of your community and your potential funders. Many student organizations find that their fundraising success rests on six general principles:

1. Follow university policies.

Many fundraising activities require prior university approval. Be familiar with your school’s policies before you start. Check in with your student engagement office on the specific details of your event. This serves as a checkpoint for whether or not your fundraising activity follows policy.

2. Establish financial goals.

If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never know if you’ve arrived. You should develop a budget before you establish your fundraising goals for the year. Think big but realistic.

3. Develop creative fundraising sources.

Once you have established a financial target, identify all potential funding options and develop creative ways to tap these sources. Examples include asking different departments on campus for funds or designing your own creative events on campus to raise money.

4. Establish a fundraising plan.

Successful fundraising requires careful planning and goal setting. Set attainable benchmarks for your organization and modify them as appropriate. Who has connections in your community? Who is good at organizing? Who can send out the numerous e-mails required to secure resources? Remember that in-person outreach is the most effective way to make an ask!

5. Evaluate your results.

Analyzing your efforts will help measure your level of success and direct future decisions. Ask for and write down feedback from members after your event.

Frequently Used Fundraisers

  • Hold practice tests with the Princeton Review.
    Because you’re in the AAUW community, you have access to this free, no-brainer fundraiser. Charge a small fee for participants and you’ve got an easy, popular fundraising event.
  • Bake sale
    If they’re allowed on your campus, put together your own “unequal” bake sale on Equal Pay Day. Charge women 79 cents and men a dollar for baked goods.
  • Used book sale
    Work with your school’s library or a local AAUW branch that hosts annual book sales. E-mail coll-univ@aauw.org so we can connect you with your local branch!
  • T-shirt sales
    Sell your own AAUW T-shirts or shirts with a women’s empowerment message. Remember to use AAUW’s Branding Tool Kit.
  • Walkathon or dance marathon
    People sponsor you for the distance you walk or how long you dance. Remember that with large events like these, it’s best to start planning early!

6. Remember to Collaborate

Collaborate with other student groups and departments when planning your event and budgets. This will decrease costs, raise attendance, and help with recruitment. Some possible campus collaborators to consider include

  • Student organizations with similar missions
  • Women and gender studies departments or political science departments
  • Diversity and inclusion or multicultural offices, including your campus Women’s Center
  • Fraternity/sorority life
  • Student activities or student life offices
  • The athletics department
  • Dean of students office
  • Community members
  • Your local AAUW branches and Younger Women’s Task Force chapters. Depending on your program, branches and chapters may be the perfect collaborators. E-mail coll-univ@aauw.org so we can help connect you.

Reaching out to diverse student organizations on campus is just one way to start making your AAUW student organization more inclusive. Check out AAUW’s Diversity and Inclusion Tool Kit for more ideas!

Stay connected with AAUW for new ideas and guidance by joining the official Facebook group for AAUW student organization leaders, or e-mailing coll-univ@aauw.org.

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A group of eight young stand with posters, one reading "Equal Pay 4 Equal Work I am not worth LESS."

Student Organization Programming FAQ

We answer your questions about the types of programs you can plan for your student organization.


Raise Money and Help Students with the Princeton Review

AAUW collaborator the Princeton Review has dozens of valuable turnkey programs for AAUW student organizations and branches. This is one resource you need to include in your potential fundraisers!

Three diverse women stand together in the city.

Apply for an AAUW Campus Outreach Grant!

AAUW student organizations can apply for up to $750 to support campus programming that aims to eliminate gender discrimination.