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07-04-20-black-lives-matter-move-free-mumia-protest
Many student groups hope to use their unused revenue to donate to Black Lives Matter, bail funds, and other non-profits focused on racial justice. Credit: Kylie Cooper

The Office of Student Affairs is now allowing student groups to donate their leftover revenue funds to charities, weeks after it restricted organizations from doing so.

After student groups ceased most operations in mid-March when campus operations shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, many hoped to use their remaining budgets to donate to Black Lives Matter, bail funds, and other non-profits focused on racial justice in light of the police killing of George Floyd and national protests. OSA soon informed groups on June 2, that they could use neither the money given to them by the University nor their own revenue to donate to nonprofits, because doing so would jeopardize the University’s legal status as a nonprofit organization.

In a June 29 email to Student Activities Council groups, however, OSA Associate Director of Activities Rodney Robinson announced that SAC-funded student groups may donate their unused revenue to charities. 

“There has not been a time in our history where groups have broadly had excess revenue that was not intended to support future programming and organizational needs,” the email read. “But these are extraordinary times and, in response, a process has been created to accommodate student interest in using funds to support not-profit organizations in this time of greatest need.”

Robinson and OSA Executive Director Katie Bonner did not respond to requests for comment.

Groups are still unable to donate funds provided to them by the University, the email read, but may donate revenue generated from ticket sales, fundraisers, or other sources of revenue.

According to the email, groups may not donate more than 50% of their revenue, and may not donate to political organizations.  

Rising College junior and SAC chair Grayson Peters said Penn Student Government leaders had advocated for this policy change since the initial OSA email, meeting with OSA and the University’s General Counsel to discuss the legal matter.

“We’re all incredibly excited that student groups are able to use the money that they have worked for, the money that they have earned, in the ways they wish,” Peters said.

Peters said that although student groups’ revenue is held in a University account with their SAC funds, the process OSA will use to help student groups distribute their revenue to charities will not threaten the University’s nonprofit status.

Rising College senior and Penn Band treasurer David Fernandez said Penn Band previously held a donation matching effort for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund that raised approximately $2,000 from alumni and current members.

Fernandez said that the policy change will not affect the finances of Penn Band, which is SAC-funded but does not generate revenue. However, he said he is pleased to see that other student groups who do generate profits will be able to donate them.

Rising College senior and Bloomers chair Reagan Bracknell said before the policy change, Bloomers, which is SAC-funded, matched donations up to $1,000 to the Philadelphia Bail Fund using an account that contained donations from Bloomers alumnae. Bracknell said Bloomers also held a fundraising drive that raised $3,000 for Colours, a Philadelphia organization that supports LGBTQ people of color. 

Bloomers is now planning to donate some of their leftover spring revenue, Bracknell said, and is waiting to see which organizations are still in need of financial aid in the coming summer months.

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