Q & A with SOFO answers common questions about starting a student group
Starting a student group doesn’t need to be like pulling teeth.
Offices like the Student Organizations Finance Office exist for the sole purpose of helping students launch student groups and manage finances. SOFO acts as an on-campus bank, as well as a travel agent, purchasing department and event manager for all student groups on campus.
Norman Skarstad, assistant director of SOFO, answered some questions for the Campus Press and revealed that starting your own student group is a relatively simple process.
Campus Press: What are the preliminary requirements for starting a student group?
Norman Skarstad: First, you need a minimum of three people, and two of the three in your group must be fee-paying CU students on this campus. Then, there is a $25.00 minimum deposit to open an account with SOFO.
CP: So, after you create an account, are you good to go?
NS: Almost. There is some paperwork to fill out. The students must decide if they are going to be independent or affiliated with the university. Most student groups prefer to be independent.
CP: What is the difference between affiliated and independent as far as student group are concerned?
NS: First, “independent” refers to the fact that the group is at the university, but not of the university; the university doesn’t claim any ownership of that group but the group can still utilize some of the financial services. They can rent rooms, hold meetings and apply for funding for events and travel – like the Boulder Freeride. An example of an affiliated group would be the History Club. Affiliated groups have a lot of oversight that comes from a specified department; however, a perk of being affiliated is you have the full weight of the university behind you as a group. You can use payroll, have access to the university legal council and can use the university’s logos.
CP: Overall, how long does it take to get a student group approved?
NS: It’s really just a matter of filling out the paperwork – usually around 15 minutes. Once you fill out the paper work, you’re done. You’re open and recognized as a student group.
CP: How many student groups are there on campus?
NS: We usually have one or two groups form a day. From year to year, we usually have somewhere around 800.
CP: How do all of these groups find funding?
NS: There are many different places groups can go for funding – we have funding packets in our office. It mostly depends on what you need funding for. If your need is for operation, travel or event funding, there are different funding sources that are more specific to what you need funding for.
CP: That process seems like it would be the hardest. Is finding funding one of the harder obstacles to overcome?
NS: Actually, no. This is also a relatively simple process. First you need to fill out a funding proposal form. We (SOFO) can advise you which funding sources you should approach. If, for instance, there is a big event and you need $10,000, we would most likely advise you to go to the Cultural Events Board, administrative funding or student fee funding. We can help advise people between the different funding sources and where to go to get the most amount of money.
CP: How would you advise students to be successful in planning a new group on campus?
NS: I recommend to first take a look at our Web site but then coming by and talking to somebody, groups usually have more specific questions to what their aim is, and we are here to help.
CP: Does SOFO help students promote awareness for their specific group?
NS: Not exactly. (University of Colorado Student Union) has an online club guide, and if students want their group to be listed in the club guide, they would talk to USCU and get it posted. We don’t do anything per se to help advertise – it is primarily up to the students to get the word out. Actually, there are lots of groups that don’t want to be in the club guide because they aren’t looking for mass appeal – many groups are narrow in their focus and usually find their members within their own college.
CP: Has SOFO ever rejected students from starting a group?
NS: It is most rare we would ever turn down a student group, as long as the group is lawful.
CP: In your opinion, what is the most bizarre student group ever formed?
NS: There have been many really interesting groups. For me, I would say the most interesting group was the “Bourbon and Croquet” group. Their goal was to drink and play croquet – that’s it. They actually had it going for a while. They assured SOFO that everyone was 21 years old, and as long as nobody was getting hurt and stayed within the law, we were okay with it.
For more information, go to the SOFO office in the UMC, Room 231.
Contact Campus Press staff writer Victoria Barbetelli at firstname.lastname@example.org.