Clubs and Organizations Struggle to Raise Funds

by Kimberly Greulich ‘18

Sherwood has a plethora of clubs, from academic clubs like the Chemistry club and Eco-Sherwood, to political and social activism clubs like the Young Democrats/Republicans and Amnesty International. It’s part of what makes Sherwood such a community – it has a place for every kind of person to feel included and involved.

But what does the school actually do for these clubs? Recently, The X-STEM Club had to find a way to raise money to attend a STEM Convention in Washington D.C. They chose fundraising this time, and worked with Chipotle to raise money, but that was not how they always accomplished things. “Because any projects we do, all the money comes straight from Mrs. Orange,” explained the X-STEM Club president, senior Alexander Richman, about science teacher and club sponsor Kristina Orange. “So, it’s nice to give her money back.”

School clubs seem to have very limited options in gaining the funding they need to participate in educational and interesting activities: fundraising, or paying for it themselves. Neither the school nor MCPS offers financial assistance.

“Clubs have to be self-sufficient,” said Principal Bill Gregory. “School funds don’t go to support clubs; school funds go to support big things in the school.”

“Self-sufficient” has turned into clubs running to local restaurants, just like X-STEM, and mainly finding themselves at Chipotle to get the money they need. Last year, there were 16 fundraisers at various restaurants, 13 of them at Chipotle. Those 13 Chipotle fundraisers, in which clubs receive 50 percent of the profits, raised $15,136.62 in total, according to the Independent Activities Fund public document. Through the end of November this year, there have already been 12 fundraisers, 10 of them at Chipotle. Every request for a fundraiser goes through Sherwood’s business office.

“For any fundraiser you have, you have to stipulate what the money is being used for… And that’s signed off by Mr. Gregory for final approval,” said school financial specialist Cynthia Saul.

Before the request arrives at Gregory’s desk, it goes through a multi-step process. Serious problems emerge when this system is bypassed. “We’ve had some issues this year, where the student leaders – while very impressive, and very organized, and very motivated – have not followed the proper channels,” said Assistant School Administrator Stephanie Gelfand. “We get audited by the state, and all that stuff is under that audit. So, the minute we don’t follow those rules, we could get in serious trouble. So that’s, I think, the problem with the fundraisers… [the] order… isn’t being followed for whatever reason.”

When fundraiser requests go through the system correctly and reach the principal, they have a strong chance of getting approved. Gregory cannot remember ever saying no to a fundraiser. He’s extremely supportive of clubs finding ways to get the money they need to participate in activities they are interested in with people who share their enthusiasm.”

The school uses any discretionary funds based on the “instructional needs” of Sherwood students, said Saul. Clubs don’t fall in this bracket, though there are clubs that actively provide students with SSL hours, for example, which are a requirement to graduate.

Take the club Give to Live, whose focus is to give to the less fortunate and create change for the people who need it most. They recently held a fundraiser at Café Rio to raise money to buy the ingredients they needed for a Thanksgiving dinner for the soup kitchen Loaves & Fishes in D.C. “[Last year], we got six 24-pound turkeys, 30 cranberry sauces, 30 boxes of stuffing, six 10-pound bags of potatoes . . . And that’s what we try to do every year. We use that money to buy the stuff, and then bring it,” said club president, senior Lexi Swiat. “I would say the maximum [SSL hours] you would get in a semester would be 30, 40 hours.”

Even a club as successful as Give to Live, which gives students invaluable real-world experiences as well as SSL hours that are required for graduation, does not count as covering a student’s “instructional needs.” Therefore, the club does not receive school funding support for its various charitable activities.