After being left in confusion on the policy for donations following the March 30 Student Senate meeting, University finance officials said that they are allowed to make charitable donations to student organizations, but not when the money goes straight to the charitable organization itself.
Mary Collins, controller and assistant vice president of finance, and Stacy Carrick, vice president of finance and administration, explained that this policy has always been in place, there has just been a miscommunication on how that policy has been enforced.
“This has been in the state statutes and our University expense procedure since I have been in this role, and even well before I took this role,” Collins said. “Nothing has changed about that, but we have reached out to Dr. Hoffmann and challenged and said, ‘Beware, we have the University expense procedure in place, so that is an unallowable expense.’”
The allowed expense when it comes to donations is when the Student Senate gives organizations money to help fund their philanthropic and service events. The unallowed expense is when the Senate gives a student organization money that they will directly give to the charity.
“I think COVID-19 has caused maybe some of this, looking back over the past year,” Collins said. “But again, the Student Senate is there to help these organizations be a part of those types of events, but the intent is that we don’t just transfer money as a charitable donation to the various outside charitable organizations.”
Something that helped create this problem is that the money given by Student Senate to organizations was labeled incorrectly.
“I think we have had some examples where some things that were deemed as an allocation really were charitable contributions, so I think there is some confusion on what is a student allocation versus a charitable contribution,” Collins said.
When it comes to labeling it as the correct allocation, they said they can see where some confusion can occur.
“Sometimes it’s hard to know exactly, but we’re not benefitting a third party,” Carrick said. “The Student Senate is using those funds to benefit a student org that is directly related to Northwest and directly a part of our day-to-day business.”
Each year, finance gives training sessions to the leadership team of Student Senate about the credit cards and the expense policy. To combat this problem in coming years, they have decided to continue with these and add more information.
“We’ve talked with Dr. Baker and will continue to do that and probably highlight the use of funds and student allocations versus charitable donations, and try to continue to inform and educate to avoid some of the confusion that we have experienced here,” Carrick said.