• Rich associations, poor board

    Penny pinching

    The student sports and study associations are doing very well financially. They often even turn a profit. However, it is a different story for the student clubs’ board members: they feel they do not receive a large enough committee grant.
    in short

    According to a survey by the UK, many student sports and study associations are doing just fine financially.

    They often make a profit. Only a couple of associations ever suffer losses.

    The profits are used as a buffer and to organise extra activities for the members.

    In many cases – especially for the sports associations – the profits are mainly from beer sales.

    A lot of associations also benefit from sponsorship, although not every association has the same amount.

    While the associations are flourishing, their board members are often dissatisfied with the grants they receive.

    Many board members think the CUOS (Central Executive Board for Student Organisations) which awards these grants should re-evaluate their system. CUOS president Matthijs Katz says this is not feasible.

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    A UK survey of 16 associations quickly revealed that the associations would rather not use the phrase ‘profit’. Instead, they prefer to refer to it as a ‘positive balance’, or ‘the leftover money’. But the fact remains that, generally speaking, there is money left over. Especially the members’ beer consumption brings in a pretty penny.

    Only a couple of associations ever suffer losses. But ‘loss’ is also considered a charged term within the associations. ‘I wouldn’t call it a loss. We might need more money than we’d originally budgeted for’, says Luc Kauffmann, president of study association GLV Idun (biology, life science & technology).

    Associations prefer to avoid the terms ‘profit’ or ‘loss’ because they are non-profit organisations. If an association has a consistent budget surplus, they need to pay taxes, which is something they would rather not do. ‘We try to break even every year, that’s what we strive for’, says Theo Last, president of study association Pharmaciae Sacrum (pharmacy).

    A rainy day fund

    But what happens when there is money left over anyway? They save it for later, which all 16 associations do with part of their budget surplus. ‘Every year, we reserve a large sum of money in order to make certain future investments’, says Ben Oegema, Gyas’ treasurer. Some of the rowing association’s largest expenses are new boats. ‘We spend approximately 70,000 euros on that’, says Oegema.

    Football association The Knickerbockers also looks to the future. ’Last year, we put some money in a savings account to act as a buffer. This allows us to handle any possible calamities’, says president Lars ter Morsche. A few years ago, the association’s club house burned down. ‘The extra money also allowed us to pay back some loans early that were associated with the new club house’, he says.

    Because the associations have such a good buffer, suffering a loss is usually not much of a problem. Tennis association TAM president Stijn de Boer: ‘Losses are often compensated by a profit somewhere else in our budget. We have a savings account with a buffer. This allows us to easily cushion any losses, should they occur. But to be honest, we don’t suffer many losses.’

    No great extravagances

    Do associations ever do anything ‘fun’ with the money? Of course they do. But if the associations are to be believed, these fun activities remain firmly within the bounds of decency. Study association Chemische Binding (Chemical Bonding, chemistry) not only invests their profits, but also enjoys doing something concrete for its members. ‘Our profits are reserved for upcoming activities’, says Renske de Vries, external officer. ‘Our 2017 anniversary, for instance.’

    STUFF, the study association for philosophy, also knows what to do with the leftovers. ’The last time we had a large surplus, we decided to make the annual Christmas dinner free. We usually ask for a small contribution to this. The money belongs to STUFF members, so we should spend it on them’, president Hidde Witteveen believes.


    But where do those profits actually come from? In most cases, the answer is simple: beer. For the majority of the associations that have their own bar, those profits – together with the contribution – form the largest source of income. This is especially true for the sports associations: they often have their own club house.

    But even without a home base, the members’ beer consumption can bring in a pretty penny. ‘Every beer you drink sponsors STUFF’, says Witteveen. ‘We hold our philosophy drinks in a room above Cantina Mexicana, and we staff the bar ourselves. The club gets five per cent of the price of each drink.’

    The contribution does not net the study associations a fortune, though. Membership fees are often between five and twenty euros a year. But the sports associations are an exception: their contributions can be quite high. First year Gyas members pay approximately 259 euros a year.


    Most of the study associations get the majority of their income from sponsors, although they are not always easy to come by. The generosity differs per sector. For a study association, the professional field their members end up in is important.

    STUFF, for example, has a lot of trouble attracting backers. ‘A lot of philosophers end up working in civil society: foundations that focus on social matters’, says Witteveen. ‘They don’t have any money left over to sponsor us.’

    Chemische Binding, however, is a completely different story. ‘We have many companies sponsoring us’, De Vries says. ‘There’s a chance that our students will apply for jobs with them and that makes sponsoring interesting for them. There are even companies that approach us.’

    Varying amounts

    The goodwill of sponsors for sports associations appears to vary as well. Gyas certainly has to work for it. ‘Very few companies feel that their logo on a shirt is effective’, according to Oegema. ‘We get most of our sponsoring from membership deals, recruitment and a sponsor contract with our clothing supplier.’

    The student sports clubs are also seeing a decline in the amounts their sponsors are donating. ‘Right now, they are using more creative ways to sponsor us rather than giving us large amounts of money, which is what they did a few years back’, says hockey association GCHC president Veerle Bijkerk.

    G.S.V.V. Donitas volleyball students agree with this. ‘Approximately 15 per cent of our income is from sponsors. We have a large network of sponsors who donate each year. But we are noticing a decline in the amounts every year’, says president Robin Sluiter.

    For The Knickerbockers, the income from sponsoring has actually risen over the past few years, says president Ter Morsche. But that is also because the football club only created a position specifically geared toward recruiting sponsors a few years ago.

    Poor board members

    While the associations are doing well financially, a lot of board members are actually dissatisfied with their private circumstances. More than half the surveyed associations say their board members do not get a large enough committee grant.

    The size of the grant is determined by, among other things, the number of members, which activities are being organised, and whether or not the association has its own club house. This results in a certain number of months worth of committee grant. The total amount is divided among the board members.

    Problems with re-evaluation

    The complaints seem to mainly be about the re-evaluations, during which the associations are checked out to see how they are doing and how many months of committee grant they deserve. This evaluation takes place every three years, and a lot of boards say that is not frequent enough.

    A lot can change in three years, says Lars Mulder, president of the technology management (TeMa) study association. ‘We are a new association, which means the division of the committee grant is based on a few years back. In the meantime, we’ve grown enormously and the board spends a lot more time working for the association. The size of the committee grant we currently receive no longer matches this.’ TeMa currently receives nine months’ worth of committee grant, which amounts to a little less than 4,000 euros.

    Volleyball association Donitas, which receives 8,884 euro (20 months’ worth), feel the irregularity of the re-evalutions is problematic. ‘We’ve grown in members over the past few years and this year, we played in the top Dutch league. The amount of months’ worth that we’re currently receiving does not match the amount of work we’re putting in’, says Sluiter. There will be another re-evaluation this year. ‘Hopefully that will fix everything’, he hopes.

    No solution

    According to the Central Executive Board for Student Organisations (CUOS), an annual re-evaluation poses no solution. ‘The biggest reason is that we feel it’s important to judge an organisation as time goes by’, says president Matthijs Katz.

    ‘Say we were to re-evaluate an association every year, and there’s a small study association that normally organises a conference annually, but doesn’t manage it in a given year. They would be at a disadvantage in terms of the grant that year. But when you check an association over the course of three years, CUOS is more willing to ignore that particular year and assign points for organising conferences anyway’, according to Katz.

    He says there are two sides of same the coin. ‘Of course it’s possible for an association to have more members in a re-evaluation year than the two years that follow, and then they would have a higher grant than if we were to check them every year.’ 

    CUOS itself also encourages part-time board members, Katz continues. ‘If you were to perform a re-evaluation every year for every association, you’d have to become a full-time board with permanent policy advisors.’ That is impossible, says the CUOS president. ‘We need students on the board, precisely because they’re so close to the associations. It’s easier to fill up a part-time board.’

    Differences between faculties

    The affiliated faculty also influences the size of the grant the study associations get. Pharmaciae Sacrum, for instance, is out of luck: pharmacy is a part of the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, and they do not have enough money, according to president Theo Last. ‘That is why we only receive 28 months’ worth (ed.: approximately 12,500 euros), instead of the 34 we’re entitled to. That is a lot less than the associations belonging to the medical faculty get, despite the fact that we’re the only fulltime board.’

    However, there are also associations that are satisfied with their grants. ‘I didn’t know we were getting a grant until after we were sworn in’, says Witteveen from STUFF. The study association for philosophy receives nine months’ worth (approximately 4,000 euros). ‘We consider the grant to be a small contribution for any study delays or failed courses rather than compensation for all the work we do during the year. It’s a voluntary position’, according to the president.

    Jeroen Westerbeek at Vesting, the econometrics & operations research study association, agrees with Witteveen. ‘This is not something you do for the money, but for the experience’, says the president, whose association receives a little less than 8,000 euros every year. ‘But if you were to work all those hours as a shelf stacker at the Albert Heijn, you’d obviously make more money.’

    Costly delay

    A committee grant can be seen as compensation for any study delay board members suffer due to their work for the associations. ‘I’m approximately half an academic year behind, so that’s about five months’, says volleyball association G.S.V.V. Donitas president Robin Sluiter. ‘The tuition fees for this are approximately the same as the committee grant, so that just about covers it’, he says.

    But Sluiter also says that being a board member comes with extra costs, such as ‘suitable board clothes and drinks you’re compelled to attend when you’re on the board. To prepare for the year ahead, you go on a weekend trip with the board. And your phone bills are higher than normal. The association can compensate you for this in some small way, but that doesn’t nearly cover all the costs.’

    The below example – based on Sluiter’s situation – shows how little money is actually left over for extra costs.

    Total committee grant G.S.V.V. Donitas: €8,884.00
    Committee grant per board members (8 members): €1,110.50
    Tuition fees for half year’s delay: €992.00
    Money for extra costs: €118.50