Club Funding at Seattle Schools


In recent years, many clubs at my school have gotten to Nationals or Worlds in their respective competition. However, many of them also do not get to go due to complicated funding reasons. For my school, there are many policies that prevent students from fundraising for such trips themselves and many policies around equity that make it difficult for my school’s administration to make such decisions lightly or quickly. Not only that, but the process of receiving funding is incredibly obscure since not that many clubs have qualified for trips that require large amounts of funding (usually around $10,000) until this year. Essentially, for any student run organization at my school, and many other private schools in Seattle, there are two levels of recognition by the school: club and program. As a club, funding has to be asked for every time, and comes out of the student government’s account, while programs receive an endowment from which they can draw from.

As a leader of the Robotics Team who recently qualified for Worlds, trying to finagle money from the administration has been disastrously difficult. The administration was almost completely certain that we wouldn’t end up getting any funding at all and ultimately would not be able to go to the competition. They told us that there was less than a 2 percent chance that we would get sponsored by our school. Still, our club refused to give up. After two weeks of heavily pressuring the school, they finally approved our trip, and gave us $11,000 to travel with 10 people (hotels and flights were roughly $800/person alone).

Thus, there was a high likelihood that we would have to fund the entire thing ourselves somehow, and go as an independent team, although still as a club under the Lakeside name. As one can imagine, this lowered team morale, and was extremely stressful for the whole team, as we tried to come up with a Plan B to raise enough money to go to the competition ourselves. Only a little earlier, another club at my school, Ethics Bowl qualified to go to Nationals, and when the administration told them they could go, they thought there were all set. At the last minute, the administration told them they in fact couldn’t because of rising ticket and hotel prices, and they were forced to give away their Washington Team Slot to another school’s team.

I interviewed my friend who is on Ethics Bowl for a deeper look into what exactly happened:

Where were you guys trying to go?

North Carolina for Ethics Bowl Nationals

How did you tell the admin at first? How long did this process take?

Our faculty advisor, Mr. Nau, went to the administration with the information to see what money the administration could procure for the trip. Roughly from Feb 4th – Feb 21.

How did you react at first?

We were hopeful at first because we thought that Student Government could help and had enough money to fund us from their annually given funds that are supposed to be used to fund clubs and other school events.

Why are you not able to go now?

The cost to go ended up being more than what was originally planned for, and the administration was not able to find money to fill the difference in time for the deadline to send up, and we had to give our spot to the second place team, who was able to rally their club and find the funding from their school in less than a week.

What would you change about the process in the future?

Together we brainstormed many ideas for the future including: involve students from beginning, explore all options for money, select a student representative to pressure school, make the process clearer and faster, set aside pool of money specifically for club trips annually, create a system to decide which clubs can go, allow students to fund raise, and match them.

In trying to solve this problem through a game theory lens, first I must assign two players: the school administration, and the clubs. Then, I thought of three strategies each player could select:

Strategy Administration Clubs
A Do Nothing Do Nothing
B Give Money on a Case by Case Basis Become a School Program
C Set aside money for club trips annually Become Independent from the School

In this case, doing nothing (Strategy A) for both players would be to do continue doing what they’ve been doing. For the administration, giving money on a case by case basis would likely be the best option since it means they get significantly more jurisdiction about where the money goes. For clubs, becoming a school program would be most beneficial, although very difficult, but it definitely means funding is much more secure for student organizations.

What do you think the administration and clubs should do?

On the following survey, not only are there the strategies I thought of, but also a place to add your own! Perhaps your ideas might be even better to solve the problem! Please also feel free to comment below with feedback about my ideas about solving the problem.

Vote here!

Based on my own calculations and applications of what I have learned thus far in game theory, I found that both players playing their respective strategy B’s would be most beneficial to both parties. That is, the administration gives money on a case by case basis, and clubs who are looking for large sums of money on an annual basis can strive to become a program. Here is the matrix I used to solve this game using game theory strategies:

In order to make this matrix, I had to assign values to each outcome for each player. Each outcome box is represented with (payoffs to clubs, payoffs to admin). For strategy (A, A), the payoff is (0, 0), for (A, B), the payoff is (-10, 10), etc. Based on these values I assigned, I was able to solve the matrix above with game theory strategies. The actual numbers assigned to the outcomes matter significantly less than the difference between each value, so I used a scale of -10 being the worst or least favorable outcome and 20 being the best outcome.

Another strategy to solve games is graphing each outcome as a point, called Pareto Optimality. Both the matrix above and the graph below show that the best solution in terms of game theory and the values I assigned to each outcome would be (B, B) with an outcome of (10, 10).

Based on the payoffs available to each player of this game, it is clear that this strategy would offer the best options for both. For one thing, it is the only option in which both players do not receive a negative payoff. But also, it makes sense given the other strategies. If clubs become programs, the school is forced to treat them with more respect and is also more willing to offer them more recognition, and thus, is also more willing to give them money on a case by case basis since they are higher priority than the average club. For the administration, being able to review each case and decide which club, program, or sport receives funding is a good way to ensure equity amongst student organizations that Lakeside so values.

First and foremost, at the moment, becoming a program as a club is an uncommon process and very difficult for the few clubs that have attempted such. There definitely needs to be more transparency within the Lakeside Administration about how to go about applying to become a program, and perhaps some possible restrictions or qualifications listed somewhere. Currently, as a club leader, these options are completely unknown to me and an option only considered by clubs who have been successful for a number of years. However, many clubs’ success depends upon funding, like mine. Thus, perhaps Lakeside could set up some sort of board that is a sub-group of the administration who decides which clubs can become programs. Annually they could meet to decide which clubs become programs, and the larger administration can go from there on deciding the budget given to clubs that became programs.

Action Step: Ask your high school what the process is for student organized clubs or programs to receive money for travelling trips such as Nationals or Worlds. Are any of you guys leaders of a club or program that needed a school sponsorship to travel? What was that process like for you? Then comment below as to what other schools do. It could be another strategy for my school to use, or perhaps a general sharing of ideas can help schools globally come up with a better system of deciding how to allocate funds to different student organizations.

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