Article by Liliane Ventrone, MUN01 is very grateful for her contribution.
My name is Liliane Ventrone and I’m a junior at a small public school in the DMV area. I’m majoring in biological sciences, the president of our MUN team, and I work at a print shop and graphic design office on our campus. My interests in MUN have shifted from participating in the coolest committees, to being able to provide an educational, worthwhile Model UN experience to my students that I work with.
I call my university a STEM-heavy school. We’re known for our biology, engineering, and computer science departments. The social sciences, as well as arts, humanities, and anything else that falls into those categories, are much smaller departments, and consequently, less known to people outside of our university system. Another result of this is that our Model UN team is entirely student run, aside from one faculty advisor. Our coaches are students as well as handling all of the administrative processes, while sometimes participating in committees ourselves.
While this has built our leadership, money management, and conflict-resolution skills – we lack the advantage of having a full time staff or faculty member dedicated to the team, unlike other teams we have seen at competitions. Whether it be a faculty member coaching the team, or handling administrative and budgetary issues, students can only do so much. Students at other STEM-heavy schools that I have talked to have gone through similar situations as ours. This means that as student leaders, we are at the front lines of a lot of important processes, one of them being fundraising for our team – and a constant source of funds.
In the past, we have been criminally underfunded. I, personally, have had to pay for a lot of fees and I know a lot of other student leaders on my campus who have had to do the same. We’ve consistently had to stay off-site from the conference hotel – which we all know is where all of the after-hours committee work happens. At one point, we stayed in an Airbnb that one of my students complained of rat poop in her suitcase! I know that this is not just our school going to these lengths just to even get our students to conference in the first place. We’ve used shady bus services, stayed in shabby hotels, and have pretty much done everything on our end to cut the out-of-pocket costs that travel and accomodations bring.
Until there is an institutional change to provide funding for our schools, and at other STEM-heavy schools as well, we are stuck with this challenge of funding our teams to go to these expensive conferences. In my experience leading my Model UN team, I have gathered a few advice points that could be useful to other Model UN teams at STEM-heavy schools.
● Bring your case to departments that your students belong to. Since our school has so many majors in STEM departments, we have approached the department chairs about providing some funding to the club based on membership in the major/department. Some departments may say no, but some might be willing to pitch in a couple hundred dollars. It may not seem like much in the grand scheme of things, especially if you have a large team – but it adds up.
● Continuously have smaller-scale fundraisers. For us, small-scale fundraisers like bake sales and restaurant nights do not make much money. However, in my time as president, recurring fundraisers like these build engagement among club members, as well as other students at your school.
● Cut costs where you can – but not to the point where you’ll be residing in squalor. We have often stayed at off-site locations when we attend conferences, such as alternative hotels or AirBnB’s. However, when the logistical issues of your lodging start to impede on the conference experience, you have to find a balance. For example, for our New York conference we stayed in a cheap AirBnB – but one of my students found rat poop in her suitcase after!
● Continuous crowdfunding. Having a gofundme open continuously has allowed us to collect donations throughout the academic year without putting in the effort of having many fundraisers. We’ve also found CustomInk’s crowdfunding feature – which allows you to sell merchandise and have the profits go to your team. Both of these have helped keep up the smaller expenses of our club, such as marketing materials and our website.
● Reach out to team alumni, as well as parents/family members of club members. If your team has been around for a long time like ours (25 years this year!) there is a good chance that some of the alumni from your team will want to help out in some way or another. We have alum staffing our high school conference, as well as reaching out to their networks to help spread the word. Parents of students will also sometimes want to help out – which is great for those GoFundMe’s. My mom has our team shirt!
These are tips that I have picked up personally as I have been president of my Model UN team – every team has different dynamics and these will not be one size fits all. However, a lot of teams feel the struggle of lack of funding, and I want to be able to contribute what has helped us to be able to help other struggling teams like us.