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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

MAB plans for more program growth with support from MU

MAB was able to give out $25,600 in scholarships this year

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Ben Kothe/Graphic Designer

May 6, 2014

During the summer of 2013, student leadership within Mizzou Alternative Breaks decided the next best step for MAB was to make the transition from being a student organization to a program of the university, MAB Coordinator Bryan Goers said.

“With a student organization, you have … much more freedom in terms of where you want to send extra money and what you want to do with it,” Goers said. “Obviously they need to take care of their own taxes. But through the university, there are some specific policies … that state that the university can’t give cash gifts to anyone.”

This prompted several restrictions in how MAB spends any extra money left over from trip fees.

Goers said there are two chapters of MU’s [Business Policy and Procedure Manual]http://bppm.missouri.edu) that explain these restrictions.

Chapter 2:001 states: “To qualify as a gift, there should be no negotiation in advance for the gift. Cash and gift certificates redeemable for cash, are not allowed as gifts. Gifts should be of nominal value and, ideally, bear the University's licensed logo. Gifts less than or equal to $100 are usually not reportable to the IRS.”

In addition, according to Chapter 2:270, “Non-cash gifts may be presented as a token of appreciation to a donor, dignitary, guest, volunteer, visitor (or in certain circumstances, customer or client) when a valid and documented business purpose exists such as to recognize contributions to the University or to honor a distinguished visitor. Examples are token items given to donors by the Alumni Association or mugs given to conference attendees.”

Goers said the program was already planning on phasing out what they used to do with the extra trip fees, which were previously donated to trip sites, and that this transition from student organization to university program only made it more official.

“We were always at this philosophical crossroads with what to do with the extra money,” he said. “Does it make sense to send the money given to this program on behalf of (a student) to a site that we may or may not come back to in the future?”

MAB has been doubling in growth nearly every year since 1991, when MU students created a student organization and called it ‘Alternative Spring Break’, under the University YMCA. That year, they sent three student-run service trips to different sites across the nation over spring break.

Several years later, ASB became a part of MU’s Department of Student Life, to accommodate for the rate at which the student organization was growing.

In 2014, ASB also changed its name to “Mizzou Alternative Breaks,” Goers said.

This year, MAB launched 69 trips with 842 students, Goers said, and began giving out need-based scholarships with the money retained from extra trip fees.

“(We) want to make sure that money is not an issue for anyone who wants to go on an alternative break,” MAB Executive Director Charles Gutierrez said. “Our (core) mission, as a program, is to allow students to go do service. It’s not necessarily a fundraiser, although that’s kind of a nice aspect of our program too.”

Instead, MAB was able to give out $25,600 in scholarships this year with the extra money the program makes, Gutierrez said.

“Realistically, not much changed,” Goers said. “The students still make most of the decisions, just as they always have. Really, the only difference is that we are under more scrutiny when it comes to our finances and our risk management policies.”

Gutierrez said from a student’s perspective, this decision was made because it would allow the program to do more for the student body than it could before.

“I think (being a part of MU) really allows us to grow and achieve our full potential,” Gutierrez said. “Just the fact that we’re getting so big means there’s obviously a lot more attention on us and I think the university will help us deal with that.”

Gutierrez, MAB Director of Spring Services Hai Kim and MAB Director of Winter Services Michael Loida said they agree that the support through the university will only make MAB grow even more as a program.

“No longer are we just representing our organization, we’re also representing Mizzou students and we are representing a Mizzou program,” Kim said. “That’s why, I think, because we got so big, it got this way. They (administrators) just really wanted to make sure we were going in the right direction.”

It appears they are doing so. Loida, a junior, said he has seen the program grow significantly every year since he joined as a freshman.

Now that MAB has the support it needs to expand as a program, Loida said it is important to make sure the program is growing at a steady, healthy rate.

“One of the big things we are striving for is not just to grow for the sake of growing, but grow strategically, so we can maintain our growth,” he said. “If we wanted to, we could probably send 200 trips (this year), based on the amount of people that applied. But we realized that we have to take smaller steps to develop our program each year.”

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