Dance Marathon's budget, accountability improve under Khan

Khan had no prior experience in budget making before his work with Dance Marathon.

Senior Mahir Khan, just weeks away from capping his undergraduate career at MU, said he remembers his first taste of campus involvement. A commuter student his entire college career, Khan has never lived on campus, yet that hasn’t stopped him from getting involved.

Shortly into his freshman year, Khan signed up to be a dancer in MU’s Dance Marathon, becoming one of 337 participants. It was 2009 and only the second annual MUDM.

“It really opened my eyes to all the great things that happen at Mizzou,” Khan said.

He later applied to the MUDM Steering Committee, of which he remained a member during his sophomore and junior years. Khan’s electric personality made him an ideal recruiter as he watched participation grow and donation totals rise each year.

It was not until this last year that Khan joined the MUDM Executive Board and signed on as Budget Director.

“What I got to do with the budget was be really hands-on with all the decision-making and where the money goes and where it comes from,” Khan said.

In becoming budget director, Khan made a pledge to avoid the overheads and unforeseen expenses which had taken an almost 25 percent bite out of 2012’s final donation.

And he achieved his goal. Just more than 8.1 percent of the funds raised by MUDM in 2013 were overhead costs, dramatically reducing the amount from last year.

“The executive board took a pledge to be 100 percent accountable – to make sure that whatever you do you, give 100 percent,” Khan said.

But Khan is relatively inexperienced with budgets and the process that goes into making them. A biology major and theater minor, Khan essentially taught himself, he said.

“Even with my major, a lot of it is just analytics and statistics,” Khan said. “The way that I taught myself was essentially just guess and check – seeing what works and seeing what doesn’t work.”

A seasoned background in MUDM also helped. Khan was confident the program could raise the necessary amounts, recruit more dancers than the year before and meet whatever expectations he laid out in his budget.

The budget, detailed in an expansive Microsoft Excel document with a myriad of numbers and graphs, isn’t as complex as it may seem, Khan said.

“(The document) had a lot of pretty colors, but it really isn’t that complicated,” Khan said. “Essentially it was just taking a no-nonsense route to accountability. I have to be able to account for every penny of every single minute of every single day.”

Despite monetary concerns, Khan constantly reminded himself – and still does – whom he was doing this for.

MUDM has a slogan they stand by: “FTK,” or “For the Kids,” calling to mind the ill children who the participants dance for.

“If I can remind myself who I’m doing this for, the accountability takes care of itself,” Khan said.

Khan, who sports a dark beard covering the lower portion of his face, often refers to his freshman year as “pre-beard Mahir,” but it also marks a time when MUDM was beginning a burgeoning process that Khan has witnessed over his four years at MU.

“Over the last four years we’ve seen Dance Marathon go from a bunch of kids who just hang out at a cubicle to an integral part of the University of Missouri,” Khan said. “Being part of that genesis and being part of that entire growth of the organization – it’s just such a blessing.”

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