Why Does Cayuga’s Watchers Need More Funding?

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Cayuga’s Watchers is a student-run, 501(c)(3) organization that serves to make Cornell’s campus safer through promoting peer social responsibility to mitigate high-risk drinking on campus. We hire, train, and employ students to attend events to help students avoid unpleasant or dangerous situations. Currently, our Watchers make a competitive $10 per hour to do this, which is in line with, or better than, most jobs on-campus. Our executive board is not paid for what we do- our work is our passion for seeing this organization succeed and becoming the national model of combating high-risk drinking.

The most important thing to us is the ability to provide these services free of charge to organizations, and as such, this requires us to seek out funding in order to staff events, train Watchers, and cover all of the administrative/backend work associated with running an organization. Imagine running a 130-employee organization that works an average of 4 events per week with a unique business model that involves inherent risks (and therefore commands exuberant insurance premiums) and that doesn’t charge for its services: one can imagine that our operations are more expensive than they may seem.

But exactly how expensive is it to have Cayuga’s Watchers at an event? Let’s put it into relative terms: Let’s say that I want to lease a 2017 Porsche 911 for 36 months. Factoring all costs necessary (down-payment, lease payments, fuel, insurance, maintenance, tires, speeding tickets, etc.), this would cost me about $75,000 over three years, or about $0.05 per minute for those three years. In comparison, it costs Cayuga’s Watchers an average of $209.77 per event per Watcher, or $839.10 per event for 4 Watchers. This translates to $1.40 per minute of event. That’s right, it is cheaper per minute to lease and run a $100,000 Porsche than it is for us to have Watchers staff an event. Even if you factor in how much the Porsche costs per minute that it is being used (thereby making it relative to cost per minute that Watchers are being used), that only amounts to about $0.68 per minute, which is still a fraction of what Watchers costs us. You can do these calculations with a Ferrari or a Lamborghini as well, but in the end of the day the per minute cost of running an event is much higher than running a premium sports-car.

Since our founding, Cayuga’s Watchers has raised and spent over $200,000 to staff over 218 events across all types of organizations on Cornell’s campus. Much like any other 501(c)(3), we rely on donations to fund our operations. We do not charge nor do we plan on charging organizations for our services, because we believe that keeping Cornell’s campus safe is vital and should not cost anything to those who need it. However, as our operations expand, our operating costs increase exponentially. Moreover, Cayuga’s Watchers is independent of Cornell University: we have been gradually decreasing our reliance on Cornell for support, but this means our challenge is securing new sources of funding to replace this.

Fundraising takes a considerable amount of effort, especially when it comes to raising hundreds of thousands of dollars: some non-profits pay employees six-figure salaries to fundraise, yet we are doing this as full-time and unpaid students. As such, Cayuga’s Watchers needs funding to support its day-to-day operations in ensuring the campus is safe. The more money that we can raise, the less time we must spend fundraising. This ultimately allows for more time spent on outreach and expanding our presence both on campus and across the country. Every dollar that we receive has a vital role in shaping Cayuga’s Watchers for the Cornell community: we provide an attractive and engaging job opportunity to students on campus, while also ensuring that the risks of drinking are mitigated for free. With this in mind, we ask our community to help us continue keeping the party safe through contributing to our donation drive this Thursday.

Alex Kalos - VP of Finance