The economic downturn has had many effects on the nonprofit industry. Donations are down (or about to be), and investments have lost significant value. Even if your student organization has not received donations from alumni, local philanthropists or foundations, you are likely to feel a tightening of the purse strings from universities as well as many endowments have suffered in this economic climate. Then again, this all assumes that you've had a budget to work with, which is assuming far too much for some organizations that have gone for years with no budget at all. Because so many student organizations face financial constraints, it's important to know how to utilize a small or non-existent budget to its fullest. And the best way to do that is to remember: money doesn't matter that much.
The most successful student organizations can run on little to no money at all. There are many events that take very little financing such as movie nights, campus debates, reading groups, etc. When you invite speakers to campus, you shouldn't have to pay much money at all for them. Most speakers are simply interested in reaching out to students and will be glad for the opportunity to impart their knowledge on your group. When you need to print fliers, check around campus for free printing (I am willing to bet that there is at least one place on your college campus where you can do this). Find creative ways to hold activities and get students involved that don't require much money.
For the times that you do need to spend money, it should be minimal. Pizza for a movie night are nice. Socials require refreshments. When a speaker does come in, you should take them out for dinner afterward to say thank you and inquire more into their talk. These are not that expensive, though. To be an effective leader, you sometimes need to be willing to pay a little out of your own pocket. For every hour you work on your organization, it's an hour you could have been working at a paid job, so you shouldn't have a big problem with using your own money for the organization at times. If you have done an effective job at cutting costs, then there is little to worry about.
More fundraising tips will come in future editions of the Tip of the Day.