The amount available used to be fairly small - $500 I think. But the amount the independents get was only maybe 1-2k and lots of strings attached. So they're significantly alumni/member/sponsor supported as well. I was dead set against funding Greek buggy when it was introduced, but I've flipped on that. If interest drops much further, there's not going to be enough manpower to handle things like keeping cars off the course, so we'll have to hire people to do that. Better to spend the money on increasing participation and get "free" labor than to direcly pay for it.
Rather than charging entry fees like now, a system where you get prize money for each team that competes (and/or finishes) seems great. The amount that goes into running sweepstakes is far larger than the amount that the teams spend competing in it, so worst case, give up a weekend of rolls and put the saved permit & police fees towards the prizes to remain budget-neutral. This wouldn't help a new team, because they need their cash up front, and have no alumni to call on. The state of technology (and incoming students) means that you're stuck buying speed - working harder or smarter will make your dollar go further, but cannot overcome a lack of cash. So any money given to the teams flows through to an outside supplier. Carbon & ZE's are sexy but the top-5 push teams could probably make finals with a fiberglass or metal buggy and xootrs.
Would it help to relax the rules on Greeks to allow for two small houses to run a combined team, or for a house to have an all non-member push team?