FIRST Financial System Problems

Our team (3455) has encountered significant problems with the FIRST financial system this season, and I wanted to vent a little and see if other teams also had issues.

Our sponsors all donated their money to the team’s FRC account and we were planning on going through the normal process of requesting a regrant, and getting the balance of the account transferred to us in order to be able to make purchases this year. One of the teachers from our team submitted the regrant request in early December, as he had done in previous years, and didn’t worry. He has the fax transmission sheet to show that the request did in fact go through.

Come beginning of January, we had still not received money. The same teacher who had submitted the regrant (and who handles all of the team’s financials) was worried and called the FIRST financial department in the first week of January. It turns out they had lost the regrant request, so all of the team’s money was still sitting there. The teacher filled out another request and submitted, and received email confirmation that they had in fact received the request.

Fast forward another week and a half and still no money. At this point we are starting to encounter problems, because the team doesn’t have money to start ordering some of the parts we wanted. The teacher follows up again and finds that the finance department is moving slow. After several more follow up sessions he finally gets the message that the check is in the mail. That was a week ago, and we still do not have money.

Some of the parts we were looking at were coming from a distributor at a total of about ~$1000 (for all the parts combined, not one item) and there were not many other options to acquire them. Talking with the distributor, some of the items we wanted have a lead time of ~1-2 weeks. We knew we wanted these pieces three weeks ago, when there was plenty of time to order them and integrate them into our robot. However because of the lack of funds, we were not able to order them.

Because we were not able to order what we needed, we have had to scrap weeks of design and work, and redo large sections of our robot. We are now designing a system using only what is available, that will not perform as we had originally hoped. FIRST’s mishandling of the finances has prevented us from competing as we had planned.

It seems to me that when it is the FIRST organization itself that is hindering how teams work, there is a serious problem. Has anyone else had trouble with them, and had difficulty getting their money regranted?

This may not be an option for you, but our team buys parts thru mentors credit cards and and then gets reimbursement from the school. In that way if regranting from FRC or school reimbursement is slow, the team is not impacted.

We have had a different issue, several of our sponsors donations is now tied to registration only.

Has anyone had this problem? There is only so much you can spend on registrations.

We do a similar thing. It takes time issueing PO’s and waiting for money to be regranted. So we purchase items and reimburse the mentors and/or teacher.

This is what we do as well.

We share that particular problem with some of our grants.
Especially, now that Championships no longer has much room for pre-registered teams.

The way the schools financial department works makes this difficult, and we have only just received the permission to do this in the necessary dollar amounts (and it is now too late).

We have our own bank account at a local bank and we issue debit cards (currently 3) to adult coaches to purchase items we need. This works pretty well. Since we are a 4-H group, I would like to have a check book where the student CFO writes checks to reimburse mentors for items they have bought (who present their bills at team meetings) and require an adult mentor/coach to also sign the check if over a certain amount (~$100) and have 1 debit card to make online purchases. This way, the adults can’t spend money inappropriately (which we have had once this season already), the students learn how to manage their money, and robot parts can get ordered quickly.
Any thoughts as to if this would work? Any other ideas of how to deal with this type of issue?
Hope your issues get resolved soon,
David

It’s time to look at a reorganization of how your team handles the business side of the team. Many teams that I talk to have a simple check book with the team name on it and a parent or two or team lead / mentor as signers onthe account. Fundraising goes into that account, your profits from pasta dinners, golf tournaments, magazine sales, whatever your team does to fund itself. Sponsor money can still be in the school or FIRST account still, but that canbe earmarked for registrations only. At least with your a team checking account you will have some money in which to work with.

We’ve had a few hiccups this season as well. My understanding is that there’ve been some changes to the staff; perhaps they’re still making their way up the learning curve.

Our team relies primarily on corporate sponsors, who donate the money to the FIRST account. So there is no other money to put in the team checking account other than what comes from FIRST.

Again, this requires having the money available to you to put in a bank account. Management of money usage isn’t our problem, it’s that FIRST has not been able to give us the money we have in a timely fashion.

If you need help in ordering parts, we can help.
Our funds are tight as well and in many cases has certain expectations and routes in which we receive them.
However, we also have a rainy day fund as we, like you folks, understand that you NEED parts when you NEED parts!
If you can just pay us back when you receive the funds, then that’s fine.
Otherwise, I’ll talk to your dad.:slight_smile:

**I wanted to add that if you need AndyMark stuff, I have an account with them with credit and ordering will be fast, since they respond and ship immediately as well.

PM me.

-Glenn

Glenn, I appreciate the offer. However at this point the lead on the parts we need is too great. And again, myself and other mentors on the team have personal accounts that we could draw on, but due to the way the school financial system works, if we had ordered parts prior to the funds being available in the school accounts, the school would not have been able to reimburse us for any large purchase.

I understand that FIRST’s financial department has been in flux.

School teams have some interesting rules when it comes to money. Some solutions that non-school based teams have will not work for the parent schools.

It sounds like you have an opportunity here to invite some of the “financial” staff at the school to come spend 6+ weeks with your students to help then “learn how school finance works”. That just may have an additional side affect. They will see why it is so important to you to have funding when it is needed, and not just when it fits their criteria. Some leniency may be developed if you get them actively involved in the students activities, and see the value and benefits that participation in FIRST provides.

A lot fo times its not just the school, but the district policies that require school board approval. In some case it could be state policies governing the way the schools manage their money and reimburesements.

I know for us it was a combination of both.

If you are still having problems accessing the funds, I would reach out to your Regional Director to see if they can help by working with FIRST’s office staff.

Your Regional contacts, including Regional Directors, can be found here:
http://www.usfirst.org/regional-contacts