Money Management

For the past two years, my team (3334) has done our finances through the school. All our fundraiser and sponsorship money goes into a club account at our school. When we purchase anything at anytime during the year we have to front the money ourselves and then turn in our receipts to be reimbursed by the school. This process is inconvenient and nobody likes fronting for stuff themselves so this year we are considering options for separating our finances from the school. We could open a bank account for the team, but then donations are not tax-deductible for sponsors, and becoming a 501©(3) non-profit sounds really complicated. Another thing to consider is that our team is completely student-run. We have technical mentors and a teacher that signs stuff for us, but we don’t have any adults that want to take responsibility for the team as a whole.

My question to you is this: Where and how do you store your money, and how does the process for purchasing items work? Thanks.

2815 has the weight of two rather large entities behind it: the school district and the University of South Carolina. District money takes the usual course–POs, cutting checks, etc. We generally don’t run much through the district beyond our initial event registration.

At USC, things can go a little quicker. Funds in our account with the College of Engineering and Computing can be accessed through a state purchasing card (a glorified Visa card), which means we don’t have to go out-of-pocket for larger orders like our bigger McMaster-Carr orders or our T-shirts. For smaller things like a late-night Lowe’s run, we keep the receipt and submit it for reimbursement; last year, I would float the team these smaller amounts until the University repaid me. This meant I was out of pocket for a week or two (or longer if I forgot to submit them–my own fault), but I knew the funds were there, I had copies of the receipts, and USC worked pretty quickly to get a check cut.

One thing I would suggest looking into is seeing if your school district can create open purchase orders with your suppliers. We do this with the school account for McMaster-Carr and AndyMark. Before the season starts we get the PO set up by the school treasurer, who contacts the vendors and sets up POs for a given maximum amount. Then when we have an order during the season she faxes it in to the vendors. This works well for us.

Our PO system is even more open. I can place the purchases or our teacher place the purchases online and reference the PO number that we have open with the vendor. We do this for McMaster, Andymark, Grainger, Local Metal Store, and our T-shirt vendor.

If you wanted to go the 501c3 route, we started down that path and realized the trouble it was going to be since we don’t have anyone who was interested in helping managing the accounts, as far as taxes, audits, etc. What we did was get hooked up with our local Community Foundation within our school district. We opened up a Fund within their group. All donations to our fund are for our fund to use, all donations are 501c3 through their organization. They charge a measily 2% annually for managing the fund as far as cutting checks, PO’s, audits, etc. They also gave us the option to invest some fo the money to be able to make money with out money, which should cover the annual fee. It was a win win for us. Now we will be able to better support the FRC team and we will use the group to support local FLL and FTC teams as well.