June 24, 2020 by 2019-2020 Equity & Diversity Task Force, 2019-2020 Sustainability & Resiliency Task Force, 2020-2021 Council of Global Representatives, 2020-2021 Learning & Teaching Culture Advisory Group, 2021-2022 Professional Development Advisory Group

So, you need a bank account…

Money. It helps your chapter do things! But where do you keep it? Under your treasurer’s mattress? The FinComm strongly suggests you avoid this method! Instead, we’ve put together a few tips on how to manage your chapter finances.

Please note that these are merely suggestions. Be sure to read your University’s Student Governance policies surrounding student organization bank accounts. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s begin!

Scenario 1: Say your chapter has a private BIG NAME BANK account and an account as a “student org” at our school. As students, you don’t have access to the school account, rather your faculty advisor is the only one who can find out the balance, as well as withdraw funds. Maybe you have had some issues in past years getting expedient access to the funds in your school account, which is why you have a private account. But now your school wants you to terminate the BIG NAME BANK account for one reason or another. 

Technically, you should follow their instructions, but you should also ask questions! Is this against the school’s policy? Then yes, you need to close the external account. But if it’s not, find out the exact reason why. The school may have this policy in place for a variety of reasons, so be sure to ask when the policy was implemented and why it has remained in place. Then petition them to allow students to have access to the funds for their organization. Be sure to do some research and have a thought out proposal for alternatives. For example many universities have a policy in place that requires a signature from the President and Treasurer in order to withdraw funds. Tell your Student Government or Campus Activities (whoever manages the banking policies on campus) why you think this should be the policy at your university. 

If you are successful in altering the policy on campus, congratulations! But if you are not successful, don’t worry. Sometimes it takes more than one student organization to change things. Your next steps should be to comply and find a way to work around it. The last thing you want is to be on the bad side of the governing body at your university. If you’ve had issues accessing funds quickly, then plan ahead. If you know that you have an event on a certain date, then sit down with your FA to figure out a system that respects their time and yours and allows your chapter leadership to be well prepared for the event.

Scenario 2: Say your university allows your chapter to have a private BIG NAME BANK account and an account as a “student org” at our school. You have access to both accounts but can only withdraw limited amounts from each. How do you manage the money? What account should you use and why?

Well, there are many different but acceptable answers. It ultimately comes down to what is best for your chapter’s culture:

  • If you need a purchasing card, like a prepaid debit, maybe the off-campus account is the better option. 
  • But maybe the off-campus account charges a fee for certain transactions. If you’re charged any fees, you should definitely consider only using the school account. 
  • Who has access to each account? Is it like the scenario above where you don’t have access to the school account? Then it probably makes sense for your chapter to primarily use the off-campus account as long as it’s allowed.

Also consider alternatives to BIG NAME BANKS. Maybe your school account will allow you to hook up PayPal (or other similar platforms). That could be the solution you need to quickly access your finances. 

Scenario 3: As a student org at SCHOOL, you’re required to keep your money in an account on campus. They make you fill out forms for every input and withdrawal but there’s no way for you to immediately check the balance of your account… (yay outdated technology!)

Well if this is the case, spreadsheets will become your new best friend! Look at examples of Profit Loss Reports. Many universities require student orgs to fill out one of these at the end of the year anyway, so why not use it to actually manage your money? And if you’re wondering who in the world is gonna manage all of the forms, and spreadsheets, and trips to the bank, etc, look no further than the Chapter Treasurer! See if there are any workshops about spending and budgeting chapter finances that you can send your Chapter Board too! Don’t just send the Treasurer. You should make sure that the President and Vice President also know the procedures in place in case your Treasurer is unable to perform a withdrawal or deposit because they’re sick or on vacation.

The COVID-19 crisis has changed the way we do things. As a treasurer, not having access to your chapter’s money can be very frustrating. But stay positive! Explore new ways to manage your funds. Find out if your school is looking at implementing new policies or systems that will help mitigate some of the challenges that we have in front of us. Starting thinking about how your chapter can reallocate funds for future spending and event planning? We want to reassure you that times are not normal and it is okay to accept that. It means that the future will only be brighter!

Check back next month for a new installment of So, You’re The Treasurer!