A healthy financial structure is an important factor in student organization success. Sound fiscal management creates a framework from which organizations can work proactively to accomplish their goals and serve their communities with financially sustainable events and programs. To this end, one of the established responsibilities of a student organization at the University of Chicago is to maintain a positive account balance.
Some organizations, however, have faced challenges related to debt, whether historical or current. They expend considerable energy in an attempt to return to a solid financial footing, energy that could be better used to further their organizations’ goals. These organizations find it difficult to manage their current budgets, raise new funds, and support new initiatives. Additionally, new leaders of these organizations may feel frustrated and disempowered upon inheriting a financial legacy that constrains their organizational aspirations and operations.
In order to address these challenges, the Center for Leadership and Involvement will established the Student Organization Debt Reduction Program.
Rooted in our increasing focus on fiscal responsibility, this program serves as a safety net for groups on the cusp of a deficit, a support structure for those organizations working to remove themselves from debt, and a clear map of the above stated requirement for maintaining a positive account balance. On the whole, our Financial Advising initiatives, including the Debt Reduction Program, provide an intentional structure for developing fundraising plans, best practices for financial management, and fostering financial accountability.
Support for the Prevention of Student Organization Debt
Increased access to financial tools, enhanced training, and more robust financial advising are key to helping student organizations avoid incurring debt. These resources will help students make better financial decisions and cope more easily with unforeseen circumstances. It is our goal that these support initiatives will help to prevent student organization debt from being accrued.
The Blueprint Finance Module: the Center for Leadership and Involvement offers online access to expense submission and account management. These tools allow student organizations to manage their financial standing and obligations.
The Blueprint Finance Module: We have created online, on-demand training videos that will help student leaders effectively utilize the new Blueprint Finance Module tools.
Financial Training: We will provide additional training components in the fall for student organizations in debt or at risk, as well as on-going opportunities for student leaders to get in-depth training on financial issues pertinent to their operations.
Financial Operations Center: With a centralized location for assistance with account/transaction management and financial policy compliance students have access to the best information in one convenient location. Our financial specialists offer opportunities for one-on-one advising, or consultant advising in conjunction with primary Advisors or event advising staff.
Advisor Review of Transactions: Within Blueprint, Advisors are automatically integrated into the purchasing process when there is a need to discuss fundraising, ethical fiscal management, or risk assessment. This allows these conversations to happen in a timely manner.
Managing Student Organization Debt
In instances where debt is incurred, perhaps from a calculated risk that didn’t work out as planned, organizations will enter a series of Debt Plans that provide additional support for developing successful financial planning and fundraising strategies, as well as transparent expectations for vacating debt. The primary goal in the Debt Plans is for organizations and Adivsors to work together to develop sound financial practices and a commitment to fundraising while working within a budget.
Organizations who remain in debt over a period of years will move sequentially through the phases of this plan. Any group that meets their obligations and vacates their deficit will be returned to good fiscal standing. However, a return to debt within three fiscal years will return an organization to the second phase of the debt plan for further development work on sustainable financial strategies.
Student Organization Debt Plans
Any organizations with questions about the Debt Reduction Program can reach out to their Advisor.