SOFO looking to update current accounting system

Kelly Hwu

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Northwestern’s Student Organization Finance Office has taken the initial steps to find possible options for a new accounting system, said Norris University Center Cash Operations Manager Frank Zambrano.

“We’ve had this accounting system for a long time, so right now we’re looking at what is available,” Zambrano said in an interview with THE DAILY. “We want to add some functionality.”

SOFO, located in Norris, “serves as the banking center for all student groups recognized by NU”, according to SOFO’s website. Student officers can access their bank accounts at SOFO if they want to make deposits, get copies of balance statements, initiate transactions, reimburse members or make payments to vendors, Zambrano added.

SOFO currently uses a closed accounting system secured entirely within the organization to manage financial records, Zambrano said.

He added SOFO is gathering information about different accounting systems and what they are able to provide.

“Our purpose is to make functionality better and improving communication,” Zambrano said. “We want a better system for our clients to have more options.”

Weinberg sophomore and TONIK Tap treasurer Tessa Owens said she often spends her time at Norris waiting in line to fill out paperwork for account transactions and deposits.

Owens said she has to go through a long process if she wants to make any changes to her account, including getting a signature from her adviser and handing in receipts for verification. Owens said often she could not get money out of the account because of missing signatures and documents.

“I think a lot of it is cumbersome and repetitive, but they’re just making sure there’s no fraudulent activity,” Owens said.

Owens said the SOFO process varies based on what actions the student wants to take. Besides getting copies of statements, the transaction process takes about one to two weeks, Owens said.

SOFO has started working with NU Consultants Advising Student Enterprises, a student-run group that provides pro bono work for NU-based organizations. CASE has been helping SOFO check out vendors, Zambrano said.

He said in an email to THE DAILY that SOFO is beginning its assessment stage and has not made decisions on additional software.

SOFO has taken steps toward improved efficiency, including using a software program that integrates with SOFO’s current accounting system, Zambrano wrote in the email. He said third-party software allows SOFO to get information out to student organization officers as a tailored email attachment on a monthly basis. This program has reduced the amount of time the process takes from several weeks to less than an hour, he wrote.

“Now that we’re starting to look at other systems, we’re not looking to lose that functionality but maybe streamline it if possible and see how else we can get the information out to treasurers,” Zambrano wrote.

SOFO has already made a change by sending out monthly audit reports to student organization treasurers online. The monthly audit reports are part of SOFO’s efforts to provide a convenient statement of account to student organization treasurers, Zambrano said.

Northwestern Community Development Corps treasurer Heather Ma visits SOFO about twice a week and usually needs four signatures when she fills out forms..

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been rejected at SOFO because I didn’t have all the forms,” the SESP sophomore said.

She said she wants SOFO to improve the training sessions that are required for all treasurers at the beginning of each school year.

Like Owens, Ma said she noticed SOFO started sending monthly audit emails and that they were a good change.

“The monthly emails have definitely been a big help on my part,” Ma said. “It’s environmentally friendly and a lot easier to look online and see activity in my account.”

kellyhwu2014@u.northwestern.edu

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