For Student Organizations
In addition to planning events for your organization, balancing the finances of your group is similar to that of running a small non-profit. Student Services is always here and willing to help guide you through this process. Below we have detailed important information on obtaining and maintaining your student organization account as well as some of the most common processes for payment at the university. Be sure to read through this section carefully. If you have any questions, email Student Organizations or visit us on the fifth floor of William and June Warren Hall.
Only students organizations treasurers can obtain a letter of credit by presenting their identification and printed proof of the event at the Student Services desk, Mondays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Letters of credit are signed and issued by Student Services to the student organization representative to take to the vendor. The student organization representative can then take the letter of credit directly to the vendor, and use it like a check to make the purchase for meals and supplies at local restaurants and stores. If the payment of a tip is included, please note the tip cost separately on the letter of credit at the time of delivery. If you would like to add a vendor to our letter of credit list, please check HERE for instructions.
Letters of Credit can be used on:
- On-Campus - All delivery and drop-off food regardless of the number of attendees.
- Off-Campus - Gatherings of 29 or fewer attendees and happy hour drinks only (no food at all.)
Some local vendors will invoice your student organization directly for purchases that are authorized by your student organization. If you are making a purchase in person, give the vendor the letter of credit. If you purchase items over the phone, be sure to tell the vendor that you will be paying by letter of credit from the Law School. A letter of credit can only be issued if the event does not require a contract. For a list of venues that currently accept letters of Credit, click HERE.
Under very rare circumstances students will find that they have to pay for travel or business expenses out of their own pockets. Because the reimbursement process takes quite a long time—between six and eight weeks—we require that all students seek prior approval from Student Services. A Travel & Business Expense report is required for Columbia students reimbursement for business and/or travel expenses incurred on behalf of the University or in support of sponsored activities. Certain expenses such as paying a DJ, band/artist, website hosting services, graphic designer, and the like, are never reimbursable. We strongly urge you to use check requests or letters of credit or to ask the vendor to provide an invoice for future payment instead. All reimbursement requests require strict documentation to verify that your organization, the Student Senate, or Student Services has authorized the transaction for which you are being reimbursed.
A completed Reimbursement Request should contain the following:
- Completed Travel & Business Reimbursement Form
- Original itemized receipts of all expenses
- Detailed travel itinerary showing payment of expense
- Proof of event (any form of advertisement for an event such as a flyer or email exchange)
- Credit card statement that reflects the charge (if you paid with a credit card)
Depending on the location and type of event your organization is hosting, a contract may be required in connection with the event. If a contract is required, it must be entered into by the University and NOT be any individual student. NO STUDENT HAS THE AUTHORITY TO SIGN A CONTRACT ON BEHALF OF COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY OR COLUMBIA LAW SCHOOL IN CONNECTION WITH ANY LAW SCHOOL ACTIVITY OR ON BEHALF OF A STUDENT ORGANIZATION.
A contract is required if, the event has 30 or more attendees or, if your organizations will be staying at a venue overnight, such as for retreat or at a hotel or, if your event involves an activity that raises or physical safety (e.g., laser tag) thus, payment can only be made against an invoice. Please ask the vendor for a contract or master agreement and direct the venue's contract to the Student Organizations 4-6 weeks before the event date to have it signed. If the venue does not have a contract, email Student Organizations and Columbia will prepare a contract.
Student Services has access to a limited use credit card, which we refer to as the P-card. Of particular importance to student organizations, the card may be used to purchase office and party supplies, sports equipment, event tickets, promotional items and food that is delivered to campus. On the other hand, it may not be used to pay for alcohol, travel expenses, or food eaten off-campus – for example, at a restaurant. If you would like to purchase an item using the p-card (or have questions about whether the p-card may be used for a given purchase, please email [email protected].
Retreats can be a great way for organization members to meet one another and also solidify a group’s identity. That being said, they require a lot of work and advanced planning in order to be truly successful. If you are considering organizing a retreat for your organization, you should meet with Jeff Bagares and Joel Kosman as soon as is possible to discuss what you’d like to do and where you’d like to do it.
Student Services has begun to maintain a list of approved venues that have been used by groups in the past. If you have solidified your retreat plans, please email Student Organizations the following for the Deans’ Approval Letter:
- Name of Organizations:
- Date of Retreat:
- Contact Person:
- Business Purpose:
New venues may be added to this list but this entails a University approval process that requires additional planning time. Even once a venue has been approved, the contracting process can be time-consuming, and you should allow 3 weeks for drafts to be exchanged and a contract signed. Remember as well that students are not authorized to sign contracts on behalf of the University, and that contracts must be formally reviewed by the University’s Purchasing Department.
In addition, retreat organizers must meet in advance with either Dean Ramos-Herbert or Joel Kosman, and must also ensure that all participants sign a waiver before leaving for the retreat. Copies of the waiver form may be obtained from Student Services once you have met with Yadira or Joel.
An honorarium payment is a gratuitous payment to a lecturer or a professional person outside the University community (not a University faculty or staff member) as an expression of thanks. It is taxable income and is reportable to the Internal Revenue Service. If your organization is planning to give an honorarium to a guest, please email Student Organizations the proof of the event and an honorarium letter. Please check with Student Organizations if your chosen speaker is in the system, if not, we will need some information and their W9.
Though we welcome all new vendor relationships, specific information must be understood and received by both parties before commencing any business transactions. All new vendors must submit the following information below to Student Organizations in order to start the new vendor registration process, further outlined by the Business Office here.
1. Name (as it appears on tax documents such as W9)
2. Address (as it appears on tax documents such as W9)
3. e-mail Address (of an actual person working at the business or organization)
4. Telephone Number (of an actual person working at the business or organization)
5. Nature of Payment (Reimbursement, Honorarium, Goods/Services)
6. PASSWORD PROTECTED IRS Tax Forms as PDF*
a. W8BEN and Bank Wire Template signed and dated for ALL non-US Residents
b. W9 for US Citizens and US Residents EXCEPT for reimbursements
* PASSWORD PROTECTION: Universal Password NEW_VENDOR (See step-by-step instructions for password protection here.)
Once this information is received, the University will contact the vendor directly to complete her/his registration online. It takes approximately five business days from the time all information is completed and received by the vendor for all new vendors to be entered into the system. New vendors should be made aware of our billing procedures and time constraints in payment that are listed in the following sections below before engaging them for your event.