3D Printer Club: Info for Accounting Team Advisers

Special Content: Repraps for Education

This is part of a series of posts about starting and facilitating a project-based 3D printer club at a local elementary school, with the ultimate goal of replicating the program at schools everywhere. We'll be posting as many details as possible, including lesson plans and supporting materials. For more information about the entire project, including a listing of posts related to it, please visit the 3D Printer Club for Schools project page. 

This is one of several emails that I sent out to team advisers in order to clear up concerns about expectations and direction.

Hi [accounting team advisers],

As you know, my emails are usually directed toward the kids, but this one is for you. With the start of the new quarter upon us, I wanted to share with you a bit more of my vision for the accounting team to get your input and hopefully help make their goals and purpose a little more cohesive.

My goal for the accounting team has been twofold: First I wanted to give the kids with number sense or a particular interest in math a very meaningful role in the club — one that they could learn from, take responsibility for, and feel proud of. Second, I wanted give all the other club members a sense of finance and budgeting by integrating the accounting role into what they’re doing.

To meet this first goal, my hope has been that the kids on the accounting team (with guidance form the adult advisers) develop a method of keeping track of the overall budget, and from the last meeting, it looked like they were on their way to accomplishing that. They’ve been asked to keep track of a few things so far, but moving forward they’ll be getting even more data to manage. Hopefully this will help them hone their system. I don’t think the work they do has to necessarily be slick and professional (it might as well be managed on paper in their notebooks) and I think little mistakes along the way are probably a good thing, though we should try to guide them away from making big ones.

To meet the second goal, I’ve been emphasizing budget and cost when working with the other teams, and asking them to interact with the accounting team where appropriate. For example, I’ve been telling the maker team, “If we can find something we can use, we won’t have to pay for it.” And, at the last meeting, I asked the BOM team to submit their list of hardware parts to accounting for approval. I’d also like the accounting team to ask everyone to help raise funds by asking around (not from their parents, but maybe their parents’ offices, or in the neighborhood, or at special events).

These are the types of questions and requests I see them getting moving forward:

  • “How much money do we have available?” This is basically the uncommitted funds available, and can be managed just like a checkbook ledger.
  • “Can we afford (or will you approve) [some specific] expense?” This is where their rough budget categories come into play. As they’re getting set up and familiar with their responsibilities, I’m sure this will be pretty chaotic and feel pretty blind, but right now I’m doing all the actual buying, and I’m not going to let them get burned. Eventually I’d like them to be able to confidently answer these questions, though — including saying “no” when appropriate. For example, if approving a hardware expense would put us over the hardware budget, then the answer should be “no” until they’ve addressed the budget problem. They can address a budget problem by shifting funds from another budget category, by raising funds and increasing the budget, or by encouraging the member making the request to find a alternative or ask for a discount.
  • “Here’s a donation for you to track.” I hope we’ll get more discounts or donations, and we’ll need to manage those appropriately. Each person or company that makes a donation should receive a handmade thank-you card in return, and I’d like them to be creative with it. If they include the amount donated, it can probably even be used as a tax receipt.
  • “Please reimburse me.” For this one, they’ll need request and track an expense reimbursement from the school. Of course, it needs to be an expected expense!
I hope this helps out going forward. As always, please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or concerns!

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