(Updated as of January 2018)
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
If your question is not answered by this FAQ page or by the other RSO funding resources on this website, please submit your question to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Where does GSG funding come from?
- The GSG budget is comprised of student programming fees from participating graduate students. As of now, the fee is $40 per semester per student. The funds are transferred to University accounts which we have access to through our counterparts within the Campus Activities Office. The funds are budgeted each year to address student needs, as well as the primary purpose of the fee, which is student-hosted programming. The budget is voted upon by the Senate each year.
Who can apply for event funding through GSG?
- Funding for student-hosted events is available to any Recognized Student Organization (RSO). A student organization must complete the official university recognition process through the Campus Activities Office (we are not responsible for this separate process). Both graduate student and undergraduate student organizations can apply for event funding so long as the funding is used toward a graduate student population attending the event. Faculty, staff, and other non-student organizations cannot apply for GSG funding.
How do I apply for funding?
- First review our policies and complete the online Finance Orientation and Assessment. Have the major details for your event prepared in advance (date, location, anticipated attendance, vendors and items, etc.). Use our online application system to submit a Budget Application 6 weeks or more in advance of the event to get your budget approved. Get your quotes in advance; quotes must follow our listed criteria to be accepted by the Accounts Payable office. Once approved (and no later than 3 weeks in advance of the event), you can submit an online form –the expense request– for each vendor. Once payments have been prepared, you may place orders with your vendors. Receipts and invoices are due within 5 days after the event through our online Post-Event Form.
What is the Organizational Funding Disbursement Program (OFDP) and can my organization sign up?
- The OFDP has been utilized by GSG to give more control over organizational funds to Umbrella Organizations and their respective administrators. Organizational funds calculated at $16 per enrolled student represented by the organization are transferred in one disbursement at the start of the fall semester to a responsible administrator associated with the Umbrella Organization. These funds must be used in accordance with our policies and a report is required at the end of each semester with final receipts/invoices. Not all administrators have the capacity to enter the OFDP agreement due, so be sure to discuss with your advisors or administrators whether or not it is possible for your organization to sign up.
Why do I need to prepare 6 weeks or more in advance of my event to request funding?
- We understand that a strict 6 week deadline is difficult, especially in comparison to past relaxed deadlines. The deadlines were gradually increased last year (2016-2017) from 4 weeks, to 5 weeks, to the present 6 weeks in response to a number of difficulties encountered by our office staff in relation to completing payments to vendors successfully. We average 50 applications per week in a process dictated by the criteria and timeliness of several individuals and offices across USC. Unlike Undergraduate Student Government, our directors are Masters, Professional, and Ph.D. students. The university requires that we limit our number of dedicated hours to GSG, especially in the case of Ph.D. students, due to the demands of our academic programs, as well as our positions as TAs and RAs. The 6 week deadline also provides a buffer for issues within our online system, difficulty working with vendors, quote procurement, emergencies, etc.
What are the steps in the funding process and why does it take so much time?
- Applications must be reviewed by the Finance Committee once per week. We designed our calendar of deadlines to reflect our meetings to ensure that all applications are reviewed in a timely manner.
- The Finance Director – Education and Approvals as well as the HSC Finance Director must hand-input the decisions into our application portal to address any issues or inappropriate requests within the applications. While we try to submit decisions within a couple of days, depending upon the number of applications and any complicated requests, this could take up to a week.
- Knowing students volunteer time within busy schedules, we have budgeted time between the approval and 3 week deadline for them to prepare all expense requests (these are required to secure the payments through USC offices). The information required for these requests, including the specificity of quotes, is designed to meet criteria dictated by USC. Because our funding is facilitated by the university, we are restricted to approved vendors and specific payment types without much flexibility.
- For each application, there may be multiple expense requests, which our interns must crosscheck with each approved application, record in our funding tracker, and compile for the next stage. Some erroneous requests take more time to readdress, usually a few days.
- The Peer Leadership Team (PLT) processes Purchase Order (PO) and Internal Requisition (IR) payments according to the paperwork prepared by the Finance Interns. Time is needed to generate PO order numbers (varies up to two weeks) and IRs, which are physical documents that must be signed by a single individual in the Campus Activities Office for approved use.
- Student applicants are notified when payments have been prepared, but are ultimately responsible for utilizing PO numbers and IR documents in a timely manner to place orders with vendors. Orders generally cannot (and should not) be placed without providing these numbers to the vendors.
- Finance Interns schedule Smart and Final appointments according to their availability. It is necessary to schedule in advance, as least 7 business days, so that our Procurement Cards (P-cards) are available from staff members and with appropriate balances for the payment. P-cards are limited within our office and are shared between GSG, USG, and Campus Activities.
- Final payments to vendors require that all receipts and invoices be turned in soon after the event takes place, because the payment process may take up to 30 days to complete. USC requires that all payments are prepared in advance of an event date and quickly completed after final costs are documented. If amounts of final payments do not closely match the budgeted and quoted amounts, more time is needed to reconcile these cases and defend them for payment.
Why are there additional end-of-semester deadlines?
- We are primarily student run and do not operate during University holidays, breaks, study days or finals. Because we lose several productive weeks at the end of the fall semester, we instituted a fall deadline for early spring events to ensure that all payments are prepared in time for those events. For the spring semester, we have to anticipate the end of the fiscal year, which we are legally bound to by the university. This means that several weeks before the end of the fiscal year (June 30th) all final payments must be reconciled. We also lose our student workers after the last day of classes, so early deadlines are necessary for us to be able to process all requests.
Can I apply for summer event funding?
- If your event takes place before June 30th, you may apply for funding, but must expect to be able to have all requests prepaid and finalized within our deadlines in respect to the fiscal year. If your event takes place between June 30th and August 1st, you will not be able to apply for funding as this is a blackout period. This is the start of the new fiscal year and we are restricted by the university for how soon we can issue payments to vendors. If you were previously funded during this period, please understand that those funds came from a different type of university account which we no longer have access to; because of the type of university accounts we have been assigned, we can no longer issue funding during this time period. Our event funding is fundamentally different from Travel Grants because we do not issue reimbursements, and all payments must be made in advance.
Why can’t GSG reimburse me for purchases?
- Event funding is paid from USC accounts directly to vendors in the present model. While this requires advanced deadlines for processing time, the present model is fundamentally easier to use than a reimbursement model. This is because the paperwork we provide in advance –budgets, quotes, etc. – as well as our adherence to USC vendor policies, ensures that the funding is approved in advance, or altered as needed by USC offices, so that payment to the vendor is guaranteed. Reimbursements are handled through separate USC offices and are much more rigorous because the university has to retroactively approve the payment of an individual who may or may not have met university requirements. Much more paperwork is demanded for reimbursements, and payments take much longer to issue. There is no guarantee that the university will honor the reimbursement.
My vendor accepts late payments. Can you process my payment past the deadlines?
- Vendors may accept late payments, but USC does not generally approve of them. Our office receives a great deal of scrutiny when late payments occur, because the USC Offices have to file differently for late payments. We are enforcing our deadlines to ensure late payments are not necessary or frequent. Do not expect us to agree to late payments to vendors.
How should I choose my vendors?
- Though we have small lists of frequently used approved vendors, these are not complete or may frequently change. Unfortunately, GSG has no control over vendor contracts and we are rarely informed when contracts between a vendor and USC change. Your best bet is to use our lists as a guideline and to call any vendor you are interested in to ask if they accept Purchase Orders (POs) as payment from USC. In the event that a vendor provides incorrect information or is difficult to work with, we will ensure that we work with you for your event. Should you need a particular vendor not in contract with USC, you can inform your vendor that the process to become a supplier takes a couple months to complete through the USC Business/Purchasing Office. Only currently approved vendors will be accepted for budget applications. If your vendor is not approved, we will inform you.
How do I get a quote and do I need one for every vendor?
- Some vendors may provide online forms for quotes on their websites, or provide one through email. In most cases, especially for food, you will have to call the vendor directly to obtain a formal quote. The quote must meet the criteria listed on our website. Taking a screenshot of your cart is not acceptable. DO NOT attempt to place a “fake” order, especially in the case of USC Express Catering or Hospitality. An order can only be placed once a PO# or IR# is available. A formal quote should be a document you can attach to your application and/or expense requests. The only cases for which a formal quote is not required are: Smart and Final purchases; Bookstore purchases; Dine-in events (ex. ordering appetizers at The Lab or Traddies); USC parking passes; and Oriental Trading purchases. In all but the last case, an excel document with a projected itemized breakdown is acceptable; in the last case, you MAY take a screenshot of your cart, because we will place the order directly for you, and your packages will ship to the GSG Office for pickup.
I only need funding to cover part of the cost for my event. Will GSG cover a partial payment to a vendor?
- Unless you have pre-approval from us, you cannot assume that we will be able to cover partial payment to a vendor. This is due to criteria from USC offices. The vendor must provide an invoice that only states the amount to be paid by GSG. Not all vendors are willing to split a bill into multiple invoices.
Can I use multiple funding sources to cover the cost of a vendor?
- For the same reason vendors do not like to split invoices, we do not like to split payments to a single vendor between multiple accounts. Each funding source is a separate university account, and it is difficult to document and track the use of multiple accounts for a single invoice. Our office agreed, in relation to our capacity to address the number of requests we receive, that splitting payments between accounts is not practical. In the event that a vendor cannot be covered by a single account, and under the condition that separate orders may be placed with the vendor, we may be able to work with you with advance notice.
I want to apply, but I don’t have all the details worked out or I am unsure if I am applying correctly for my event. What if I can’t meet the deadline?
- If you are at all worried about completing your application, do not hesitate to contact the Finance Director – Education and Approvals (email@example.com) or the HSC Finance Director (firstname.lastname@example.org) for assistance. We will work with you through any questions you have in advance so that you are prepared to submit your application. Do not wait past the deadlines to inform us of your difficulties, because we will not honor any exceptions.
I applied online, but I am not sure if my application went through. What do I do?
- You should always receive a confirmation email for your submission of any form. If you do not receive this email or you encountered an error in our online system, immediately email the Finance Director (email@example.com) for assistance so that the issue does not interfere with your ability to meet submission deadlines.
I realized that I made a mistake on my application, or that I might need more funding than I originally requested. Can I change my application?
- If it is a simple request, such as an amended event date, room change, or vendor change, we may be able to work with you to correct for it so long as your expense requests have not already been processed. If you intend to request for increased amounts, additional vendors or items, or reallocate funds you are already approved for, then we will not likely honor the request. We do not have the capacity to be able to alter and track every change, and many times the payments have already been prepared by the time we can approve a change. It is also a matter of retaining the integrity of the application and overall funding process, which the university is taking much more seriously than in the past.
My event passed, but I am having difficulty getting a final invoice from my vendor. Will I be penalized for missing the Post-Event deadline?
- This is a common occurrence. Simply notify the Finance Director – Disbursements and Reconciling (firstname.lastname@example.org) that you are waiting for the documents.
The bill from my vendor is more than I requested. Will you still pay it?
- We will not cover a bill that is more than the approved budget for that vendor or the more than the quote provided for that vendor. While we understand that there should be some flexibility, we do not tend to approve anything more than $10 over. This is because your quotes should be reliable indications of the cost and should have informed your budget for the event. We instruct students to anticipate any tax, delivery/service costs, tips, or any additional charges in advance so that the sum in included in the budget. The budget application should cover your rough estimate of funding (plan for the worst-case scenario), and should be as close to, or slightly more than what you anticipate needing for the event. It is more difficult for us to get final payments approved that are over the budgeted and quoted amounts. You can always spend less than you request, but not more. Any overages or additional charge must be covered by the student organization responsible for the event.