Buying Something

Buying Something

Three options are available for general purchases by student organizations. All expenses must adhere to University policy, including Brown First and items that may be restricted. When purchasing apparel, and in keeping with Brown's commitment to work with designated suppliers, we encourage you to select a vendor that is a participant of the Fair Labor Association (the Worker Rights Consortium is also a resource).

Purchase Orders (PO)

Primarily for purchasing items/materials and internal University services.

When to Use a PO: POs are primarily used to purchase items. A PO is obtained in advance when requesting services or purchases from University departments or agencies (ie. Brown Dining Services, Graphic Services, Metcalf Copy Center, Facilities Event Support, etc.) or from outside vendors. The SAO is not responsible for bills submitted from either on or off campus vendors without such requisitions on file. A PO is the only way to purchase "Brown First" items (i.e. food and printing/copying over $500).

Steps for Obtaining a PO:

Step 1: Ensure vendor accepts Student Activities POs (these are different from University POs): To obtain a purchase order you must first make sure that the establishment you wish to use accepts purchase orders.

Step 2: Obtain as accurate an estimate for the material or service as possible: Once you know the location accepts POs, try to make an accurate estimate of how much you will spend. Ask for an estimate while you're on the phone with them (they can fax you at the SAO at 401-863-1155).

Step 3: Verify you have adequate funds available: Make sure you have enough money in your budget and in the appropriate line items (if applicable) to cover the expense. If not, you need to first obtain funding. Groups may view their account balances under the Treasury tab in BearSync.

Step 4: Obtain a PO from SAO: PO ' s can also be obtained at the SAO by a signatory. You will need to know the vendor name, how much you need if for, what you need it for, and that you have enough in a particular line for it. The amount that you request will be posted to your account and any difference between the requested amount and the actual expense will not be available until we receive the bill from the vendor. This could tie up your funds 4-6 weeks depending on the vendor's billing cycle. The PO must be co-signed by one of your organization's financial signatories and the SAO office.

Step 5: Deliver PO to the Vendor: You then take the signed PO to the establishment, and purchase what you need with it. They will then bill the Brown SAO using the PO . DO NOT lose your PO ; it is as good as losing cash and your organization will still be responsible for covering the expense from your budget. If you do not use a PO after it has been written, please return the PO to the SAO to be voided so that the funds can be returned to your account.

Additional Information about POs:

  • The SAO has the privilege of using this Purchase Order system. This is an on demand system which means we do not have to go through the University's Purchasing department. By not following the above regulations, the SAO purchase order system could be jeopardized.
  • Purchase orders open on the first day of class each semester and close the last day of classes.
  • After the PO has been signed by one of your group's financial signatories and the SAO, your bills are paid automatically when received by the SAO. You will only be called in if the price given to us by you on the purchase order goes above that limit.
  • If you should lose a PO , it is just as if you had used it. It is just like cash and may be used by anyone once the two signatures are on it. Your organization will be held responsible for the expense.
  • We can void any Purchase Order provided you give us the original.

Online Ordering

Financial signatories can order things on-line. The SAO has a credit card for this purpose. Most items are acceptable for online purchasing but there are some restrictions on the card . When you come in to the SAO, you should use the computer stations in the main office to have the website ready. Then Donna or Diane can enter the credit card information to order the item and verify you have adequate funding. They will still need to fill out a PO for the item so make sure that the information remains on the screen until they tell you it is complete.

Reimbursements ("Request for Reimbursement Form")

Students may spend their own money and then be reimbursed. The Request for Reimbursement Form [ PDF  ; ECEL]  is available in the SAO and on-line. Reimbursements for food or groceries should use the Meals and Hospitality Form [PDF]. Financial signatories should ensure that they give prior approval to avoid someone spending money that is not available in the organization's account (account balances available on BearSync; instructions for how to view the balances are available). Reimbursements may take up to ten (10) days from the date of submission. It is not always possible to reimburse for sales tax, so be sure you have tax-exempt documentation with you when you make a purchase. See the SAO for documentation. All reimbursement requests must adhere to University Policy, including Brown First (so they cannot be used for food unless your group is on a retreat or program significantly beyond the Providence area; check with SAO for details)! 

Reimbursements ("Cash Reimbursement Form")

Procedures for Processing the Cash Reimbursement Form:

Cash reimbursement for food & provisions and supply expenses equal to or less than $100.00. All reimbursement requests must adhere to University Policy, including Brown First.

  • Complete a Cashier’s Office Cash Reimbursement Form-Student Activities. The form [PDF] is available in the SAO and on-line.
  • Tape original receipts to an 8 ½ X 11 piece of paper.
  • The form must be signed by the financial signatory for your organization and then brought to the SAO for approval and authorized signature.  There is a maximum of five receipts per box (food/provisions and supplies) than can be submitted at one time for a cash reimbursement. Receipts for copying are considered a supply and can be submitted for a cash reimbursement.
  • Once the form is signed by the SAO, the reimbursement form and receipts can be presented at the Cashier’s Office for a cash reimbursement.  The Cashier’s Office is located on the 2nd floor of the Brown Office Building, 164 Angell Street.
  • The cashier will request the Brown ID of the person receiving the reimbursement.

The cashier will check the following:

  • All purchaser information is complete.
  • All expense lines are complete and the information is reasonable when compared to the receipts.
  • There are a maximum of five receipts per box (food/provisions, supplies).
  • The amount requested agrees with the receipt(s) total.
  • Total reimbursement requested is $100 or less.

Restricted Items

The following items are restricted and cannot be purchased without prior approval: discount club memberships such as Sam's and BJ's, animals, alcoholic beverages, prescription drugs and controlled substances, construction/renovation, radioactive material, gasoline (except as part of a rental car reimbursement), and weapons and ammunition.