Every school system has a purchasing procedure. It seems the larger the district the more complex this process becomes. The main complaint teachers have about buying supplies from their school departments (and why they buy things with their own money) is that it takes forever to see the cherished box arrive in the main office. Weeks go by, sometimes a month. This is no way to run a business, right?
Using grant funds to buy things adds another layer (or two) to the process. Be prepared for some frustration, and, to follow the rules (your district's and the grantor's) to the LETTER. Trying to cut corners can literally land you in jail, my friend.
Now, before you go running for the hills, know that a little pre-planning can save you a lot of grief. The first and biggest rule is:
- Only buy the things you budgeted for!
If you try to substitute books or software for the things you've said you would use, you had better have explicit approval from the grantor. They are paying for something you have promised in your application, not something you've decided might work better along the way.
In general, your school district's buying process goes like this:
- Type up a requisition (your district will have special forms for this in its Purchasing Office).
- Create a purchase order.
- Get approval (signatures) from the required people to submit the PO to the vendor.
- Send the PO to the vendor (your purchasing office will do this for you).
- Wait for the package.
- Accept the product; take the packing slip to Accounts Payable so the vendor can be paid.
Sometimes the grantor will want you to go out to bid for the purchasing process. Usually, you will need to research things that cost over $5,000 to find the lowest of three vendor prices. The company (vendor) will know how to do this, and if you work through this process before the money arrives from the grantor, you will save oodles of time. In fact, the grantor will probably require evidence of three prices before they approve the funds.
Sometimes you can use catalogue prices from three companies to show evidence, other times, you'll need to send a formal request for a bid to three companies. For larger purchases of equipment, your district may require that you use pre-selected vendors, some of them have likely negotiated low price agreements with your state. Your Business Manager at the district level can help walk you through the process. He/she will need to be your new BFF.
Once the PO is cut and to speed things up, you can sometimes walk the purchase order through the administrative offices where the signatures reside. Don't do this too often; you might be greeted with a scowl. Once the PO is signed, it needs to be sent (stamped) from the city office in charge of purchasing. The PO will need to remain on file with them for audit procedures socopies will be generated to all the appropriate people.
When the vendor gets the PO, he will fulfill it and ship the item to your school. Call them to make sure they've received the order and they have the items in stock. Be sure it is very clear where you want the delivery to be made - find out if your district requires a specific "ship to" address. I've seen things get lost so often, and never found until the project is over (or not found at all). Most districts have a "receiving dock" or warehouse. This cuts down on theft.
Once you have the item in hand, be sure to open it carefully and check the contents to be sure everything is there. There will be a packing slip inside or stuck to the side of the box in a transparent envelope. Make a couple of copies, but sign the original and send it back to the purchasing office - they will direct it to accounts payable so the bill can be paid. Be sure your vendor knows where to send the bill - never to you. Make sure bills are always sent to the accounts payable office.
Other school districts have their purchasing procedures online. We can learn from others:
And.... never be afraid to say "I don't know how to do this, can you help me?" I am here to answer your questions.
Let me know your stories, I'd love to share them with everyone.
Current Grant Opportunities
Educational Grants from the Eaton Charitable Fund- Giving on a national basis in areas of company operations to support organizations involved with arts and culture, education, children and youth, families, and community development. Special emphasis is directed toward organizations with which employees of Eaton are involved.
States: All States
Average Amount: $2,500.00 - $500,000.00
Total Amount: $7,500,000.00
Address: 1111 Superior Ave., Cleveland, OH United States 44114-2584
Website: Eaton Charitable Fund
Eligibility: Public School, Private School, Higher Education, Other
Program Areas: After-School, Arts, Community Involvement/Volunteerism, Early Childhood, Family Services, General Education, Health/PE, Math, Reading, Science/Environmental, Social Studies, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math)
Educational Grants from the JM Foundation- Giving on a national basis, the Foundation’s current priorities include: supporting education and research that fosters market-based policy solutions, especially at state think tanks; developing state and national organizations that promote free enterprise, entrepreneurship, and private initiative; and identifying and educating young leaders.
States: All States
Average Amount: $5,000.00 - $100,000.00
Total Amount: $1,000,000.00
Address: 116 Village Blvd., Ste. 200, Princeton, NJ United States 08540-5700
Website: The JM Foundation
Eligibility: Private School, Higher Education, Other
Program Areas: After-School, At-Risk/Character, Community Involvement/Volunteerism, Early Childhood, General Education, Math, Reading, Science/Environmental, Social Studies, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math)