Student Organization Finance Office (SOFO)

students in line at the SOFO window

Contact

Regular Hours

Monday - Friday: 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.    

Summer and Academic Breaks

Monday - Friday: 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Location

First Floor (map)

Operational Information during COVID-19 shutdown

See details below.

What We Do

The Student Organization Finance Office (SOFO) provides financial training and banking services to student organizations recognized by Northwestern University.

These services include:

  1. Establishing an account to maintain an organization’s funds in trust

  2. Facilitating transactions requested by an organization’s administrative group to and from the account

  3. Providing a transactional interface to work with NU Financials, the University’s accounting system

  4. Reporting account activity

Student organizations, through their affiliation with Northwestern University, enjoy numerous "umbrella" benefits—including advocacy, Illinois sales tax exemption, certain insurance and legal services, etc. However, for an organization to enjoy these benefits, it must meet various requirements—University, federal and local—and be subject to the restrictions that accompany them. SOFO assists its student organization clients by providing the necessary information and transparent financial structure necessary to fulfill these requirements. To maintain the integrity of this structure, all of a participating organization’s funds must be deposited within its SOFO account.

Client Organizations are prohibited from having any savings, checking, or other financial accounts outside of the SOFO banking structure. This includes online fundraising accounts created by members or registered as a personal account. Students are not authorized to create or represent the university in the creation of such accounts.

SOFO is committed to providing student organizations with a financial framework that helps student officers maintain accurate and detailed records while allowing them and student presidents the flexibility to pursue their organizations’ stated purposes and objectives.

Statement on Financial Integrity and Conflict of Interest

SOFO actively seeks to improve its operations with regard to service and financial integrity. All SOFO employees are trained according to very strict policies and guidelines. Of primary emphasis in this training is the role of the staff members as verifiers. SOFO employees do not authorize transactions; they simply verify that the transaction requests made at the service counter are congruous with respect to the SOFO Policies and Procedures (PDF).

If a student employee is also an officer of a student organization, that student must interact with SOFO in the same exact manner as would any other student group officer. The person must initiate the transactions at the service counter outside of the office. Further, the person cannot assist in processing any transaction affecting their own group’s account.

Operations During COVID-19 Shutdown

While Norris is closed, SOFO will continue to function by electronic means--primarily remotely by email--with minimal short-term staffing.  The SOFO Supervisor will be directly responsible for all SOFO functions, including communications and accepting/processing the majority of the transactional operations submitted by student organizations.  Please understand that this represents a substantial reduction in resources during the novel coronavirus pandemic and that response and transactional times will be affected.  But we will do our best to assist you. 

SOFO Voucher Submission Process

For new transaction submissions while the university is operating virtually, SOFO will accept transactions and approvals by email with student officers, advisors, and account executives asked to use the following protocol:

  1. Officers use their personal Northwestern email accounts.  Group accounts with shared logins do not allow for  appropriate vetting of instructions and authorizations.  
  2. A separate email for each voucher.
  3. Email subject lines must conform to a specific template: Voucher no. - Student Org Name – Email Purpose
  • Treasurer signs voucher and submits a scanned version of the voucher and supporting documents by email to SOFO--copying all parties that would need to approve the transaction (i.e., president, advisor, and account executive) to their Northwestern email addresses.  The subject line should look similar to:

        v866197 – Club Aardvark – Treasurer Initiates Transfer

  • President reviews submitted documents and, if appropriate, complete, and in order, approves the transaction, replying all.  The club president should modify the subject line so that it appears similar to:

        v866197 – Club Aardvark – President Approves Transfer

  • Advisor reviews submitted documents and, if appropriate, complete, and in order, approves the transaction, replying all.  The advisor should modify the subject line so that it appears similar to:

        v866197 – Club Aardvark – Advisor Approves Transfer

  • If applicable for line items, ASG Account Executive reviews submitted documents and, if appropriate and all in order, approves the transaction, replying all.  The account executive should modify the subject line so that it appears similar to:

        v866197 – Club Aardvark – Acct Exec Approves Transfer

 

SOFO will carefully inspect the documentation submitted and the related approvals.  SOFO will reply all as to whether the transaction can move forward or requires more information.

        Successful submission: v866197 – Club Aardvark – SOFO Verified to Process Transfer

        Problem submission: v866197 – Club Aardvark – SOFO CANNOT Process Transfer

We expect that use of this email protocol will help us process transactions more efficiently than without one.  Transactions not following this process may be delayed as our email filters will be set along these requirements.  Given our minimal staffing levels, no other communications for successful submissions can be sent.  This would add a layer of activity that would tax transaction processing even further and reduce completion rates.

Unfortunately, because of the complex nature of SOFO account reconciliations, SOFO will not be able to accept emailed reconciliations.  How payments/reimbursements will be issued is still being considered.  Electronic solutions are being explored, but as of this writing, checks will still be the primary vehicle. That said, please include in the voucher the address where we can mail the check. 

If you submitted transactions previously, with the expectation that the checks could be picked up from the service counter over the break, please send SOFO an email identifying the voucher, the payee, and the address where you wish the check to be mailed.   Lastly, during this period, petty cash reimbursements will be processed as regular reimbursements, with checks being issued and mailed to the address indicated on the Petty Cash forms.  Please be sure to maintain in contact with your payees to ensure that they receive their checks and cash them.

 

Officer Transitions 

Signing out

With the spring term being one generally of administrative transition for may student organizations, SOFO will need to ensure that its records are current and updated transparently.  To this end, we ask that groups with transitioning  officers communicate with SOFO by email according to the following protocol:

  1. From their personal Northwestern University email, the transitioning officer sends a message to SOFO@northwestern.edu:
    1. Indicates position (e.g., treasurer) and student organization and expresses their interest in transitioning out
    2. Names the incoming officer who will be assuming their responsibilities
    3. Copies the incoming officer and the group’s current financial co-officer (e.g., president) and advisor, using their Northwestern email addresses
  2. The incoming officer replies all, confirming their acceptance of the position.
  3. SOFO replies all to acknowledge receipt of the request and acceptance. 
  4. Incoming officers new to SOFO will need to review the training material available on both offices’ websites:

SOFO - https://www.northwestern.edu/norris/services/sofo/officer-training/index.html

Cashier’s Office - https://www.northwestern.edu/norris/services/cashiers-office/index.html

 

To help keep the email volume minimal for officer transitions, we only expect replies from the co-officer or advisor if there is a problem with the stated transition.  Once functions are fully restored and we’re back on campus, the new officer should come to the SOFO service window to complete a Signature Card for their position.

 

Training

The required in-person training offered by the Cashier’s Office and SOFO will be conducted on Zoom, by invitation, after the training prerequisites are completed.  These are scheduled and posted on our respective websites.