Every school district wants to increase its efficiency so teachers and admin staff can focus on what really matters — their students.
But great classroom experiences often require purchases to make learning easier and more accessible, whether it be funding field trips, online resources, essential classroom equipment and technologies, or simple materials like arts and crafts supplies.
And yet, the challenge for many is clear: requesting and waiting on purchase orders or filing expense reports can be a slow process.
So, what options do school districts have when it comes to navigating the inefficiencies of the purchasing process?
Purchasing cards make financial processes easier by reducing or eliminating the need for POs, purchase requisitions, cutting checks, and other time-consuming processes.
Purchasing cards enhance your school district’s insights through detailed reporting, tracking information, and reconciliation software that easily integrates with the right financial management solution. Keep tabs on what and how much your staff spends on each approved vendor, approve or decline spending requests in just one click, easily view invoices by payment type, and reduce the workload on your accounting team by using purchasing cards for smaller purchases.
Keep reading to learn why school districts are shifting from POs to purchasing cards, the differences between the two, the advantages of switching to this model, and how they can streamline your K-12 finance processes.
A purchasing card is a business charge card that enables teachers, administrative staff, and school officials to make purchases on behalf of the school division. You may have heard purchasing cards also referred to as:
Purchasing cards provide a more cost-effective and efficient way to purchase and pay for small-dollar transactions. These handy cards simplify the procurement process, expedite vendor payments, reduce paperwork, and empower school and department administrators.
Establishing a purchase card program within your district helps facilitate the purchase of goods and services by eliminating the need for POs and reimbursing personal out-of-pocket expenses (which can take days or even weeks to finalize) while maintaining large petty cash funds. In addition, with the p-card program, you can automatically authorize certain expenditures to keep your choice of suppliers and spending limits under control.
Purchase orders (POs) were initially designed to help employees spend company money through a straightforward procedure with someone overseeing every transaction. Purchase cards and POs have their similarities:
However, the main difference between P-cards and POs is the bottleneck that POs create. Specific to purchase orders, anytime your school district staff requires a “quick” purchase, even for minor things like updating a software subscription, there are extra steps involved. Submitting the PO request and waiting on the approval process can significantly delay the purchase and, in turn, your team’s efficiency since your purchasing department must respond to every small request. This is a prime example of spending money where you simply don’t need to.
P-cards enable your district staff to purchase and execute payments in one step. They still require approval before the payment goes through. However, they no longer have to bug your purchasing team for every little purchase.
With built-in automated approval flows, anytime your K-12 teachers, admin staff, or district leaders request funds, the person in charge of approving the purchase receives a notification that they can either approve or decline with just one click. After the purchasing card payment is approved, it becomes preformatted for your accounting department so they can push the purchases and payments directly to their financial management system.
Here’s how it works:
Using the purchasing card model, you maintain your desired visibility and control over spending while empowering your staff to make their own purchases without needing to interrupt someone else’s workflow, wait lengthy times for approval, or waste time matching purchase orders to receipts.
Purchasing cards are more than just a quick, convenient way for school district staff to pay for smaller purchases, like classroom supplies, services, and materials, without needing authorization or a PO. Purchasing cards can streamline how your entire financial department works by:
After reading about the practical advantages of implementing the purchasing card system, you may wonder how this model benefits your finance and purchasing departments.
Sharing company credit cards can be a hassle. Every purchase your district staff makes requires your finance team to go back and forth with the purchaser. But if your teachers, administrative staff, and district leaders have their own purchasing cards, you eliminate some of the burden from your finance team.
By removing the need for POs on smaller purchases, you save your accounting team time that they can put towards other tasks. You’ll likely keep your procurement process for larger purchases, however, using POs for things like educational posters, cloud storage, software subscriptions, study tools, or other physical or online resources is a waste of time and effort for your finance team. In addition, having coded payments at the point of sale makes reconciling payments and balancing the books a faster, more efficient process when using P-cards.
If you’re looking to take advantage of using purchasing cards over purchase orders, Edsembli’s all-in-one financial management platform has everything you need to improve your operational efficiency:
With the Edsembli ecosystem, all your data is interconnected, making issuing, tracking, and paying purchase cards easier than ever. The overall result is greater visibility over spending, fewer security risks, and a more efficient accounts payable department.