New Automated Payments and Invoicing

We’ve made three big improvements in the money-handling tools for WordCamps — to streamline how organizing teams and WordCamp Central pay vendors and invoice sponsors — and we’re so excited to tell you about them!

You might have noticed that in the left-hand menu navigation on your WordCamp site’s dashboard, the menu item that used to be Payments is now called Budget and includes the following options: Sponsor Invoices, Reimbursements, and Vendor Payments. We’ve changed the name Payments to Budget because later this year we’re planning on creating a new integrated budgeting tool that WordCamps can use to enter and maintain their budgets, eventually getting rid of the requirement for a Google spreadsheet.

Read on to discover what’s changed in the payment request tool, and then learn about the two new tools we’ve created to reimbursements and sponsor invoicing easier for WordCamp organizers.

Payment Requests → Vendor Payments

We’ve changed the way the payments plugin works, breaking out Vendor Payments into a category distinct from Reimbursements, and including new post statuses that allow organizers to save vendor payment info as a Draft (so exciting! People have been asking for this for a while). 🙂 Once a request has been submitted for approval/payment, it will be frozen for editing, so we don’t end up with under- or over-payments because a request was submitted before it was actually ready for processing (this has happened, argh). We’ve also added statuses to give organizers more information about what stage their payment request is in: Approved, Pending Payment, Paid, and Cancelled/Failed. If more information is needed, we’ll still use the Incomplete status.

Behind the scenes, things will be radically different for the people making payments. For years, we’ve been manually typing (or copy/pasting) in the payment info for wires, checks, and direct deposits to our various banking interfaces. As you can imagine, that takes a long time, and slow processes meant that certain full-time people were spending 2-6 hours a day (or more!) just paying vendors.

We now have a radically streamlined workflow: WordCamp Central finance folks will instead be able to upload a spreadsheet of approved payment requests each day to be automatically sent out by the bank, and then download a status report on payments every day as well. If all goes as planned, the payment work that used to take 2-6 hours per day should take less than 30 minutes per day, freeing up a lot more time for WordCamp Central finance people to work on new programs and supporting event organizers. I think we all like the sound of that. 🙂

Re: Reimbursements

Previously, if an organizer needed to make an out-of-pocket purchase for their WordCamp, he or she would request reimbursement as if they were any other vendor. The UI for vendor payments wasn’t really set up for reimbursements, though, and it made for a lot of extra back-and-forth with organizers, delaying payment. We also ran into issues with sending multiple reimbursements to organizers, because that created additional banking fees. People would frequently request reimbursement for expenses in multiple budget categories, and we’ve had a hard time separating out line items when we do our monthly reconciliation. To sum up: painful experiences all around, and sadness.

We’ve created a tool for requesting reimbursements that we hope will solve all of these problems. (And look, there’s even a handbook page with step-by-step instructions on how to use it!) Organizers who pay for an approved WordCamp expense out-of-pocket can now use the Reimbursement tool to log their expenses, and request payment directly without being prompted to enter lots of vendor details for each expense. It’s now easier for organizers to request one reimbursement payment for multiple out-of-pocket expenses, which will reduce banking fees, and the tool allows us to separate out the line item expenses for internal reporting and make reconciliations a lot less manual, yay!

We still pay fees for every payment or reimbursement, so we urge organizers to group reimbursements in as few requests as possible — preferably one per organizer who paid for an out-of-pocket expense — and also to use the direct deposit or wire transfer options as often as possible, since those are the most streamlined and speedy methods of payment.

Automated Sponsor Invoices

For years, WordCamps have been making a copy of a text document for their event and then manually editing it each time they needed to send an invoice to a sponsor. They’d then note the sponsor’s name on their budget spreadsheet (which sometimes got forgotten), and wait for WordCamp Central to receive the payment and mark the sponsor paid on the Sponsors tab of their budget. On WordCamp Central’s side, we’d review the bank and PayPal sites every day, spend 2-20 minutes for each payment searching for the WordCamp to credit that payment to, type in payment information and mark the spreadsheet line a really alarming shade of green, ping the organizer to let them know a payment came in, rinse, repeat. Whew, clunky, manual, and SO time-consuming — yuck! 🙁

Now, on your WordCamp dashboard, you’ll see a menu item under Budget called Sponsor Invoices. Here’s the handbook page with step-by-step instructions on how to use it. When an organizer creates a Sponsor Invoice request, they’ll submit it, and a WordCamp Central deputy will review it. Once approved, that invoice is then emailed to sponsors via QuickBooks, complete with up-to-date payment instructions. When a sponsor payment arrives, WordCamp Central will just review the list of all WordCamp invoices and mark them paid on one screen! QuickBooks will update to WordCamp websites on an hourly basis, changing the status of each paid invoice to Paid. The organizer who created the invoice will then get an email notification that the invoice has been paid, and that it’s time to announce that sponsor.

Dive in!

Please help us iron out any lingering bugs in these new tools by using them! From now on, all organizers who need to request reimbursement should use the Reimbursement tool, leaving the Vendor Payment tool only for payment requests to vendors. And if you have a WordCamp in active planning, please invoice sponsors using the Sponsor Invoices tool from now on.

If you have questions about any of the above items, please leave them in the comments!

 

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