The Phillips Brooks House Association (PBHA) is Harvard College’s largest student organization and also the largest network of public service programs on campus. The organization, also a 501©3 nonprofit separate from Harvard University, employs 10-15 full time staff who work to support PBHA’s student leaders – a team of 20 year-round officers and 70+ program directors. Programs at PBHA include:
"PBHA strives for social justice. As a student-led organization, PBHA mobilizes volunteers in collaboration with Boston and Cambridge partners to address gaps in opportunities and resources. We develop student and community leadership to creatively meet critical needs and advocate for structural change. PBHA seeks to promote social awareness and community involvement at Harvard and beyond."
- A network of 10 summer camps
- Term-time after school tutoring / mentoring
- Adult ESL and Citizenship Tutoring classes
- 2 full-time homeless shelters, including one that exclusively serves young adults
From April 2017 to February 2019, I served as PBHA’s Treasurer. In addition to creating the large PBHA budget of $4+ million each year, the Treasurer is responsible for reporting to the Board of Trustees on budget-to-actuals each trimester, approving every non-payroll expense that goes out, administering several grant application processes, and helping programs stay on top of their financials, especially those with financial concerns.
The question I would like to further investigate is how PBHA directors can become more financially self-sufficient through digital reosurces. Currently, volunteers and directors must submit reimbursement forms in paper form to PBHA’s finance office. Several guides, including a reimbursement policy document and a “tracking your budget” guide already exist scattered in the PBHA Drive. Although these resources and processes exist, submitting paper forms can be a tedious process as can be finding the answer to one particular financial question among a sea of Google Drive documents. I believe that combining these resources into a consolidated online dashboard, which may include a digitized reimbursement process, will enable directors to take more agency in managing their finances. By interviewing current/past directors and officers, as well as staff members, I hope to gain insights into what obstacles student stakeholders face in understanding and accessing PBHA finances. My goal is to create a deliverable one-stop-shop for financial management that is integrated into my.pbha.org (the site directors use to manage their programs).
I believe that increasing ease of access to program finances will allow directors to spend more time doing the truly important work of serving our constituents.