Financial Management

Financial Management

Tips and tools for overseeing financial operations

What do I need to know to effectively manage our department budget?

Suggestions to get you started:

  1. Financial operations are uniquely administered in each department and college, although the university's annual budgeting process applies to all departments and schools/colleges.  These tips may not apply to you if your budget is handled centrally, but here are some suggested first steps if you are more directly involved: 
    • Create a list of questions and schedule meetings with the people who can help to answer them. If you don't have a staff person you work with on budget issues, assume you will be meeting with a college level finance administrator.  
      • What are our department financial resources, revenue and other funding, and what should we anticipate this year? 
      • How do these funds get distributed and what do they pay for?
      • What is the base and non-base budget?   
      • Are there examples of budgets and form templates? 
      • Who do I go to and when?  
      • What is the timing of the budget process within our school/college?  
      • What am I responsible for approving?
    • And later questions as you undergo the planning process:
      • How do I plan for the future? 
      • How do I use our department's strategic plan in the budget process?
      • What do I need to know about using the institutional data provided by UAIR?    
      • How do I decide on a set-aside for capital expenses?  How do we plan for startup or retention commitments?  
      • What can I ask for and from whom?
      • How is GOF determined in our department?     
      • How does a department raise additional financial resources?   
  2. You should also try to become familiar with the terminology:
    • A chartstring is how various accounts are described within your budget.  It's a 'file path' which organizes finances according to activities and sources of funding:  e.g. research, instruction, public service, etc. A speedtype number is the technical data entry shortcut for these accounts.
    • GOF stands for the department's General Operating Funds which are allocated annually to your department and can vary each year. This amount is determined based on the college's budget priorities, available resources, and university allocations. Non-base revenue is received from tuition. Meet with your business manager to understand what expenses are allowable in the GOF, past departmental GOF, and expense approval procedures.
    • Teaching Assistant (TA) lines may also be a source of funding for your department and are allocated annually.
    • You may have revenue from University Without Walls course funding, alumni donations, royalties, or indirect revenue from faculty grants, etc. 
  3. Review the timeline for the UMass strategic annual budgeting process and your college, and put those dates on your calendar. (see Actions and Deadlines)
  4. Get set up in the financial systems that you will need in order to approve financial transactions. Get access to the Summit system for quick access to accounts.
  5. Review the resources from past LEAD+ sessions on budgeting which has the university overview as well as tips for department leadership.
  6. Work with your finance manager regarding budget planning decisions and (if you are more hands-on) create an excel sheet to model projections and aide in decision-making.  
  7. Although not necessarily a first year goal, here are ideas for revenue generation:
    • Work with the development team in your school/college to determine possible donors interested in contributions to new opportunities such as scholarships for your students or research awards for your faculty.  Learn the history in your department.  
    • Offer an online course through University Without Walls.  Students may opt to take a class during the Winter or Summer in order to graduate early or if they've fallen behind and want to catch up.  Departments will receive additional revenue for hosting these on-line or in-person courses.

Instructions and resources:


Contacts in addition to your college and department staff: 

  • For questions about data and reports or help with your annual budget process, please contact Academic Administration and Finance at 413-545-6228.
  • Request Data through UAIR: 413-545-0941.

Access to Financial and HR systems

If you are dealing with a challenging decision or issue, engage your department colleagues. Form a committee to get advice and propose strategies to address the issue.