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Harvard Forest Purchasing Guidelines


Overview:  Authorized individuals purchasing on behalf of Harvard are expected to base purchases on sound business practice, best value, accountability, and compliance with donor, sponsor and regulatory requirements. Individuals planning for or making purchases must follow established Harvard University policies and procedures.  Individuals who spend funds or who prepare or authorize expenditures on behalf of the University have a stewardship responsibility to ensure those transactions are reasonable, appropriate, and have a proper University business purpose.


Guidelines that are tailored specifically to the Harvard Forest are found below, however please refer to Harvard University’s Procurement Policy for more detailed information.


Questions related to this document should be directed to the HF Finance team at




HF Finance team:


Authorization:  Only authorized individuals may purchase on behalf of Harvard.  It is mandatory that the individual completes the Role of the Purchaser, Preparer, and Approver (ROPPA) training on the Harvard Training Portal before becoming an authorized purchaser.  A certificate of completion must be submitted to


Approvals:  Approval must be obtained PRIOR to making a purchase under the following conditions:

  • Purchases made with sponsored funds: purchases greater than $1,000 or within 90 days of grant termination must be pre-approved by the Sponsored Research Administrator and the Principal Investigator (PI).  All purchases greater than $10,000 made with federal funds or cost-share funds require a vendor selection verification and must be documented using the Vendor Justification/Price Verification Form (VJF).
  • Purchases made with department funds: purchases greater than $2,500 must be pre-approved by the Financial Administrator.


Purchase Orders:  A purchase order should be provided to a vendor if the purchase is greater than $1,000 (purchases made with sponsored funds) OR $2,500 (purchases made with department funds).  Please reach out to HF Finance for assistance with obtaining a purchase order.


Contracts:  Generally, a contract is required if a binding agreement is intended between Harvard and any outside party where either Harvard or the other party will be responsible for specific deliverables or services.


Vendor Selection:

  • Preferred Vendors
    • Vendors that have been selected through the University’s formal sourcing process should be used whenever possible.  HF also has open charge accounts with several local vendors.  To find out if a vendor is a Harvard Preferred Vendor, for information on how to make a purchase through our charge account at a local vendor, or for requests to open a new charge account please email
  • Online Vendors
    • An authorized purchaser may choose to shop online.  Once a vendor has been chosen, check with HF Finance to find out if an account already exists.  If no account exists, the purchaser may create an account (if required).  Accounts must be in the name of Harvard Forest with the HF address, however you can list yourself as the contact.  Please make sure tax exemption is applied at account set-up.  It is also suggested that you share your account information with the Accounting Assistant.


Tax Exemption:  Harvard Forest is exempt from paying sales tax in MA.  Please print out MA Certificate ST-2  and MA Certificate ST-5 and bring along with you to all vendors.


Methods of Payment:

  • Purchasing Card (PCard)
    • Use for NON-TRAVEL purchases such as memberships, subscriptions, supplies, etc.
      • Exceptions: Seminar Lunch purchased in the immediate area of HF; fuel for an HF vehicle at a non-Exxon/Mobil gas station or if the vehicle gas card is unavailable
    • Single-purchase spending limit of $1,000 or less (SPLITTING PAYMENTS TO STAY UNDER THIS LIMIT IS PROHIBITED)
  • Corporate Travel Card
    • Use for TRAVEL costs such as airfare, taxi, meals, etc.
    • Sponsored Travel: reach out to the Sponsored Research Administrator and the PI prior to arranging travel if total expenses exceed $1,000
    • Please refer to Harvard University’s Travel Policy for more detailed information
  • Harvard Crimson Online Marketplace (HCOM) (Platform changing in FY20)
    • Online shop that connects to Harvard University's Preferred Vendor sites
    • Billing happens electronically between vendor and Harvard University
  • Direct billing via Accounts Payable
    • Vendors that HF has a charge account with will send an invoice to HF to be paid via check or electronic funds transfer
    • Use when other methods above are not an option (e.g. purchase greater than $1,000 PCard limit) or for frequent purchasing from a vendor

NOTE:  Payment made with personal funds (out of pocket) should be a last resort option as the methods above are the preferred methods of payment.  Please refer to the Reimbursements page for more information.


Documentation:  Receipts, packing lists, invoices, etc. must be forwarded to HF Finance as soon as possible.  All documents should be signed, dated, noted with a business purpose, specify method of payment, and indicate a funding source.  If a receipt for an expense greater than $75 is missing please complete the Missing Receipt Affidavit (MRA).




Authorized: having official permission or approval.

Contract: An agreement having a lawful object entered into voluntarily by two or more parties, each of whom intends to create one or more legal obligations between them.

Corporate Card: A joint-liability credit card issued by the University to employees for payment of business-related travel and entertainment expenses.

Harvard Crimson Online Marketplace (HCOM): HCOM is an e-procurement system comprised of both Oracle iProcurement and the SciQuest Marketplace. These two systems branded together are known as HCOM. HCOM is the official system of record that contains invoice images, purchasing, and receiving information stored electronically so that printing of purchasing back up and filing of packing slips can be eliminated.

Preferred Vendor: Supplier that has been awarded a contract and/or pricing agreement with negotiated terms and conditions and pricing favorable to Harvard, for use by University schools or units, after successfully completing a formal sourcing process. The Strategic Procurement Office is the sole office which can assign the designation of Preferred Vendor. The list of University Preferred Vendors can be found on the Strategic Procurement website.

Purchaser: an individual who spends University funds, both directly (through use of HCOM or PCard) or indirectly (through use of Corporate Card or personal funds to be reimbursed).

Purchasing Card (PCard): A University-liability credit card issued by the University to employees, for payment of high-volume, low-dollar, non-travel-related and non-entertainment-related business purchases. See the PCard Policy for more information.

Purchase Order: A Purchase Order (PO) is a unique document used to communicate a purchase of goods and/or services to a vendor.

Vendor: A supplier providing goods or services to Harvard. The general term “vendor” is different from the definition of a Harvard “Preferred Vendor,” which is a supplier selected through a competitive bid and negotiation process and whose products and services offer optimized value.

Vendor Justification Form (VJF): a form used to justify sole source selection and cost or price analysis, required for all purchases greater than $10,000 made with federal funds, cost-share funds or expenses transferred onto federal funds.



Revision History

01/01/20: revised purchase order requirement from $1,000 regardless of funding source to $1,000 for sponsored funds and $2,500 for department funds; added Appendix A

02/03/20: revisions to Appendix A: included location of purchase order log in note 1, clarified construction project contracts are required for services only in note 2, removed fund range for federal funds and included “University” for Harvard Preferred Vendor in note 3; moved contacts to the top section of the document; clarified language in Purchase Order section; clarified language in Purchasing Card section; included “PI” in Corporate Travel Card section for consistency; formatting


Appendix A: Purchasing Document Requirements Rubric


Date First Effective:  04/19/19

Revision Date:  02/03/20


To download a PDF of this document please click here.