Convocation and Award Events - Best Practices

Purpose: This document is intended to provide guidance regarding allowable expenditures related to convocation, program completion, year-end awards, and other similar events while upholding our commitment to being good stewards of University resources.

Background: The University of Arizona supports and encourages reasonable convocation, program completion, student recognition, and other year-end award celebrations as part of our primary educational mission. Such events may be challenging for units because several financial policy and funding areas may be involved. Critically, all expenses for such events must be appropriate and reasonable, and a clear business purpose must be provided for all uses of University funds as more fully described in 9.10 Requisitions/Reimbursements and other University policies.


Documenting Business Purpose

As early as possible, generally in the requisition process, provide the following detailed information:

  • What, when, where, and why for the event – include the program, agenda or flyer
  • Who will attend – include full names and affiliation with the University for all attendees
  • How – in what way will the expense benefit the University

More information can be found on our Business Purpose Guide.


General Considerations

  • Does the event reflect and support the mission of the University?
  • Can the expenses be adequately explained and justified if subject to public scrutiny or audit?

Specific Considerations


  • Use of campus facilities is strongly encouraged. While business functions may take place off campus, historically, event costs are considerably higher at hotel and resort venues.
  • Use of personal residence increases potential liability, is not typically appropriate, and is strongly discouraged.
    • There should be a formal evaluation and approval process in place by department leadership for any event planned at a personal residence. Financial Services recommends that departments establish a departmental policy to ensure oversight, supervision, and University-authorized purpose and that Risk Management is involved early in the planning process to evaluate the inherent risk factors specific to each event and the increased potential liability, and to determine scope of the University’s insurance coverage for the event. Please note that informal events at private residences are not covered by University insurance.

Meals, Refreshments and Incidentals

  • Food and refreshments may be provided but should be reasonable in cost and appropriate to the occasion.
  • Reasonable incidental costs, such as decorations and audio or visual equipment, are allowable with proper business purpose in relation to the event.
  • Guideline for reasonable cost - As a benchmark, the cost of $40 per person for refreshments and/or a modest meal, including tax and tip would be considered reasonable. It is recognized that reasonable cost is dictated by availability, size and scope of each event and the unique needs and capacities of the departments. The detailed business purpose should support and justify reasonable costs in all instances including when the cost exceeds the recommended per person amount.
  • For events on the main campus that include food and the total cost exceeds $750, departments must contact the Arizona Catering Company to make food service arrangements. Departments at The University of Arizona Health Sciences have the option of using the Banner University Medical Center food service. Events costing less than $750 and events catered off campus are exempt from this policy. For additional information, see the Catering and Food Service Policy.

Attendees and Guests

  • Recognizing the importance of family and community support for students and the University, students and other honorees may be allowed a reasonable number of guests at the event. In general, one or two guests per student would be deemed reasonable. If a student wishes to invite a larger number of guests, the additional per person cost should be paid by the student or through Foundation funds.
  • Generally, costs for any guests of University staff and faculty attending the event should be paid by the individual or through Foundation funds.
  • Guest speakers and additional presenters with a valid business purpose at the event are allowable expenditures.
  • Departments should collect the additional cost-per-person for any additional non-University affiliated attendees or use Foundation funds.

Expenditure Classification

These events should be categorized as Business Meeting expenditures, utilizing object code 5170. Documentation is required prior to disbursement – regardless of the method – to align with this classification.

Funding Sources

Allowable funding sources

  • Foundation Funds are the recommended source as they are the least restricted. Expenses should be paid directly by the Foundation to the vendor. Payment should not be processed through a University restricted gift account using Foundation transfers.
  • Local Accounts may be used provided the expenditure is aligned with the account's mission and purpose, and the expenditure is allowable and can be supported by policy and best practices. Note: Some local accounts may be unallowable. See below.

Unallowable funding sources

  • State Funds
  • Sponsored Accounts
  • Local Accounts where the purpose of the funds restricts expenditures
    • For example, student fee accounts can only be used for the purpose set forth in the fee proposal and approved by the Arizona Board of Regents. Or, a restricted gift may be given for a specific purpose that would not include Program Completion/Year-end Awards/Convocation expenses. Other gifts may be less restrictive and allow these types of expenditures.

Related Information

Business Purpose Guide
Catering & Alcohol Service
Contracting with Hotels
PCard Program
Purchasing Policies Manual
Risk Management
9.10 Requisitions/Reimbursements
9.11 Employee Recognition Policy
9.16 Payments to Nonresident Alien
9.18 Small Dollar/Direct Purchase Procedures