Software Freedom Conservancy Travel and Reimbursable Expense Policy
This Travel and Reimbursable Expense Policy (“Policy”) applies to all Conservancy Member Projects (“Projects”) of Software Freedom Conservancy (“Conservancy”) and has been created to memorialize Conservancy’s reimbursement policies relating to travel and other business expenses incurred by Conservancy staff, Project Leadership Committee (“PLC”) members, and project volunteers while engaged in business on behalf of, or at the behest of Conservancy and/or a Project (“Travelers”).
This Policy includes an Easy Reference Guide that can be used as a template for most of the travel covered under this Policy. When in doubt, refer to the more detailed sections below.
Conservancy must maintain effective control of business-related expenses in order to maintain its financial viability and tax exempt status. Conservancy and each Project is also accountable to our donors to ensure that we manage their contributions wisely and maximize our ability to pursue our charitable mission. As such, Conservancy expects Travelers to use good judgment and to claim reimbursement for only those expenses that are necessary and reasonable. Excessive expenses, including but not limited to luxury accommodations and services unnecessary for, or unrelated to the furtherance of Conservancy’s charitable mission are not eligible for reimbursement.
Any travel expense that adheres to this Policy is considered In-Policy and does not require special approval, so long as the trip itself has been approved in writing by Conservancy’s Executive Director or by a Project’s Leadership Committee (“PLC”) in a regular and documented PLC vote. Conservancy and/or a PLC can limit allowable travel expenses to an amount less than what would otherwise be considered acceptable according to this Policy. If so, the smaller budget is the maximum allowed expense.
PLC’s may, in fact, have their own travel policy that is more restrictive than this one. Please consult the PLC for your Conservancy project before incurring an expenses to ensure you understand what expenses can be reimbursed.
Easy Reference Guide
Travelers should adhere to the following guidelines to stay In-Policy.
Before you buy tickets, save a screenshot of a flight search that shows the least expensive fare available from multiple airlines for the dates you need to travel.
Book at least 14 days in advance.
Fares within $100 of that lowest fare you found are In-Policy, even if you book on a different site or for different dates.
Fares over $750 domestically or $1,650 internationally require Conservancy’s pre-approval.
Hotels are In-Policy as long as the average nightly rate you pay (excluding taxes and fees) is under the maximum rate for lodging for your destination. See the “Rates” section below for details.
Be sure the receipt from your hotel includes the dates of your stay, not just a total.
Keep and submit PDFs of the following, as applicable:
Your fare search (i.e., a screen shot)
Your plane and rail tickets (e-confirmation of purchase is sufficient)
Your hotel/lodging invoice
Use your per diem to cover meals and incidental expenses.
Your total per diem allowance follows the rates published for your destination. See the “Rates” section below for details.
Try to be frugal: per diem rates are rather generous.
When attending a conference where food is included, Do The Right Thing and claim a lower per diem.
To receive reimbursement, send transportation and hotel receipts, along with a list of per diem days and totals, to firstname.lastname@example.org. Refer to the Expense Report section below for details.
Your complete reimbursement request must be submitted to email@example.com within 90 days of the last date of travel. Untimely requests will not be reimbursed.
Throughout this document, we refer to rates reported by other parties.
For travel in the United States, we follow the maximum rates for lodging and M&IE per diem set by the US General Services Administration.
For travel outside the United States, we follow the maximum rates for lodging and M&IE per diem set by the US Department of State.
We calculate the total per diem allowance for a trip using the same method as the GSA. Travelers may request up to 100% of the listed rate for each full day of travel, plus 75% of the listed rate for each partial day of travel. For example, if you fly to a conference on Monday, spend Tuesday through Thursday at the conference, and return home on Friday, and the per diem rate for the conference city is $80, you may request up to $360: $80 for each day Tuesday through Thursday, plus $60 for each day you flew.
When we convert currencies (e.g., to determine whether a hotel paid in Euros was within the maximum lodging rate), we use the final rate published by Open Exchange Rates on the date we received the reimbursement request. Please do not do your own currency conversions in your reimbursement requests. Simply report expenses in their original currency/ies, and we will convert appropriately. If you have questions or concerns about our rates, just ask, and we’ll be happy to provide details before we send you final payment.
Conservancy handles reimbursements on a NET-30 basis, starting from the date that complete materials are received. If this is an issue, Conservancy is available to prepurchase expensive items like airline tickets on your behalf, so that you don’t need to be reimbursed.
If you seek to be reimbursed for Conservancy Project expenses, please send the following, in a self contained email (with attachments as necessary), cc’ing your Project Leadership Committee address (PROJECT@sfconservancy.org) for Project approval:
A brief paragraph explaining what was accomplished for the project during your travel and/or with the funds being reimbursed. This can be informal; it’s just for our records to confirm the travel advanced the not-for-profit mission of both Conservancy and the project.
A brief report listing the items to be reimbursed.
Full receipt(s) for everything, unless the travel policy does not require receipts (e.g., for per diem expenses).
If your receipts are in a different currency than your preferred one for reimbursement, include documentation of the rate conversion (e.g., a redacted credit card statement in your preferred currency). Otherwise, Conservancy will use the prevailing rate for the date of the expense for conversion.
Please verify that the receipts that you submit are within the attached travel policy requirements. Note, however, that your Project Leadership Committee may have set a stricter budget than what the general Conservancy policy allows.
How you’d liked to be reimbursed. The four payment options, in order of Conservancy’s preference, are:
PayPal. For this, we need (a) the email address that is registered to the PayPal account that will receive reimbursement and (b) the preferred currency. (Please verify that PayPal lists your preferred currency as available before choosing one.) Note that sometimes PayPal charges fees. Usually we’re taking funds from our PayPal balance, which means no fees appear on our side, but they may appear on yours. In our experience, USA PayPal account holders physically in the USA are not typically charged fees; but we do advise you to check PayPal’s fee schedule before choosing this method.
NOTE: Typically, when choosing PayPal as a payment option, amounts owed in USD will be paid in USD, regardless of your preferred currency selection.
Issue you a check in USD from a USA bank, sent to you via post. For this option, I just need your postal address.
Wire the amount in your local currency to your bank account in your country. For this option, I need as much of the following information as it’s possible for you to collect.
Full Name of the Account Holder
Full Address of the Account Holder
Bank ACH or ABA routing number (for banks in the US); or SWIFT and/or BIC code (for banks outside the US)
Additional required information by country
All countries inside the EU, and all wires in EUR & XAF: IBAN
Australia: BSB or “Bank Code”
Brazil: IABN; Tax ID of the Account Holder (your 14-digit CNPJ or 11-digit CPF); Phone Number of the Account Holder; and Bank Agency Code
Colombia: Tax ID of the Account Holder; and Phone Number of the Account Holder
India: IFSC Code
Kenya: The name of the local branch of your bank where you hold your account
Russian Federation: Beneficiary INN; Patronymic Name of Beneficiary; and VAT/VO Code of Beneficiary Bank
Ukraine: BSB or “Bank Code”; Tax ID of the Account Holder; and Phone Number of the Account Holder
United States: Phone Number of the Account Holder
Additional information we can use
Banks outside the US will often designate a Correspondent Bank when receiving funds from the US. If you can give us the Correspondent Bank Name and ACH, we can specify that in the wire. Your bank will usually take the fewest fees when receiving wires from its Correspondent Bank, so this will mean the most money for you.
A check in your local currency, sent to you via post. For this option, we just need your postal address and what currency you want. Note that this is a more involved option to process and will usually take at least 30 days to issue payment. We do not recommend this method. Please choose it only if you absolutely cannot receive a wire transfer for some reason.
Project Leadership Committees: when you see emails of this nature, please be sure to have your designated Representative review the materials and send an approval message to Conservancy.
Project Leadership Committee Review
Conservancy foresees the need for periodic reasonable exceptions to this Policy. Persons working on behalf of a specific Project seeking an exception to this Policy must petition their PLC to obtain written approval from Conservancy authorizing the exception. Persons working directly on behalf of Conservancy seeking an exception to the Policy must obtain written approval from Conservancy authorizing the exception.
PLCs are responsible for creating procedures for requesting exceptions, and submitting to Conservancy reimbursement requests associated with their respective Projects. PLCs are also responsible for making available a list of required response times for inquiries, including but not limited to, the following two cases
a specific number of days to respond to regular reimbursement requests, and
a specific number of days to respond to pre-authorization requests.
PLCs are also responsible for monitoring the available balance in their Project Fund, and for granting or refusing approval for travel expense requests based on an assessment of the funds available and of any outstanding contracts payable. PLCs are not to approve travel expense requests when their Project does not have sufficient funds to cover the expense. If a PLC has any questions regarding whether their Project has sufficient funds to cover a Traveler’s expense request, the PLC should contact Conservancy.
Overall transportation Cost
Domestic transportation costs greater than US$750 requires Conservancy approval prior to booking, even if all other Policy conditions have been met. International transportation costs greater than US$1,800 requires Conservancy approval prior to booking, even if all other Policy conditions have been met.
Tickets for travel by air or rail (excluding commuter train and subway) should be booked at least 14 days in advance; any travel booked less than 14 days in advance requires written pre-authorization by Conservancy. Tickets for travel by air or rail beyond 365 days in advance also require written pre-authorization by Conservancy.
Class of Service
Coach and/or Economy Airfare is the only acceptable class for all flights (domestic and international) unless a PLC provides a special exception and a valid reason (such as a need for business class due to a documented medical reason) to Conservancy for written approval. Travelers may select their airline of choice (e.g., for the purpose of collecting airline miles and rewards), provided that the resulting fare otherwise meets the requirements of this Policy. Travelers should not book out-of-Policy trips (and thus pay a higher fare) in order to qualify for a mileage upgrade.
Air travel should be booked at least 14 days in advance; any travel booked less than 14 days in advance requires written pre-authorization by Conservancy. Flights beyond 365 days in advance also require written pre-authorization by Conservancy.
Conservancy aims to balance cost savings with time savings and convenience. Budgets for flights are set based on their travel time compared to the flight with the lowest available fare. Flights with fares that are within budget are in-Policy.
To find the lowest available fare, run a flight search that meets these criteria, and save the results:
The search must include fares from multiple airlines. Any widely-recognized airfare search site that lists results from multiple airlines is acceptable, including sites such as Orbitz, Kayak or Hipmunk.
The search must cover only the dates of relevant travel. For example, if you’re attending a conference that runs Monday through Friday, the search must have you arriving no earlier than Sunday, and leaving no later than Saturday.
Except as allowed by Policy, the search must not use filters that might exclude the least expensive fare. For example, you may filter out flights with two or more connections, since Conservancy does not consider those reasonable. However, you may not filter out specific airlines, or flights without WiFi.
Save the results of this search. A PDF printout of the first page of results from your browser is ideal. A screenshot can work too. Just make sure the output shows the search criteria and the lowest available fare. When you send your reimbursement request, attach these results.
The budget for a flight is set depending on how its cost and travel time compares to the flight with the lowest available fare. Travel time is measured from the scheduled departure time of the first flight in the itinerary to the scheduled landing time of the final flight. We use the following table to determine the budget:
|If the travel time for a flight is…||the budget for that flight is…|
|the same or longer than the flight with the lowest available fare||the lowest available fare + US$100|
|less than three hours shorter||the lowest available fare + US$100|
|between three and six hours shorter||the lowest available fare + US$200|
|between six and ten hours shorter||the lowest available fare + US$350|
|at least ten hours shorter||the lowest available fare + US$600|
Any flight with a total cost that is within its corresponding budget is within Policy. Any flight with a cost over its budget requires written pre-authorization by Conservancy.
Travelers may book their tickets on different dates or a different site as long as they used a qualifying fare search site to determine that the booked flights are within Policy.
Conservancy asks that Travelers allow for flexibility with respect to departure times during a desired day of travel, as well as longer trips in order to reduce cost. However, Conservancy does consider flights with two or more connections as unreasonable and does not expect Travelers to consider those flight options to be reasonable.
Should a team member travel on an airline that charges for a single piece of checked baggage, such a baggage expense is eligible for reimbursement with a receipt. Team members are responsible for charges on any baggage beyond a single piece, unless that additional baggage is materials specifically related to the Project’s and Conservancy’s mission (i.e., bringing t-shirts and other promotional materials to an event).
All air travel not adhering to the above Policies are considered Out-of-Policy and require written pre-authorization by an officer of Conservancy.
Cancellation fees and other penalties incurred result of a change of plans are reimbursable at Conservancy’s discretion. In general, Conservancy shall reimburse such fees if the Traveler can submit a valid reason for the change of plans. Acceptable reasons include Conservancy and/or the PLC canceling or altering the trip or unexpected delays in flight connections. In instances where these fees are incurred without adequate explanation, Conservancy reserves the right to refuse to reimburse the cost of the fees.
Ground transportation necessary as part of authorized Project trips is considered to be a reasonable expense. Public ground transportation, such as taxis, shuttles, buses and municipal transit, are generally the most cost-effective options and are the standard for eligible ground transportation reimbursements. All car rentals require pre-authorization by the PLC or by an officer of Conservancy. When car rentals have been pre-approved, the rental of compact cars is encouraged; mid-size vehicles are authorized when necessary (e.g., when compact-sized vehicles are not available or the number of passengers or volume of baggage makes a compact vehicle impractical).
Rail transportation as a means of travel for an authorized Project trip is considered to be a reasonable expense. All rail transportation must be in economy and/or coach class.
Use of Personal Vehicles
When circumstances require Travelers to utilize their personal vehicles for Project purposes, they can be reimbursed at the current USA IRS Standard Mileage Rate, plus any related parking expenses and toll fees. Drivers are encouraged to find the lowest cost parking area reasonably near their destination.
Additional Days of Travel
Travelers often seek to add extra days before or after an approved trip (e.g., the weekend before a conference). A Traveler may seek approval for the expenses associated with an extended stay prior to booking the trip, provided that the additional days are solely to enable a Traveler to conduct work within the PLC’s objectives and Conservancy’s charitable mission, or to get a particular airfare that reduces the overall cost of the trip. Travelers may seek approval to book travel itineraries that include extra days for personal reasons, so long as the cost of the flight meets the other requirements of this Policy. Other expenses incurred during extra personal days beyond transportation costs are not reimbursable.
Travelers are expected to be cost-conscious and prudent when booking lodging for approved trips, and to verify that rates are within the maximum lodging rates for the hotel’s location. See the “Rates” section above for details.
If the lodging chosen by the Traveler and/or the PLC exceeds the maximum lodging rate for the given location (per Traveler), the Traveler and/or the PLC must obtain written pre-approval from Conservancy and the PLC before booking the hotel. If written pre-approval is not sought or is not granted, Conservancy will only reimburse up to the maximum lodging rate.
Lodging documentation submitted as part of a reimbursement request must include a copy of the hotel invoice detailing all charges (credit card receipts alone are unacceptable). In particular, since Conservancy only reimburses for room charges (plus relevant taxes and fees) for the necessary travel dates, the receipt from the hotel must clearly show the dates of stay, and separately list room charges and any food or service charges. Conservancy will not reimburse Travelers for any costs associated with an upgrade of room accommodations.
In some cases, Conservancy, upon consultation with the PLC, may decide to book lodging on behalf of Travelers. In this case, Conservancy-booked lodging is always considered In-Policy.
Other Reimbursable Expenses
Conservancy will reimburse persons for Project-related expenses that are incurred while traveling on approved Project business and/or approved Conservancy business. Only necessary, ordinary and reasonable expenses are eligible for reimbursement, and only those categories of expenses listed in this document qualify.
Meals and Incidental Expenses
Travelers can submit for a per diem for meals and incidental expenses for every day of a trip devoted to Project- and/or Conservancy-related mission work, including the day(s) of travel itself, up to the maximum rate for the destination of the trip. See the “Rates” section above for details.
These per diem rates are the maximum daily rate Travelers can claim. If a conference has provided food, or food is provided in some other form, or the costs the Traveler incurs are lower than this rate, then the Traveler should reasonably reduce their per diem claim.
PLCs and/or Conservancy have the authority to set lower per diem rates than those generated by the calculators above. In those instances, Travelers will only be able to submit for the lower per diem rates.
For groups of Travelers on an In-Policy trip, each Traveler should pay for his/her own meals, seeing as all participants will have an opportunity to submit for separate per diem reimbursements after the trip.
For clarification purposes, this Policy does not relate to planned group events that include meals and/or refreshments (e.g., a PLC-organized conference that includes lunch for all attendees). Further, PLCs and/or Conservancy retain the right to allocate a separate budget for anticipated large group meals beyond the individual per diem limits of each Traveler, provided that they are within the PLC’s technical objectives and/or Conservancy’s mission. Travelers anticipating a need to cover such a large group meal should seek pre-approval from his/her PLC and/or Conservancy for such expenses before the trip.
For any such group meal, Conservancy will require a written paragraph summary of the meeting, indicating what was accomplished for the Project’s and Conservancy’s mission.
Meals For Organizational Development
Travelers may occasionally have the need to invite third parties (e.g., prospective donors, contributors, community members, etc.) to meals in order to further a PLC’s technical direction and/or Conservancy’s mission. Conservancy recommends that Travelers seek pre-approval from their PLC and/or Conservancy for such meals.
For any such organizational development meal, Conservancy will require a written paragraph summary of the meeting, indicating what was accomplished for the Project’s and Conservancy’s mission.
Phone Call Charges Part of Per Diem
Charges for personal phone calls (e.g., made from a hotel, or via a mobile phone in international travel) are not reimbursable as an expense separate from the allocated per diem.
Currency Conversion Charges Part of Per Diem
Any fees associated with currency conversion are not reimbursable as an expense separate from the allocated per diem.
Conference Registration Fees
Conservancy will reimburse conference registration fees up to $100 per day for Travelers on approved Project business and/or approved Conservancy business. For example, a $250 registration fee for a 3-day conference is In-Policy; however, a $225 registration fee for a 2-day conference is not.
Travelers seeking reimbursement for registration fees that exceed $100 per day must obtain prior approval from an officer of Conservancy.
Internet access/wi-fi fees charged by a hotel are reimbursable, provided that they are listed on the hotel/lodging invoice submitted for reimbursement. Other internet access fees (e.g., airport internet services, personal wi-fi hotspots, internet cafes) are not reimbursable except as incidental expenses to be covered by a Traveler’s per diem.
Conservancy will reimburse fees charged by an embassy (or any government agency) that are mandatory for receiving a visa (or other permission) to enter the final destination country of travel, provided proper documentation of cost (such as a receipt, or a copy of the visa along with government published rates).
Conservancy may reimburse other ancillary costs, such as use of a travel expert agency for obtaining a visa, or additional domestic travel costs necessary to obtain a visa, but all such other costs require prior approval from Conservancy.
Non-reimbursable expenses are identified throughout this policy. The following items are typically non-reimbursable expenses:
Partner, spouse, and/or companion travel
First class travel (unless medically necessary)
Upgrades to air travel, car rentals, or hotel rooms
Purchase of clothing, luggage, toiletries and other miscellaneous personal items
Supplemental travel or car rental insurance
Fines, penalties, or legal fees
Personal entertainment or recreational expenses beyond the allotted per diem
Travelers are permitted to pay for their own upgrades, or use bonus programs to upgrade Conservancy-reimbursed expenses. However, Travelers must ensure that Conservancy does not receive nor reimburse any charges for any such transaction.
Satisfaction of IRS Requirements
Reimbursed travel expenses are subject to examination by the USA Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Travelers are responsible for retaining documentary evidence that all expenses are strictly for Project- and/or Conservancy-related purposes, not personal in nature, and therefore not includable as taxable income to the Traveler. Receipts are required for all expenses, no matter the amount.
Travelers traveling on behalf of a Project must seek approvals and submit expense reports to their PLC. PLCs are to review those expense reports and pass them along to Conservancy’s accounting office for final approval and reimbursement.
Travelers traveling on behalf of Conservancy must seek approvals from Conservancy’s Executive Director, and submit expense reports to Conservancy’s accounting office for reimbursement.
Travelers seeking reimbursement must submit an expense report to the appropriate channel with the following information:
Name of Traveler
Brief description of trip and trip’s purpose (e.g., “August 2011 trip to XYZ conference for ABC project, served as planning committee member”; “Feb. ‘12 FOO hackfest in Portland, OR; contributed code”)
A brief paragraph explaining what was accomplished for the project during your travel.
Number of days traveled (with documentary evidence, e.g., conference itinerary, etc.) and associated per diem
List of expenses not covered by per diem (e.g., transportation, lodging) with substantiating receipts (or scans of receipts).
In the event that it is impractical to obtain a required receipt and/or if such receipt has been inadvertently destroyed or lost, the Traveler should furnish a written statement to that effect, as well as an explanation of the expenditure involved. When possible, secondary documentation (such as a redacted credit card bill) should be provided instead of the lost/destroyed receipt.
Any expense without a substantiated receipt and/or a supporting written statement will not be reimbursed.
Conservancy requests that all expense reports be submitted within two weeks of travel. Expense reports filed more than 90 days after the last day of travel (or for other reimbursable expenses, the day expenses are incurred) will not be reimbursed.
Reimbursements are paid by Conservancy on a NET-30 basis, from the date of receipt by Conservancy of the fully complete report and supporting documentation for the travel.
Consequences of Policy Violations
Failure to comply with this policy may result in the denial of, or delay in payment for, reimbursement requests.
The Conservancy reserves the right to change any terms of this Policy from time to time. The Policy of record shall be the Policy most recently distributed by the Conservancy.