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Chapters:

3.10 Conference Approval, Planning, and Reporting

Event Planning Guidance

Minimize Costs Where Possible

All OJP funding recipients must thoroughly review all planned conference costs to ensure that such costs are reasonable and absolutely necessary. Every effort should be made to conduct conferences via webinar, teleconference, or video conference. In-person, face-to-face conferences should only be held when necessary and no other option exists to conduct the business without travel and related costs. Note: Your submission should include a statement discussing why the event cannot be conducted via webinar, teleconference, or video conference. This can be done on a separate tab on the form.

Location Selection

  • Cost comparisons.
  • All funding recipients should conduct pricing comparisons of multiple facilities in multiple locations. Minimizing costs must be a critical consideration when determining the city and facility in which to hold a conference. Cost comparisons should include the following:
  • Overall facility cost;
  • Availability of lodging at per diem rates;
  • Convenience of location;
  • Availability of meeting space, equipment, and supplies, and
  • Commuting/travel distance for attendees.

In conducting cost comparisons of facilities, recipients should send the same detailed requirements to all potential facilities, and refrain from making commitments to any particular facility until the comparison is complete (and written approvals have been obtained).

  • Location.
  • Recipients should compare multiple locations.
  • Cooperative agreement and contract recipients must consider multiple locations (i.e., multiple cities). Where cooperative agreement and contract recipients consider only facilities in one city, they must include in their request for approval a written justification for that location.
  • Grant recipients should consider multiple locations, and should maintain written documentation justifying their decision to select the chosen location in the event of a future audit.
  • Facility.
  • Recipients should compare three or more facilities in a location. Facilities in the comparison should have given a positive response/quote and be able to accommodate the event as detailed in the requirements.
  • Federal facilities or no-cost facilities preferred. Recipients must make every effort to use no-cost facilities, including available governmental facilities, to the extent practicable. (See list of federal facilities posted here.) Grantees may use non-federal facilities. Grantees are not required to consider or use federal facilities, but are encouraged to do so where feasible.
  • Non-federal facilities. If no federal facility is available, or the federal facility would be more costly or otherwise does not meet the requirements of the event, a cooperative agreement or contract recipient may use a non-federal facility. Grantees may use non-federal facilities. Grantees are not required to consider or use federal facilities, but are encouraged to do so where feasible.
  • Primarily federal events. If the conference attendees will be primarily federal employees (more than 50%, based on a reasonable estimate), recipients may be required to submit additional justification for a non-federal facility, and should contact their OJP point of contact for additional information.
  • Appearance considerations.
  • Conference planners must exercise special care when considering holding a conference in any location that may give rise to appearance issues. Conference planners must ensure that the choice to hold a conference in such a location is made only when there is a determination that it is the most cost-effective option.

Conference Fees

Grant and cooperative agreement recipients may charge fees to cover part or all conference costs if prior approval from the awarding agency is obtained. Such fees are considered program income and are subject to the rules applicable to program income (see Chapter 3.4 Program Income).

Conference Planning Services and Staff Time

All cooperative agreement and contract recipients (but not grant recipients) must obtain prior written approval from OJP before incurring conference planning costs in accordance with the previously described approval process, except for such costs that are the reasonable minimal costs of identifying conference locations and developing the itemized cost estimates required to assemble and submit a conference cost approval request. This requirement applies whether the work is performed by the recipient’s staff or subcontracted out.

  • In-house versus subcontracted planning.
  • Recipients often provide conference planning services either through their own staff and resources, or through contracted external conference planners. Minimizing costs must be a critical consideration in this decision.
  • Recipients often are selected based on their ability to provide programmatic conference planning services (e.g., developing the conference agenda), but may also need to undertake logistical planning functions as well. In some cases, such logistical planning functions (e.g., negotiating hotel contracts, sending invitations, managing registration) may be performed at lower cost by a logistical planning service, which may be able to charge lower rates than the funding recipient for staff time, and may be more experienced in negotiating hotel and other necessary conference-related contracts.
  • Generally, a recipient should consider procuring logistical conference planning services when it does not have in-house expertise in such logistical planning, and when such services would result in lower overall costs to the Federal Government.
  • Cost limits.
  • All conference planner costs must be reasonable for the scale of the conference. Cooperative agreement and contract recipients providing conference planning, either in-house, or through subcontracted planning services, must adhere to the following cost limits:
  • Logistical conference planners perform the logistical planning necessary to hold a conference, which may include: recommending venues, advertising, setting the stage and audio-visual equipment, securing hotel rooms, interacting with caterers, and other non-programmatic functions. The cost of logistical conference planners may not exceed $50 per attendee, not to exceed $8,750. For example, if the number of attendees at a 2-day conference is 100, the maximum cost allowed for a logistical planner is $5,000 ($50 x 100 attendees). Logistical planning costs anticipated to exceed this amount require additional justification and approval prior to incurring the costs.
  • Programmatic conference planners develop the conference agenda, content, and written materials. They may also identify and/or provide appropriate subject matter experts and conference participants. The cost of programmatic conference planners may not exceed $200 per attendee, not to exceed $35,000. For example, if the number of attendees at a 2-day conference is 100, the maximum cost allowed for a logistical planner is $20,000 ($200 x 100 attendees). Programmatic planning costs anticipated to exceed this amount require additional justification and approval prior to incurring the costs.