Resources: Guidelines for Writing a Clear Business Purpose

This job aid provides guidance to help you properly document a Business Purpose to ensure compliance with University policy and governing regulations, and to avoid delays in processing and payment of reimbursements.

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General Guidelines

The Business Purpose section provides the business justification for the expense. The iOU Business Purpose field can hold up to a maximum of 2,000 characters, which allows sufficient space to explain the reimbursement request. The first 30 characters will be displayed on Expenditure Reports.

The Business Purpose should answer five basic questions:

  1. Who was involved in the activity?
  2. Give the name(s) of the person(s) and their organization and/or department involved in the activity. For example, if reimbursement related to a business meal, the WHO component would be a list of the attendees and their affiliation to Stanford.

  3. What activity was performed?
  4. Explain the activity or circumstance that gave rise to the expenditure.

  5. Why was the activity done and how did it benefit Stanford?
  6. Describe the benefit to Stanford. For example, does it further ongoing research or teaching efforts?

  7. When did the activity occur?
  8. Indicate the date or inclusive dates the activity took place. Specific dates are also part of the item descriptions, and dates included in the Business Purpose can be more general (the entire trip, for instance, instead of the date of each meal).

  9. Where did the activity take place?
  10. Give the location of the activity: to/from destinations, restaurant name and city, or other appropriate information.

In general, a Business Purpose should be written so that someone reading it at some future time (e.g. 2-3 years later) would have no questions about the activity and why it was reimbursable.

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Examples of Business Purpose Descriptions Which Meet University Requirements

The following examples show acceptable Business Purpose as they would look in the iOU application, and answer each of the questions discussed above.

Note that the first few characters (up to 30) present a brief summary that would be meaningful on an expenditure statement. In the examples below, the first 30 characters (shown in red) will appear on Expenditure Reports. In some cases, additional characters (e.g. extra dash in example 3) were used.

  • Travel Reimbursement Example

    NELSON WHOFR TRIP, 4/16-20/07 -- WHO:  Professor Mike Nelson and two of his PhD students, Nick James and Elias Storm. WHAT:  Attendance at the WHOFR (WHales are Our FRiends) workshop where Professor Nelson presented his paper on "An Analysis of the Orca Language". WHY:  The workshop supported Professor Nelson's research on the U.S. Navy grant Cetacean Communication, award WTALK, and has been approved by the sponsor. WHEN:  April 16-20, 2007. WHERE:  University of Puget Sound, Washington

  • Business Meal Reimbursement Example

    ZACK MAYO GRADUATION DINNER -- WHO:  Zack Mayo, PhD (2007), Professor Emil Foley (1946), and PhD students, Paula Pokrifki and Sid Worley. WHAT:  Celebration of attainment of PhD degree. WHY:  Dr. Mayo has worked with Professor Foley as a PhD student for three years while studying for his degree. WHEN:  June 18, 2007. WHERE:  Scott's Seafood, Palo Alto.

  • Purchase Reimbursement Example

    QUALITY IMPROVEMENT AWARD -- WHO:  Dr. Peter Mitchell. WHAT:  Trophy for the Department of Homeopathy Quality Improvement Award. WHY:  Award presented annually to the administrative associate who made the most significant improvements in work quality, as measured by number of purchase requisitions and reimbursements that were processed without incident. WHEN:  For FY2007, awarded on December 1, 2007. WHERE:  Department of Homeopathy, School of Wellness.

  • Honoraria Reimbursement Example

    REDFORD PRESENTATION, 7/4/2007 -- WHO:  Robert Redford. WHAT:  Participation in a panel discussion on Western Movies in American Cinema. WHY:  Part of the Drama Department's Summer Seminar Series. WHEN:  July 4, 2007. WHERE:  Memorial Auditorium.

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Policy References

Reimbursement of business expenses is governed by Administrative Guide Policy 5.3.6 (Payments to Nonemployees), 5.4.1 (Expense Advances), 5.4.2 (Travel Expenses), and 5.4.3 (Reimbursement of Expenses).

For a summary of policy, see Policy Notes: Reimbursable Business Expenses.

Also consult the Financial Gateway, Reimbursements section, for information and assistance.

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