We have been thinking about taking our leaders out for a meal as a thank you for all their help this year. can we claim this as a legitimate expense? Would be nothing fancy - probably just a pizza and soft drinks
I would say it's all relative. If you spend say £40 and you have £400 plus in your accounts after all your other expenditure are taken care of, ok, if you spend £80 and have £200 in the account then you are pushing it. The theory is that you are the trustees of the unit and it is your responsibility to ensure the assets are used for the benefit of the members of that unit. So if you need some refreshment at your planning meetings, or subsistance when out reccying a pack holiday venue then that is not unreasonable.
When an independent examiner checks the accounts, they really are only checking that the transactions are as stated and the balances tally, what the various items of expenditure are doesn't really come into it unless they are really on the ball.
I am unsure if there are any hard and fast rules about it, but you may want to take into account where, what and who.
For example I helped on a weeklong camp as a part of the leadership team, and on the last day we had three extra leaders who didn't normally help with our units join us (who did help but more supervisory, the rest of us had been very hands on all week). At the end after the girls had gone all us leaders had our fish and chips paid for as an end of camp reward- including the three extra leaders (adding an extra £15 or so onto the bill of an already £40-50). There was some bad feeling, especially as one of the parents had been in the same fish and chip shop.
I would use as an indicator if a parent asked to see the bill would you feel comfortable/justified. Many places have reasonable prices but if it was say one pizza each and a soft drink going by prices in my area that would easily be at least half a one girls terms subs worth. Depending on how many leaders/girls you have this cost is spread differently. Leaders do need recognition for their time but if the unit isn't flush there are other ways. Alternatives might be paying for just drinks/sides.
We do the 'insert name of local newspaper here' test i.e. how would you feel if the headline was 'Guiders spent Brownie money on pizza ' ? If you could defend it, fine. If you'd anticipate a backlash ...
It's not something that we would do. We charge £15 per girl, per half term. A pizza and soft drink would cost around that amount where I live, maybe slightly less. I couldn't justify a half term's subs on a meal for a guider.
This is an occasion where lots of people's views will be different - If you have the cash, it is a reasonable amount - compared to subs/money left over - and want to treat them, then do it! what is wrong with saying thank you?
Personally, I wouldn't spend so much on something that isn't linked to a unit activity or an activity that directly benefits the girls. We're in a not-particularly well off area and I'd feel uncomfortable spending the girls' subs money on a personal treat. I'd generally only claim for going out for a meal from unit expenses if it was a necessary expense I wouldn't have occurred except for guiding, for example, needing to buy something to eat at a useful training event or during a long journey on a trip (and even then I'd usually take a packed lunch where possible).
On the other hand, some units/ areas are far more wealthy than others and leaders often don't claim back minor purchases, bringing in bits from home, travel and other expenses they are entitled to. This can easily rack up to way more than the cost of a pizza over a year, so maybe buying leaders a meal is a very reasonable cost to say thank you. Only you know your unit circumstances and whether you'd feel able to justify the decision if asked. If you're not sure, run it by your commissioner first, as she's first port of call if anyone raises it at a later stage.
If you're still concerned whether it's a valid use of funds, perhaps err on the side of caution and instead invite them all round for some pizza and an chance to chat and do a very informal review of the term, or something similar? For the cost of one pizza and soft drink in a restaurant you can probably get enough frozen pizzas and bottles of fizz for everyone.
Agree that the specific circumstances will be the decider here. The situation is all relative.
The amount spent relative to total amount in bank is one point. Spending £20 when you take in £2000 is a small amount - but is not the same as spending £100 when you take in £500.
But then again, we don't plan to make a profit. Thus any "substantial" amount of money left over at the end of the year should have us evaluating whether we charged too much for subs / an event and / or didn't spend what we budgeted for. Using that logic, why have you got enough money leftover to treat leaders to a meal?
Ultimately, the subs / gift aid / fundraising money you've taken in will be used to pay for the meal.
But then again, others will have bought flowers for leaders leaving, or gifts for girls at the end of term ...... where do you draw the line.
The newspaper headline is a good analogy ..... could you happily justify / defend this?
Personally, I'd go with Lynz's suggestion of them all round to my house, I'd pay for a couple of frozen pizzas myself