WFAA Fund Disbursement Policy

Last Updated: 1.10.219

The Fund Disbursement Policy provides general guidance regarding expenditures to be paid using WFAA Gift Funds (donor funds held at WFAA). Donor gift funds may be used to make approved payments directly by WFAA or through campus. Per policy, the latter is required when expenses can be paid by the university. This is accomplished by WFAA disbursing donor gift funds to the university’s 233/533 accounts. It is not intended as a comprehensive list, but rather a tool to define clear and consistent policies regarding common requests, or requests that may have caused confusion in the past. Regarding requests that are not outlined within the body of this document, it is presumed that university personnel will, at all times, respect the sacrosanct fiduciary responsibility WFAA has to donors. WFAA has a strong fiduciary responsibility to donors to ensure gifts are used for the purpose for which they were given.

These policies provide clear standards for all WFAA staff to follow when determining appropriate courses of action related to disbursements requested from donor funds. Expenditures must be “ordinary, necessary, and reasonable” in relation to strengthening the university’s educational programs, research activities, and public service initiatives. Expenditures should be supportive of these objectives and should not inure to the private or personal benefit of individuals entrusted to administer the funds against these standards.

When WFAA disburses funds, both the nature of the expense and requested method(s) of payment must be taken into consideration. All disbursements of WFAA funds must be:

  • Consistent with donor intent and WFAA’s fiduciary responsibility
  • Consistent with WFAA’s mission
  • Consistent with commonly accepted business practices, including those considered to be somewhat unique for higher education institutions and/or the organizations that support them, including the WFAA
  • Consistent with required standards of prudence and reasonableness
  • Consistent with all laws and regulations applicable to our respective organizations, including IRS guidance applicable to non-for-profit business entities and the compensation-related rules that apply to the individuals and contractors they employ
  • Consistent with and not in contrast to policies the university is held accountable to by the State of Wisconsin or the University of Wisconsin System, or procedures the university has created to help govern itself

Note: Funds transferred to the University (233 or 533 funds) must follow the same guidelines outlined here, although it is important to understand that once funds are transferred to the UW, they are considered University funds not WFAA funds and, therefore, must also comply with University policy and procedures.


Before incurring expenses or submitting expenditures to the WFAA, it is the claimant’s responsibility to:

  • Understand university policy and procedures, see:
  • Utilize university payment mechanisms to pay for all allowable expenses before requesting the use of WFAA funds
  • Understand WFAA policy and procedures
  • Acknowledge and honor the donor’s intent of the fund
  • Ensure the account balance is sufficient to cover the expense

Note: It is important to remember the purpose of the event or reason for incurring the expense(s) is the primary driver in determining who can pay for expenses, not necessarily the attendees. For example: An event conducting university business which has alumni in attendance does not necessarily mean the expenses need to be paid by WFAA.  If the purpose of the event is university business related, then the payment must be processed up to the maximums allowed through university payment mechanisms. Whereas, expenses or events with the primary purpose of fundraising may be paid by WFAA. It is also important to keep in mind that some university employees have a fundraising component to their position. Therefore, when these university employees are performing functions within their job responsibilities, even when it involves fundraising or engagement, their expenses must be paid by the university up to the maximum allowed. Any overages, as well as the expenses for the donors or potential donors, may be paid with WFAA funds.

If you are uncertain whether expenses are appropriate, faculty and staff should first contact their respective Dean/Divisional Business Office for policy or procedural questions.

Dean/Divisional Business Offices may contact the WFAA Help Center via with questions.

Historical Information

WFAA recognizes this and other campus service policies are effectively replacing the Chancellor’s Memo which was acknowledged historically, as the highest level of guidance published by campus, for campus, regarding the relationship between WFAA and the university.  A summary of applicable directives relating to the Chancellor’s Memo, as well as excerpts from a Memo of Understanding between WFAA and the university, is included as Appendix A.

Expenditure Procedures

Campus uses both their expense reimbursement systems (e-reimbursement and GET) and direct pay (check request to WFAA) procedures regularly. WFAA will not make payments directly to a university employee for services, honoraria, fellowships, prizes and similar awards as these payments must be made through the university as required by the Internal Revenue Code. Additionally, WFAA will not reimburse university employees directly for allowable travel and expenses. All requests for travel and expenses, including meal and alcohol overages, must be submitted through the university reimbursement process. To the maximum extent feasible, all support to the university from WFAA gift funds will be disbursed to the university and deposited on the university’s ledger (i.e. 233/533) and not paid directly to the vendor. Only under extraordinary circumstances should WFAA be requested to pay funds directly to a vendor to support a university program. In such cases, all requests must be approved by the Dean/Divisional Business Office and should include the same level of supporting documentation required by the university as well as an explanation of why the expense cannot be paid through university payment mechanisms.


e-Reimbursement/GET is the university’s system used to submit employee and non-employee travel expenses as well as non-travel related expenses which do not require a purchase order. All expenses that are allowable under state procurement and travel policy, must be processed and paid by the university before seeking payment/reimbursement by WFAA. In e-Reimbursement/GET, expenses not payable with university funding may be allocated to WFAA accounts. Upon final approval of an expense report that uses both university and WFAA funding, the claimant will receive a single payment for the total amount approved. The university invoices the WFAA weekly for reimbursement of the expenses allocated to the WFAA within an expense report. Included with the billing are expense details (e.g. business purpose/justification), list of attendees and WFAA account information. WFAA reviews all billing information and determines if the expense is within their established guidelines. If approved, WFAA will reimburse the university for the expenses, which were already paid to the claimant by the university. WFAA reserves the right to determine that an expense is inappropriate or unreasonable and therefore, deny the request for payment. In this case, WFAA will notify the UW Business Services.

Check Request

To request payment of an expense a WFAA Check Request form must be completed, by logging into the Advancement Resources Website. Check requests must include the appropriate university approvals and all supporting documentation. Check requests should be sent to WFAA’s Fund Services Department at:

ATTN: Accounts Payable
1848 University Avenue
Madison, WI 53726.

Note: Checks will be mailed out no later than 7 – 10 business days after receipt. All incomplete requests, or requests that do not have the correct supporting documentation, will be returned to the originator.

Expenditure Categories

Entertainment and Hosted Meals

Meal overages and alcohol expenses incurred for entertaining guests of the university is allowed within the following limitations:

  • Any meal related allowable expenses within university policy have first been applied and the total reimbursed by the university and WFAA combined does not exceed $100 per person.
  • $50 limit on bottles of wine.

For specific guidelines related to campus event activities, please see the WFAA Policies for Event and Registration Services for Campus-Sponsored Events.

Travel and Expenses (Meals, Transportation and Lodging)


All university personnel are expected to comply with university travel policies and utilize university funds for allowable expenses prior to requesting payment by the WFAA. WFAA funds must not be used as a way to navigate around university policies or procedures. WFAA will reimburse eligible travel expenses that were submitted through the university’s expense reimbursement system(s) (e-reimbursement/GET) assuming requests for reimbursement are consistent with joint policies regarding eligibility. WFAA will not directly pay individuals for travel expenses received outside of the university’s expense reimbursement system(s). WFAA employees must not pay for university employee expenses unless the expenses are for a WFAA event in which WFAA requested the university employee attend to actively participate on WFAA’s behalf.

Note: “Unreasonable” travel expenditures as defined by the IRS or as otherwise prescribed by law are not allowed.


Once all university funds have been utilized to the maximum allowed, WFAA will generally honor campus-based travel related reimbursement for Non-Faculty/Staff submitted via e-Reimbursement/GET only if the associated respective Dean/Director Office has:

  • Approved the request
  • Approved, specifically, the business need supporting use of the requested funds; and
  • Described the specific reason(s) the expense(s) could not be paid through authorized UW payment mechanisms

Note: WFAA generally does not reimburse for first class/business class airfare. The following would be required to be eligible for payment/reimbursement of such expenses: Pre-approval by the WFAA’s Fund Services Director, approval by the Dean/Divisional Business Office, and adequate justification of the benefit to the university.


Payments for spousal or family expenses may be deemed as compensation by the IRS and are not encouraged but are allowed with authorization from the Dean/Divisional Business Office. An explanation of why it is appropriate to use donor funds for these type of expenses must accompany the reimbursement request. The Dean/Divisional Business Office approval must be obtained prior to reimbursement. Requests for such payments may be reported to Business Services and if found tax reportable; will be included as compensation on the employee’s W-2 form. WFAA will generally honor campus-based spouse/partner expense related reimbursements only if the associated respective Dean/Director Office has:

  • Approved the request;
  • Approved, specifically, that spouse/partner attendance satisfies business requirements; and
  • Described the specific reason(s) the expense(s) could not be paid through authorized UW payment mechanisms.


For specific guidelines related to campus event activities, please see the WFAA Policies for Event and Registration Services for Campus-Sponsored Events.

WFAA will generally honor requests for fund disbursements for event related activities, if:

  • The event has been accepted by WFAA as a supported event, wherein all invoices related to contracts were signed by WFAA, therefore, these payments must be paid directly to the vendor by WFAA. Non-contract vendor invoices related to the specific event will also generally be honored by WFAA.
  • WFAA will not honor any direct-pay vendor requests related to contracts that have been signed by university personnel.

Board of Visitors (BOV)

WFAA will generally honor BOV expenses if the primary focus of the activity/meeting is directly related to WFAA’s mission of advancement (fundraising, development and engagement). In cases where the event is 100% development related, then WFAA will take on the responsibility of running/organizing the event and paying vendors directly.  If the primary purpose of the BOV is university business, then expenses should be paid through the university and WFAA can cover any expenses over the maximums allowed.

Campus and Social/Team Gatherings

WFAA will carefully consider requests for payment related to campus social / team gatherings, and will generally honor such payments only if the associated respective Dean/Director Office has:

  • Approved the request;
  • Approved, specifically, the fact that such expenditures satisfy business requirements; and
  • Described the specific reason(s) the expense(s) could not be paid through authorized university payment mechanisms.

Note: WFAA reserves the right to question the business purpose related to social gatherings, especially when campus-created community gift funds may be involved.


WFAA will generally honor requests for costs associated with recruitment, moving, and house-hunting expenses for new employees which cannot be processed with through the university (e.g. spouse/family expenses, house-hunting, second visits, etc.). Disbursements for relocation expenses by the WFAA must be reported as taxable income for the claimant per IRS regulations, as such, these must be submitted via the university’s expense reimbursement system(s).

Requests must be accompanied with:

  • Approval by the respective Dean/Director office:
  • Approved, specifically, that spouse/partner attendance satisfies business requirements; and
  • The specific reason(s) the expense(s) could not be paid through authorized UW payment mechanisms.

Note: Expenses related to spouses and dependents for 2nd visits and house-hunting are typically allowable.

Contracts and Consultants Fees

Direct payment for event-related goods and/or services (excluding payments to UW personnel/institutions) will only be paid if approved under the provisions of WFAA Policies for Event and Registration Services for Campus-Sponsored Events.

WFAA has an approved process in place for contract review and signature authority. The policy stipulates that WFAA Legal Affairs is required to review and approve all contracts that bind WFAA to any commitments.  All invoices related to contracts signed by WFAA personnel must be paid by WFAA directly to the associated vendor(s).  Similarly, all invoices related to contracts signed by university personnel must be paid by the university.

University Property

University property should be purchased through the UW Madison’s Purchasing Services whenever possible.

Types of Funds

Expenditures are subject to the terms and conditions of the each specific fund (i.e. Research, Programs, Discretionary) as well as applicable program guidelines, which may restrict the use of the funds for certain types of expenses. Please refer to the fund descriptions/details in Advancement Resources Website (ARW) prior to incurring an expense.

Required Documentation

The appropriateness of an expense should be considered before incurring it, and before requesting reimbursement/payment from a WFAA account. Requests are required to include appropriate supporting documentation for the type of expenditure.

  • Itemized receipts(s)
  • Invoice
  • Attendee list
  • Deans/Director office approval
  • The specific reason(s) the expense(s) could not have been paid through authorized university payment mechanisms
  • Department Chair or principal spending authority approval is required on all WFAA Check Requests

Note: If the required supporting documentation is not included with the request for reimbursement, the request will be returned to the originator.

Unallowable Expenses

WFAA funds are provided through the generous support of donors who are interested in supporting the mission of the university. Good business ethics and common sense dictate that expenditures deemed to be extravagant, excessive, or which provide significant personal benefit are not allowed. When questions arise as to the appropriateness of an expenditure, it should be cleared through the Fund Services Department before the expense is incurred or submitted for payment/reimbursement.

As part of the WFAA’s careful stewardship of these contributions, the following expenditures are not allowed:

  • Contributions to other non-profit organizations
  • Payment of fines and penalties
  • Purchase of cultural or athletic tickets for personal or student use
  • Taxable items (including gift cards or gifts) for university personnel or students
  • Gifts of cash or cash equivalent (i.e. gift cards)
  • Gifts for faculty or staff for birthdays, baby showers, weddings, etc.
  • Office parties such as birthday parties, baby showers, etc. where there is no business need unless there is specific written documentation allowing for such expenses (i.e. Community Fund)
  • Payment of expenses for personal use such as:
    • Parking expenses, fines, towing charges, traffic violations, or other payments due to illegal actions
    • Routine maintenance on cars
    • Cell phones
    • Internet charges
    • Kennel charges
    • Babysitting
  • Travel expenses related to children (and other non-spouse/significant other) of either university personnel or candidates.
  • Direct payments to students. Student scholarships/stipends/ grants/awards must be paid to a student through their student account through the Bursar’s office.
  • Direct payment of salaries or wages to faculty, staff, students, or other full or part-time employees of the university. Salaries/wage payments to employees of university salaries and related benefits for university employees must be processed through the university payroll office. When appropriate, WFAA Funds can be disbursed to a 233 to reimburse these expenses.
    * UW Faculty/Staff honorariums and awards related to work performed for WFAA trigger a taxable event. In this case, WFAA will pay the university employee directly and distribute a 1099 in compliance with IRS regulations.
  • Memberships to social clubs (including airline clubs) without authorized pre-approval by the Dean/Divisional Business office and the Fund Services Department.
  • Expenditures not directly related to an individual’s university appointment or official WFAA business.

Note: Other uses of the WFAA funds not directly related to the above categories, or relating to unique circumstances, should be approved through the Fund Services Director prior to incurring the expense.


Departmental faculty and staff should first contact their respective Dean/Divisional Business Office for policy or procedural questions.

Dean/Divisional Business Offices with questions may contact the WFAA Help Center at

Appendix A

University of Wisconsin Chancellor’s Memo

The Chancellor’s Memo was widely recognized as the highest level of guidance published by campus, for campus, regarding the relationship between the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Wisconsin Foundation;

  • The primary purpose of the UWF (WFAA) is to solicit and accept gifts on behalf of the University, as well as to invest and protect those gifts until needed by the University.
  • The primary purpose of this (Chancellor’s) memo is to help ensure the UWF does NOT become an “Operating Arm of the University”.
  • UWF will not accept funds, for deposit, derived from University sponsored revenue producing activities (UWF ‘event’ guidelines outline potential noted exceptions to this).
  • All checks deposited by the UWF should be intended as such BY A DONOR, as a GIFT. All other checks should be deposited by the University, into University accounts.
  • Funds disbursed from UWF gift funds should be forwarded to University 233 accounts only. Only under extraordinary circumstances should the University request the UWF to pay vendors directly, from gift funds, in support of a University program.  University ‘custodians’ are responsible (not UWF) for documenting why University funds could not be used under these guidelines … subject to open records.
  • The UWF should NOT provide any direct payments to University employees for services or honoraria, or to recipients of University scholarships, fellowships, prizes or awards. The University will be responsible for related 1099 reporting.
  • If direct payments can be paid under state procurement / travel rules, they MUST be paid through University procedures. The “press” (i.e., newspaper print) test must rest with University personnel, not UWF.

Memo of Understanding between the University and the WFAA

This agreement, dated November 1, 2014, was executed shortly after the merger between the UWF and the WAA, and supersedes all pre-existing MOU’s between the University and either the UWF or the WAA;

  • The UWF shall NOT receive direct payments from the University for fundraising activities. The University may, however, pay for services provided to support University activities, provided such services are outlined under a preexisting separate written agreement.
  • UWF may elect to disburse funds on behalf of the University provided they are consistent with donor intent, as well as all UW and UWF policies, and applicable law.
  • The UWF shall NOT receive GRANTS (State or Federal), unless special circumstances apply and they are approved by the UWF BOD.