Open Bar or Behind Bars? Events in the Federal Market

Everyone loves giving and receiving gifts for the holidays, but you have to be careful in regards to the Feds.  No, we’re not saying a Fed wouldn’t love a tacky sweater, but there are stringent rules to follow.

Got $20 in My Pocket

Now, don’t get too carried away.  Gifts pertain to anything that you are purchasing for a Fed.  Parking, cab service, or meals combined must be under $20.  Valet service and Uber rides, while nice, won’t work if your attendees were also hoping for a bite to eat– and want to stay out of trouble.  Keep in mind that you cannot spend more than $50 on the same person in a calendar year.


But what about the venue?  Gold ceilings are nice, but they give your customers/prospects headaches.  Feds come for the content, not the view.  Stick to moderate venues.  Your attendees will have an easier time securing approval – luxury venues = red flags.

Door Prizes

Gift bags and prizes are not the way to entice Feds to attend your event, according to a recent GovMark discussion.  An engaging crowd and a strong Federal speaker is what will really bring the Feds.

Do Feds have to pay to attend?  No, there are Widely Attended Gathering (WAG) exceptions that enable a Federal employee to attend an event for free.  Factors that help qualify events to be Widely Attended Gathering’s include if an employee’s attendance is in the interest of the agency, and the diversity of the audience and the hosting organization(s).  Still uncertain?  Reach out to agency ethics officials.  This will help shape your event, along with your spending.

Lunch is On Me

Perhaps you should rethink.  While everyone appreciates a free lunch, Feds have rules to think about.  Split the bill.  Or, you can offer coffee and finger foods at your office instead.

Holiday Extravaganza

There is something about the holidays that make us want to go bigger and brighter.  Fancy food, great cocktails – save it for your family party instead.  Focus on keeping events simple and within the underlying ethics limit.

What tips have you learned to work within the rules?

Chelsea Legendre, 11mark

October 19, 2015

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