Take the money and drive?
October 23, 2012 1:36 PM   Subscribe

I've been asked to speak at a student group at my old college, which is about 100 miles away. They've offered to pay for my gas; should I accept, or would it be more charitable to decline?
posted by adverb to Grab Bag (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you can afford it, be generous and decline if it's for a good cause and you're doing this on your free time. If the school is going to profit from it in some way (i.e. get new students to enroll), then I wouldn't hesitate to accept the reimbursement.
posted by HeyAllie at 1:41 PM on October 23, 2012 [4 favorites]

How much do you need the dough?

If it's no big deal, don't worry about it. We're talking about what? $40 worth of gas. Is that something you can blow off?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:41 PM on October 23, 2012

It would be charitable to accept 14 cents per mile.
posted by Phssthpok at 1:42 PM on October 23, 2012

Best answer: Personally, I'd accept the offer with a clear conscience. In all likelihood, they have a budget funded by the university to cover things like guest speakers and events, so it's not like you're taking the students' grocery money.

Is there a reason you need to be extra generous with this group? I mean, you're already giving your time for free and driving 200 miles for this group, is there a reason you feel like you should turn down their reimbursement of your gas expense?
posted by Meg_Murry at 2:01 PM on October 23, 2012 [6 favorites]

Take it, unless this is, say, a group of underprivileged students who would be funding it out of their own pockets...which I really doubt. You are taking the time to drive 100 miles both way, and give a talk. That's is a significant time investment, and gas isn't cheap. It seems perfectly fair to accept money for the cost of the trip.
posted by catatethebird at 2:04 PM on October 23, 2012

It depends who asked you to speak - is it a student-run group, or an official university group? I would decline the money if it was a student group, but take the money if it was the university.

(Just to check: you're going to speak, and you're asking if you should decline the money, right?)
posted by jacalata at 2:04 PM on October 23, 2012

Without knowing any more specifics, I would guess that Meg_Murry is right and there is money allocated for these types of expenditures. You're not *profiting,* or even really being reimbursed for your time, you're being reimbursed for an expense. 100 miles is a long way, I'd take the gas money.
posted by radioamy at 2:17 PM on October 23, 2012

Take the money. This exchange is one of the things that makes this an official speaking engagement rather than a favor. They will have a reasonable expectation that you are going to show up on time and prepared, you will have a reasonable understanding of what you are obligated to do and what the boundaries are.

It's also entirely possible they *have* to reimburse you. Don't make it difficult for them.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:20 PM on October 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: As a point of anecdata, I used to be on the committee for a student group at my university, and we had an annual budget that was used for paying for speakers' transportation to and from the engagement, as well as cheap overnight accommodation if they were coming from far away, and also for dinner afterwards. If I were you, I wouldn't feel at all bad about accepting the reimbursement, unless you know that the students are paying out of their own pockets for your costs. We felt grateful enough to have speakers donate their time to us that paying their travel costs felt like the least we could do.
posted by UniversityNomad at 2:25 PM on October 23, 2012

Best answer: I am involved in the approval process for these types of payments where I work. Universities often offer honorariums for a guest speaker. The honorarium is a minimal amount offered as compensation for a speaker's time or to cover travel expenses. On the other hand, I've seen travel expenses explicitly covered. It depends on the group or department that is bringing you to campus. I've personally seen thousands of these types of payments and reimbursements, it is extremely common. Departments have a budget for this sort of thing.

If I remember correctly, out of the thousands that I have seen, only one person asked that their honorarium/ reimbursement be paid out to a charity of their choice. It is uncommon, but not unheard of. If you are not comfortable accepting the gas reimbursement, you may ask that it be donated to the alumni association, a scholarship in your field, your favorite on-campus club, etc.
posted by JennyJupiter at 3:31 PM on October 23, 2012

Look at it this way: If you decided to contribute $40 to charity, would your chosen charity be the [department/student govt/bursar's office/etc] of this particular institution?
Yes, no, or maybe, take the money, and then make your charitable donations -- or don't -- as you see fit.
posted by LonnieK at 5:23 PM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm a part of a few different student groups that bring speakers to campus, and while we do we have budgets to pay for this sort of thing, this budgets are super tight. If you don't take the money it's not as if it will disappear -- the students will be able to use it to bring an additional speaker or for some other sort of programming. If you need (or just would like the money) though, then take it. You're already being generous for speaking without any sort of fee.
posted by kylej at 6:14 PM on October 23, 2012

> I've been asked to speak at a student group at my old college, which is about 100 miles away. They've offered to pay for my gas; should I accept, or would it be more charitable to decline?

It's kindest sometimes to just accept a favor and let them spend the budget they've allotted for this. They want to be respectful to the people who are generous enough to give their time to speak at their alma mater, this is what they can afford to do, let them do it.
posted by desuetude at 7:41 PM on October 23, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. Indeed, when I arrived at the meeting there was already a form ready for me to sign to accept the honorarium. I felt better about accepting then.
posted by adverb at 1:25 PM on November 23, 2012

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