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Sponsored Projects vs Gifts

University faculty and staff seek and receive extramural support for research, scholarship, teaching, or programmatic initiatives. Extramural support may take the form of a sponsored project (a grant, contract, cooperative agreement) or a philanthropic grant/gift. The University has obligations to its sponsors and donors to appropriately classify funding to ensure good stewardship of awarded funds and to maximize any benefits that may accrue to both the sponsor/donor and the University. Therefore, it is important that gifts are recorded properly and are in compliance with the University’s policies and procedures. This will also aid in transparent and accurate reporting of expenditures and aid in ensuring they are in compliance with all applicable terms and conditions as agreed by the sponsor/donor and the University.

How do I distinguish between a Sponsored Project or a Philanthropic Grant/Gift?

Sponsored projects are administered through the Office of Grants and Contracts. Philanthropic grants/gifts are administered through the Office of University Advancement. Use the Philanthropic or Sponsored Research Grant Determination table below to test the attributes of the awards made through the call for proposals or the solicitation that you are considering.

  • If the proposal is clearly for sponsored research, follow the steps to submit the proposal as a Sponsored Research Project though the Office of Grants and Contracts.
  • If the proposal is clearly for a philanthropic grant/gift, submit your proposal as a Philanthropic Grant/Gift through the Office of University Advancement via email to Their staff will walk you through the necessary steps and answer any questions you may have.

Sometimes a funding arrangement may have characteristics of both sponsored projects and philanthropic gifts and it may be difficult to determine if funding from external sponsors should be classified as a sponsored project or a philanthropic grant or gift.

  • If you are uncertain as to whether your proposal should be submitted to Office of Grants and Contracts as a sponsored project proposal or to University Advancement as a proposal for a philanthropic grant/gift, send an email inquiry to both the Director of Grants and Contracts ( and the Senior Vice President for University Advancement, Mike O'Neill ( 


Philanthropic or Sponsored Research Grant Determination

  Sponsored Research  Philanthropic
Source of funds  Government (federal, state, or local) agencies, non-profit organizations, corporations, corporate foundations  Individuals, private foundations, non-profit organizations, corporations, corporate foundations

Award document Award letter, grant agreement, contract, cooperative agreement document  Award letter, grant agreement, or gift agreement 
Purpose/Scope of work The sponsor specifies how the funds should be used, as outlined in the award document  The donor may restrict the grant to a specific area of interest, department, program, or college, or leave the grant unrestricted
Restrictions on use of funds Publication, intellectual property, royalty sharing or other specific restrictions may be a part of the award document  No restrictions regarding publication, intellectual property, royalty sharing in the award document 
Reporting requirements Terms of the award requires reports related to the performance of specific duties or activities dealing with substantive aspects of the work as well as demonstration of fiscal accountability by submission of financial reports.  Investigator is obligated to report project results. The donor may require reports related to the performance of specific duties or activities, budgetary expenditure reports, progress reports, and/or final reports 
Deadline/Terms Terms of the award typically stipulate that the project is to be conducted within a specified period of performance.  Funds must be expended within the time frame agreed upon by the University and donor
Indirect costs Follow the University rate structure, currently charged as a percentage of all salaries and wages (benefits are included in indirect costs). Rate may be limited by sponsor.  Generally not applicable 
Unused funds Terms of the award may include a stipulation that unused funds be returned to the sponsor.  Funds must be used for the designated purpose agreed upon by the University and the donor