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Grants vs. Gifts Definitions


GIFT:  A gift is defined as a contribution with no tangible reciprocal benefit to the donor. 

SPONSORED PROJECT:  A Sponsored Project is an activity that requires a specific statement of work, detailed financial accountability, and is subject to compliance with the sponsor’s terms and conditions.

Funding does not originate from a governmental agency, state, municipality, nor an educational institution Funding often originates from governmental agencies but also with non-governmental entities
For a general or specific purpose, e.g., endowment, capital projects, a line of research , faculty support or student financial aid and /or it may be for any activity at the university, e.g., department, library, arts, scholarships, facilities, research/instruction activities, etc. For a specific statement of work, e.g., specified protocol, experiments, testing of hypotheses, particular line of inquiry or for a specified research project, specific instruction or other sponsored activities
Few, if any, deliverables (other than reports as noted below, and use of funds as requested and awarded) Deliverables defined by agreement, e.g., reports, research results, IP rights, equipment, etc., and funds may be withheld pending delivery
No restrictions on publication rights.  Publication attribution may be encouraged or agreement may be silent on attribution Agreement requires attribution to the sponsor and often may ask for or require minor publication delays
Proposal may be informal, e.g., a letter proposal from an individual, a department, office or school, or the grant making Organization may require a formal proposal with specific guidelines and required information Sponsor requires formal and detailed proposal and/or contractual agreement.  Must be submitted through a Research and Sponsored Programs Office as allowed
No requirement for return of unexpended funds May require detailed financial and other reports, e.g., scientific reports, invention reports, financial reports on sponsor-specified format, may include the right of sponsor to audit
No required pre-approvals for expenditures unless a change of circumstances arises that may cause the University and / or the Foundation to revisit the purpose of the gift with the donor Budgets and project period may lead to unexpended funds that must be returned if there is no approval to carry forward or extend project
Some gifts may be combined into one fund (if for the same purpose) Certain expenditures may require prior written approval by sponsor
Qualifies for tax treatment as charitable contribution by donor Must be separately budgeted and accounted for
No obligation or agreement to share data with donor; donor willing to relinquish intellectual property and data rights to University.  Donor may request progress reports as noted above May qualify for basic research tax credit for sponsor
  Donor expects access to data, primary records, or has ability to audit data collection.

*(Sources: This chart was taken from the document Guide to Identifying Gifts from the UW System Administration. Some of the information contained in this publication has been adopted from &

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by Reinke, Heidi last modified Nov 08, 2011 12:10 PM