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Procedure Library

Sponsored Projects

Determine Gift or Sponsored Project


Determine whether funding received from an external source (the "sponsor" or "donor") is considered a gift or a sponsored project, for proper management of funds.


Faculty and others who receive funds from a source external to the University of Utah for program support.


  • Treat the funds as a sponsored project if the characteristics outlined in What is a Sponsored Project apply (as summarized below).
    1. Detailed Statement of Work. Sponsored projects are typically awarded in response to a detailed statement of work and commitment to a specific line of scholarly or scientific inquiry that typically follows a plan.
    2. Detailed Budget & Fiscal Accountability. A sponsored project agreement usually includes detailed financial accountability.
    3. Disposition of Properties ("Deliverables"). Sponsored project agreements usually include terms and conditions for the disposition of tangible properties (e.g., equipment, material, detailed data records, specified technical reports) or intangible properties (e.g., rights in data, intellectual property, copyrights, invention ownership, technology licensing). 
    4. Imposition of Legal Accountability. Sponsored project agreements may impose terms of legal accountability designed to ensure the work intended by the sponsor is satisfactorily executed by the University. Such terms include but are not limited to indemnification, audit rights, hold harmless clauses, arbitration requirements, confidentiality, and non-disclosure agreements.
  • Distinctions Based on Source of Funds

Any funding provided in support of University of Utah activities by government agencies, at the federal, state, or local level is a sponsored project.

Any funding provided by a foreign government, including funding from intermediary organizations primarily funded by a foreign government is a sponsored project.

  • Distinctions Based on Intent of Donor/Sponsor

In remaining cases, e.g., where funding is being provided by corporations, foundations or others not specified above, the distinction between gifts and sponsored projects will be made based on the proposal, statement of work, and terms of the agreement, taking into consideration the intent of the donor/sponsor.

In some situations, communication, including the proposal and award as well as conversations, makes it clear that the donor’s/ sponsor’s intent is to classify an award to the university as either a gift or a sponsored project. In these cases, the terms of the accompanying agreement may have to be adjusted in consultation with the donor/sponsor in order to clearly document the intent and avoid unintended classification.

  • Decision-Making in Unclear Situations

In some cases, the distinction between gift and a sponsored project can be difficult to draw. Donors may sometimes use the word "grant" when the donation qualifies as a "gift" or vice versa.

In determining the classification of an award, University of Utah personnel must maintain an appropriate balance between the interests and preferences of the donor/sponsor and the University's administrative policies and objectives. In the process of resolving these issues it may be necessary to contact the donor/sponsor for clarification of intent and requirements, and/or to discuss the planned use of the funds.

If there are questions about the classification of an award or if administrator (e.g., principal investigator, development officer, sponsored projects officer, research support staff) is unsure of or unable to make a determination of gift or sponsored project, please provide all documentation associated with the funding (e.g., proposal, budget, award letter, draft agreement) to the Executive Director, Office of Corporate and Foundation Relations. The Executive Director will consult with the leadership of and subordinate units within the Offices of the Vice President for Research, the Vice President for Institutional Advancement, and the General Counsel on a final determination.

Decision-Making Considerations
Awards shall be assessed against the following considerations using the Funding Determination Worksheet

a) Donor/Sponsor Type
1. Is the donor/sponsor a branch of a federal, state, or local government?
2. Is the donor/sponsor a foreign government or primarily funded by a foreign government?

b) Award Terms
1. Does the donor/sponsor require deliverables (e.g. equipment, material, detailed data records)?
2. Does the donor/sponsor request rights in intellectual property (e.g. licenses, copyrights, ownership, patent rights, royalty or revenue sharing)?
3. Does the donor/sponsor request control of communications, including publications or confidentiality/non-disclosure terms?
4. Does the project require University regulatory oversight (e.g. IRB, IACUC, export control, privacy matters, comparative medicine)?
5. Does the donor/sponsor request terms that pose a legal responsibility on the University for project management (e.g. indemnification, conflict of interest management, audit rights, arbitration, termination rights)?

c) Award Scope and Reporting Requirements
To inform the final determination of gift or sponsored project proposal and award documentation should be assessed to determine the preponderance of “general requirements” vs “detailed requirements” related to research focus, financial reporting, and narrative reporting. A preponderance of general requirements indicates the funding may be administered as a gift, while a preponderance of detailed requirements likely indicates the funding should be administered as a sponsored project.

If the funds are considered to be a sponsored project, the funds will be managed using the procedures of OSP and GCA and a Document Summary Sheet is required.

If the funds are considered to be a gift, the funds will be managed through the Office of Development or the relevant college. It is recommended that OSP the gift documents to the Office of Development with a cc to the department administrator and PI. The department will setup the activity according to FBS instructions

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Last Updated: 4/29/24