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Differentiating Between Sponsored Projects and Gifts


To assist investigators to determine whether a source of external support should be treated as a sponsored project (processed through the KU Center for Research) or a gift (processed through KU Endowment Association)

Applies to: 

All Investigators on the Lawrence Campus

Table of Contents: 
Policy Statement: 


This document provides information to assist in determining when external funds to be received by the University of Kansas Center for Research, Inc. (KUCR) or the KU Endowment Association should be handled as sponsored projects or as gifts. The terms grants, contracts and gifts are sometimes used interchangeably, so the intended use of the funds is critical in determining whether they should be accounted for as sponsored projects or gifts. The information provided is intended to help define KU's legal obligations and liabilities, and it is relevant for all personnel who manage such funds. Unresolved issues and questions should be referred to Nancy Biles at the KU Center for Research, Inc. (785-864-7434), or Scott Zerger at the KU Endowment Association (785-832-7426).

Note: Regardless of whether funds are classified as sponsored projects or gifts, approval(s) must be obtained from the appropriate compliance committee(s) if any of the funds are to be used to support activities encompassing human subjects, animal care and use, radiological hazards, or biohazards. The approval(s) must be obtained prior to the expenditure of any funds in support of such activities, per federal regulations.

Sponsored Projects

Generally, whenever KU agrees (orally or in writing) to provide any goods or services using university facilities or the official time and services of KU faculty and/or staff, the funds received are to be treated as sponsored project awards to KU. These awards could be in the form of grants, contracts, cooperative agreements, or a variety of other research agreements. Sponsored projects occur when KUCR or an employee of KU submits a bid, offer, proposal, or the like or responds (orally or in writing) to a request, announcement, call for proposals, or the like that results in the issuance of an award involving KU and another party. All proposals for external sponsored project support regardless of funding source must be processed by KUCR's Proposal Services.

The presence of any one of the following factors generally distinguishes the resulting funds from a gift and classifies the award as a sponsored project:

  • The proposed work binds the University to a specific line of scholarly activity which requires a statement of work or an orderly testing of specific hypotheses, methodology, or validation of particular approaches.
  • A specific commitment is made regarding the level of personnel effort, items of output (e.g., publication of papers or reports), or achievement of specific performance targets as a condition of funding.
  • A budget for expenditures by activity, function, or project period is required as a condition of funding and a fiscal report, activity report, or external audit is required during the course of the work or at the end of the project period.
  • Unexpended funds must be returned to the sponsor at the end of the project period.
  • The proposed agreement with the sponsor provides for the disposition of tangible property (e.g., equipment, records, technical reports, theses or dissertations) or intangible property (e.g., rights in date, copyrights, inventions) that may result from the activity.
  • Construction projects or acquisition of equipment or facilities where a state or federal government agency provides the funds.
  • KUCR should be contacted for procedures applicable to all sponsored project solicitations and awards.


All gifts to the University of Kansas are administered by the KU Endowment Association.

The presence of any one of the following factors generally distinguishes the resulting funds from a sponsored project and classifies the award as a gift.

  • The gift is from a private individual, corporation, or foundation, and no sponsored project deliverables are specified or expected.
  • The gift is from a non-governmental source and is for facility enhancement ("bricks and mortar") or for the University's endowment.
  • The donor specifically intends the contribution to be a charitable gift with no sponsored project deliverables specified or expected.
  • The conditions or stipulations placed on the intended use of the gift are reasonable and serve to direct the funds to areas such as scholarships, facility enhancement, or general research support. The donor may request a summary of how the funds were utilized.
  • The donor intends the gift to be irrevocable and, therefore, relinquishes the right to reclaim the gift or any unused portion thereof.
  • The donor makes the gift to the University without expectation of economic benefit or other tangible benefit commensurate with the worth of the gift.
  • Gift solicitations should be coordinated with the appropriate KU Endowment Association representative in each college or other relevant unit. The KU Endowment Association should be contacted for procedures applicable to gift solicitations.

Nancy Biles
Assistant Director, Pre-Award Services
KU Center for Research
Youngberg Hall
2385 Irving Hill Rd.
Lawrence, KS 66045-7563

Approved by: 
Vice Chancellor for Research
Approved on: 
Friday, October 26, 2007
Effective on: 
Friday, October 26, 2007
Review Cycle: 
Annual (As Needed)
Grants, Gifts, Sponsored Projects, Contracts, Awards, Cooperative Agreements, External support
Change History: 

12/05/2014: Updated KU Endowment contact information.

06/06/2014: Updated Contact information and made technical edits

Financial Categories: 
Financial Oversight
Research and Sponsored Projects Category: 
Research and Sponsored Projects

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