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Sponsored Programs vs. Gifts

A sponsored program is a contractual agreement that:

  • Contains a specific statement of work with a detailed, line item budget
  • Addresses intellectual property rights OR
  • Includes other requirements such as deliverables, financial accounting reports, etc.

A gift is funds or property voluntarily given to the university without expectation of return or compensation on the part of the donor.

For further accounting purposes related to gifts, please see Policy FI0315.

Sponsored Programs vs. University Contracts

There is often confusion as to which contracts should be reviewed and processed by the Division of Research Administration and which should go through the University Contract Administration office. Contract Routing provides some guidance to assist with that determination.

Sponsored awards are made to the University on behalf of the principal investigator (PI), who is primarily responsible for carrying out the requirements of the award. The PI may also be referred to as the project director. The few exceptions are certain awards that may be made to individuals, such as some faculty fellowships.

Sponsored Program or Gift?

This information will assist you in identifying the distinctions between a gift and a sponsored program (contracts and grants).

Companies often use the terms “gifts” and “grants” interchangeably, but they have very distinct meanings for the university. In general, “gifts” are charitable contributions for which the company does not receive any tangible benefits in return. It is, essentially, a donation. A “sponsored program” (contract and grants) differs in that the sponsor has outlined a specific statement of work and there are expectations by the sponsor in exchange for the financial support provided.

The university and the sponsoring agency are legally bound to uphold these expectations (commonly referred to as “deliverables”) which are specifically defined by each party in a written agreement. Thus, when making the determination between a “gift” and “sponsored program,” there are three basic questions to ask:

  1. Are there deliverables?
  2. Is there a written agreement?
  3. Does the sponsor have specific and expected returns?

If you answer yes to one or more of these questions, then the funding is considered a “Sponsored Program” and should be processed through the Division of Research Administration.

If you answered no to all questions, then the funding is considered a “gift” and should be processed through the UT Foundation.


  • Products
  • Services
  • Technical or scientific reports
  • Fiscal reports including invoices and expenditure reports


  • Administrative terms and conditions for use of the funds
  • Provisions for intellectual property
  • Provisions for reporting
  • Provisions for publication rights
  • Any other legal provision

Specific and Expected Returns

  • Statement of work detailing the work to be performed
  • Providing sponsor access to the research results
  • Identification of a begin and end date for the project

In some cases, the distinction between gifts and sponsored programs can be difficult to make. For assistance with this determination, please contact the Division of Research Administration at (865) 974-3466 or