Gift/Donation vs. Sponsored Project

In support of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s (UNL) three primary missions of teaching, research and service, funds from outside entities are received and must be clearly identified as a gift or donation, or a sponsored project in order to ensure appropriate management of the funds and compliance with any associated terms and conditions. Sponsored projects include grants and contracts from external sponsors. Specific information on gifts or donations, sponsored projects, grants and contracts follows:

Gift or Donation: UNL uses the terms gift and donation synonymously. They represent a voluntary contribution of any item of value to the university for which there is no deliverable, benefit, or item in exchange other than an assurance that the intent of the contribution will be honored. Funds are considered charitable in nature and intent. There is no time limit on spending of the funds and unspent funds are not returned to the donor. The funds are conveyed with no terms and conditions and the donor is not entitled to any intellectual property rights for discoveries made using these funds. Generally, larger donations are conveyed through the University of Nebraska Foundation.

For monetary donations, a “Form for Reporting Monetary Donations” must be completed and forwarded to the Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) along with the documentation supporting the donation (typically a letter) and either the check itself or the Bursar’s Cash Receipt. OSP will send an acknowledgement to the sponsor for all donations.

For non-monetary donations, a Form for Reporting Non-Monetary Donation/Giftmust be completed. More information on this activity may be found at

Sponsored Project: Sponsored projects include grants and contracts and are used in accordance with a written agreement with the sponsor, relevant laws, university policies and guidelines and state rules and regulations. They are typically awarded in response to a submitted proposal and include a statement of work or general line of scholarly or scientific inquiry. The agreement will define deliverables such as periodic reports or scheduled delivery dates of work product. They typically specify terms of payment, disposition of property upon the conclusion of the project and ownership of intellectual property discovered during the project. In addition, the agreement will normally dictate the period of time for conducting the project. Many sponsored projects are awarded following a competitive application process. The sponsored project may be a grant or contract. Under a sponsored agreement, the sponsor may revoke the award or may require unexpended funds be returned to the sponsor.

All sponsored projects should be routed through the department and college and OSP prior to submittal of a proposal. The Office of Research and Economic Development’s NUgrant system is used to route a proposal. Grant and contract awards are accepted by UNL through OSP. OSP will obtain an appropriate authorized signature and establish the award in SAP for recording of expenses.

Grant: A grant agreement is a legal agreement that provides funds for a general or specific purpose and may be philanthropic or for the public good. The terms and conditions will require that the funds be used in accordance with completing the scope of the project. Typically, periodic expenditure and progress reports are required. Intellectual property discovered or created during the project generally belongs to the university; however, the terms and conditions of the award document usually address this. Under the terms of a grant, the principal investigator generally retains scientific freedom and results are not guaranteed. A cooperative agreement is a grant where the sponsor will provide substantial scientific or programmatic involvement. The sponsor may assist, guide, coordinate or participate in project activities at their discretion.

Contract: A contract is typically used for the procurement of products or services. Generally, a contract will include a detailed scope of work, budget, and timeline for the project. A contract usually requires tangible deliverables.