Awards from foundation and industry sponsors frequently raise the following questions:

  • Is the award a gift or is it a sponsored agreement?
  • If the award supports a research activity, should it be included in the organized research base?
  • What type of account should be established?

The following general criteria have been developed to assist faculty and administrators in determining whether a contribution is treated as a “Gift” or a “Sponsored Agreement.” In making the final determination it is also important to consider the intent of the donor and/or sponsor. Regardless of the nature of contribution, any research project that is undertaken must comply with all regulatory and Boston University policies and procedures (including those involving human or animal subjects, financial conflicts of interest, or use of hazardous materials).



A gift is made with a primarily philanthropic intent as an unconditional transfer of assets to Boston University (BU). Generally for a gift to be used in research, the following requirements need to be met:

  • There are no contractual requirements imposed on BU, except in some cases a gift may designate the funds for a particular purpose (e.g., cancer research).
  • The donor does not expect to receive goods or services in return for the gift other than a recognition;
  • The award is irrevocable, with or without an expectation by the donor of the timing of expenditures; and
  • There is no formal required fiscal accountability (e.g., audit) beyond periodic progress reports and reports of expenditures. These reports may be thought of as a requirement of good stewardship.

Sponsored Agreement

In contrast to a gift, an award will be considered a sponsored project agreement if the following criteria are met, and will be administered by the grantee’s department, Sponsored Programs (SPSponsored Programs (SP) is the coordinating office for all p...) and Post Award Financial Operations (PAFOSponsored Programs (SP)- Post Award SP- Post Award assist...):

  • The project commits the University to a specific line of scholarly or scientific inquiry, typically documented by a research plan or statement of work;
  • A specific commitment is made regarding the level of personnel effort, deliverables, or milestones;
  • Project activities are budgeted, and the award includes conditions for specific formal fiscal reports/audits, and/or invoicing;
  • The project requires that unexpended funds be returned to the sponsor at the end of the project period; and
  • The agreement provides for the disposition of either tangible property (e.g., equipment, records, technical reports, theses or dissertations) or intangible property (e.g., inventions, copyrights or rights in data), which may result from the project.


If questions, please contact SP. In some cases, projects that are not processed through the SP at the proposal stage become sponsored projects at the award stage due to conditions set forth in the award agreement. Appendix 1 contains additional detailed terms and conditions that may clarify whether an award is a gift or a sponsored agreement.

In those instances in which these guidelines do not enable a clear indication of the treatment of funds, the case will be reviewed and decided upon by an ad hoc committee comprised of the Director of the Office of Foundation Relations, Associate Vice President, Sponsored Programs and the Associate Vice President for Finance/University Comptroller. Cases needing further clarification will be brought before the Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations and the Vice President for Research for agreement on the appropriate treatment.

If concurrence cannot be reached, the particular case will be referred to the Senior Vice President for Financial Affairs for final determination.

Once final determination has been made, the administration of the gift or sponsored agreement will then proceed in the following manner:

Gift: Administered by the Development Office

Sponsored Agreement: Administered by Sponsored Programs & Administered by Post Award Financial Operations

Checklist: Gift or Sponsored Agreement