How to determine if your Award is a Gift or a Grant



The decision as to whether particular awards should be classified as gifts or sponsored awards cannot be made based upon the presence or absence of a single characteristic or criterion. This guide provides a condensed overview of the many conditions that inform how awards are categorized. 

To find out if your new funding should be processed as a gift or as a grant, please contact Advancement Services' representative, Gail Robotta, who will advise and re-direct you if needed.




· Gifts: Voluntary contributions made to the University that are motivated by a Funder’s charitable intent, for which the Funder receives no substantial return benefit and over which the Funder does not retain control.

· Sponsored Awards: All arrangements in which the University is providing a return benefit, or agrees to provide a defined deliverable to the Funder or to complete a set of activities in exchange for Support (e.g., grant, contract, materials transfer agreement, etc.). While Sponsored Awards are typically made to support research, it is possible that Support for a purpose other than research may be classified as a Sponsored Award.


General Indicators


 Gifts Sponsored Award
  • Support is provided by an individual (not aorganization).
  • Funder is a foreign or U.S. state/local government, or the Support originates from one of these entities.
Research Focus/Scope of Work
  • Broad research focus.
  • Support is intended for endowment.
  • Support is intended for capital projects.
  • Detailed scope of work required.
Persons Performing Funded Activities
  • Left to discretion of University, school, department or one or more named individuals.
  • Key personnel named in the proposal and changes must be pre-approved by the Funder.
  • General project/budget.
  • No prior approval required for variance from proposed budget.
  • Detailed line item budget (e.g., detailing project costs by budget categories, listing personnel percentage of effort, etc.).
  • Requires Support to be spent in accordance with the proposed/approved budget, or requires prior approval for re-budgeting in excess of an established threshold.
Period of Performance
  • Not specified, at the discretion of UC.
  • Project start and end dates specified by the Funder.
Financial Terms and Reporting
  • Stewardship and general fiscal accountability and reporting to the Funder.
  • No terms and conditions for the disposition of tangible property.
  • Detailed financial reporting (e.g. line item detail, percentages of effort, etc.).
  • Terms and conditions for the disposition of tangible property (e.g., equipment, records, technical reports, theses, dissertations, or other deliverables).
  • Future payments/Support contingent on programmatic and fiscal reporting and/or progress.
  • Unexpended Support to be returned at the end of a designated period of performance, and/or Funder has the ability to terminate the agreement and/or demand repayment if the University doesn’t meet its obligation.
Narrative Reporting
  • General description of progress, few or no specific requirements/guidelines.
  • Technical report requires details on scientific results or accomplishments and progress towards a specific project plan.




The University must exercise judgment and appropriate analysis in order to classify a gift vs. sponsored research projects. Following are related references.

· UCOP Classification of Gifts and Sponsored Awards Policy

· UC San Diego PPM 150-35

· UCOP Development Policies and Reference Guide

· UC San Diego Gift Acceptance and Processing Online Handbook (PDF)

· UC San Diego Gift Processing Policies