Gift or Grant?

Q:  What is the difference between what is processed through The University of Montana Foundation and UM's Office of Research and Sponsored Programs? 

A:  As with almost all sponsored projects, the answer to this questions is, "It depends."  Determining whether external funding should be processed through the University or the Foundation depends on many variables, including the kind of sponsor/donor (federal, non-federal, private), type and purpose of the activity, and the sponsor/donor intent.  Some determinations are easy:  All federal grants are administered through ORSP.  Others are difficult and may require involvement by both entities.

Using the following definitions and determining factors, the University and the Foundation work together to assist the University community to correctly identify the administrative avenue most appropriate for processing and oversight, per the terms and conditions of the funding.  Don't hesitate to contact a member of your ORSP departmentally-assigned pre/post team or Jennifer Savage in the Foundation with questions.


Recognizing that external funding is received by The University of Montana via numerous mechanisms and nomenclatureUniversity Policy 470 institutionally defines terms "grant" and "gift,"  and these definitions take precedence over any terms used by the funding source:

  • Grant:  A grant, contract, cooperative agreement, sub grant, subcontract, consortium agreement, purchase order, or memorandum of understanding (hereafter collectively referred to as "grant") is an agreement formalizing the transfer of money or property from a sponsor in exchange for specified services (e.g., outreach, research, training, development, instruction), and will require specific deliverables such as documentation of itemized expenditures or technical reporting.
  • Gift:  A gift or donation (hereafter referred to as "gift") is a voluntary transfer of money, services, or property (including equipment, intellectual property) from a donor without any expectation of or receipt of direct economic benefit or provision of goods and services from the recipient.


Because some gifts may self-identify as "grants" on the donor paperwork, The University of Montana Office of Research and Sponsored Programs (ORSP) and The University of Montana Foundation (Foundation) delineate responsibility for the acceptance and administration of external funding via the following determinations:

ORSP administers sponsored activities per federal, state, and University regulations when the terms and conditions of the activity define requirements, such as 1) performance or reporting (fiscal or technical), 2) recorded/reported cost match, 3) audit, 4) research-related compliance, such as human subjects, vertebrate animals, radioactive materials, etc., 5) direct payment of University salaries, 6) publication restrictions, 7) intellectual property or proprietary language, or 8) specific deliverables.

  • The University seeks to recover all Facilities & Administrative (F&A) allowed by the sponsor per Montana University System Board of Regent Policy 404 – Indirect Cost Recovery Rate.
  • If a sponsored project is to be funded by a private source which requires foundation-to-foundation submission and receipt, the Foundation will subcontract the activity to the University via ORSP's standard "Sponsored Research Agreement," and ORSP will administer and ensure oversight as appropriate.
  • Upon request, ORSP will provide to the Foundation a list of all grants received from private foundations for the Foundation to include in reports on total private support to the University. 

The Foundation administers external funding if the intent of the donor and purpose of the specific funding is charitable and philanthropic in nature.  Typically, 1) no goods, services, or deliverables of monetary value are offered or exchanged, and 2) detailed financial reporting or accounting is not required, although a donor may request progress and final reports about utilization or impact of the external support, including general expenditures and fund balances.

  • All gifts to the Foundation will be assessed a development fee of  6% to advance the University’s mission.
  • When managed in accordance and compliance with the intent of the donor, a gift is irrevocable.
  • If a donor requires foundation-to-foundation submission and receipt for an activity that meets the definition of a grant, the Foundation will subcontract the activity to the University via ORSP's standard "Sponsored Research Agreement," and ORSP will administer and ensure oversight as appropriate.
  • Upon request, the Foundation will provide to ORSP a list of all external funding received from corporations and foundations.


Determination exceptions will be managed per UM Policy 470 Defining Responsibility for Receipt and Administration of External Funding for Sponsored Projects and Charitable Giving, “Resolutions of Special Cases.”