Gift vs. Grant

This document, effective July 1, 2019, will assist in identifying the distinctions between a gift and a grant/sponsored project. The terms “gifts” and “grants” are often used interchangeably, but they have very distinct meanings for the University.


Gift – A voluntary, charitable contribution for which the donor does not expect or receive any tangible benefits in return. It is essentially a donation. The donor may receive recognition for the gift. Charitable contributions may be unrestricted or restricted, endowed or non-endowed to a certain college, unit, or program, and are accepted through the University’s direct support organization (FAU Foundation, Inc.).

Restricted Gift – This category includes gifts made by a donor who instructs the University as to the use of the funds in a specific academic area or for specific purposes. Gift terms for restricted gifts may specify particular activities and budgets for those activities; but usually do not specify how the funding must be spent or administered, and allow funding to be utilized at the full discretion of the recipient, although respecting the overall gift purposes. Financial reporting requested by donors of restricted gifts is normally in the aggregate, although detailed reports are sometimes requested; in both cases this reporting is solely intended to assure proper gift stewardship. Unexpended funds are not returned to the donor at the expiration of the restricted gift period.

Grant – A grant or sponsored project differs in that the sponsor/agency has outlined specific statement of work and there are expectations by the sponsor (i.e., foundation) in exchange for the financial support provided.

University: a contribution received by an institution for either unrestricted or restricted use in the furtherance of the institution that typically comes from a corporation, foundation, or other organization, rather than an individual.

Research – A process of collecting, analyzing and interpreting information to answer questions or solve a problem. Basic Research is inquiry aimed at increasing scientific knowledge, and Applied Research is effort aimed at using the basic research for solving problems or developing new processes, products, or techniques.

Sponsored Research – Research using any university space, facilities, materials, equipment, or property. Sponsored Research supports research and development, but it also includes instruction, training, professional development, curriculum development, community and public service projects, and commercialization.