Defining a Grant or Contract Versus a Gift

It is not always easy to define funding. An award might not meet all of the characteristics in one area and some crossover may occur.

If any of the grant or contract characteristics apply, this is grant funding.

If all of the criteria fall only into the gift column, this may be a gift. Always contact a research program officer for verification.

Award Characteristic

Grant or Contract


Source of funds

Funding provided by governmental agency


Funding provided by private (for-profit or nonprofit) entity

Funding by an individual or an anonymous source


Process to apply for funds

Funds awarded in response to a formal request for proposal—RFP


Principal investigator-defined scope of work

Funder-defined scope of work


Funder’s intent with award

Charitable purpose


Funding an endowment


Terms for use of funds

Funds are irrevocable


Funds are restricted for a detailed purpose

Funds are unrestricted


Formal terms and conditions


Use requires compliance office review (e.g., IRB, IACUC)


No specific period of performance


Facilities and administrative costs


Outcomes generated from use of funds  

Intellectual property owned by WMU

Intellectual property owned by funder


Obligations to funder

Detailed financial and progress reporting


Minimal or no financial and progress reporting