Gift vs. Grant

Accurate classification and processing of external funds (gifts, grants and various types of contracts) are important parts of UCI’s fiscal and fiduciary responsibilities in its role as a steward of public assets.  Sometimes, the preliminary classification of external funding (made by departments or faculty) may be incorrect upon further review of the documents that accompanied the external funding.  For example, the external entity providing the funding may consider it a gift, but include detailed terms, conditions, and/or stipulations that would require UCI (in accordance with UCI and UC policy) to classify the funds as a grant or contract.

Research Gift Classification Process

At UCI, all research gifts are reviewed by University Advancement and the Office of Research to ensure accurate classification.

Within the Office of Research, the COI Administrator (COIA) is responsible for reviewing research gifts.  In doing so, the COIA takes into consideration all factors contained in the documentation supplied with the gift.  In addition, the COIA or University Advancement may request additional information if necessary.

Gift Characteristics

  • Irrevocable transfer of funds or other valuable articles
  • Unrestricted use of funds
  • No donor-imposed time limits
  • No deliverables or benefits expected by the donor

Grant/Contract Characteristics

  • Revocable transfer in whole or in part
  • Application submitted to sponsor including budget, scope of work, etc.
  • Specified or limited time period to perform programmatic tasks or achieve programmatic goals
  • Involves testing or evaluating proprietary products
  • Specific sponsor requirements, such as terms and conditions stating a precise scope of work to be performed rather than general support for an area of research
  • Sponsor requires or expects deliverables and/or technical and financial reports (beyond what is normally provided for good donor stewardship)
  • Sponsor terms and conditions including, but not limited to:
    • Indemnity
    • Export control
    • Financial and performance
    • Intellectual property (e.g., patent rights requested by grantor)
    • Ownership or use of data
    • Sponsor imposes prior approval requirements (e.g., budget, work performed, changes in personnel, etc.)
  • Subsequent funding dependent on sponsor receiving report

Gift Documentation

To facilitate the review process, gifts sent to University Advancement should include the following:

  • Original gift/donor letter/email, stating:
    • Donor’s intended purpose and naming the recipient of the gift
    • Whether the donation is irrevocable
    • Donation amount
    • Whether use of donation is unrestricted
    • Any restrictions or terms set by the donor
  • All other correspondence or material that accompanied the gift letter
  • Original, signed (wet-ink) Principal Investigator's Statement of Economic Interests, Form 700-U, if (1) the gift is earmarked for a specific researcher or a specific research project and (2) the donor is a non-governmental entity (excluding individuals) not listed on the UC Exempt Non-Governmental Entities list
    • For positive disclosures, include the Gift Addendum (Form COI-2)
  • Any proposals or written documents provided to the donor for its consideration prior to receipt of the donation
  • Original check (Foundation gifts only)
  • Copy of the acknowledgment letter, if available


  • In addition to the Grant/Contract characteristics listed above, consult with University Advancement or Office of Research before signing any agreement provided by a donor if it includes the following:
    • Anti-terrorism or anti-violence language
    • Involvement of the donor in use of gift
    • Any unusual terms to which UCI must agree or confirm
  • When possible, request a donor letter/email that includes the information in the Gift Documentation section above to expedite the gift classification process.
  • When there are non-standard terms in the donor letter, consult with University Advancement or the COIA for additional guidance on the gift vs. grant classification prior to submitting to University Advancement.

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