Trick or Treat: Gift or Grant?

Just as no trick goes unpunished and no treat is without corollary, no amount of money or material enters our fair University without strings attached.  So how does one determine which course of action to take when receiving a resource?  The first step is to figure out what it is, exactly, you are receiving!  These guidelines below may help:



Gifts, to paraphrase Executive Order 04-5, are contributions received for use in furtherance of the WSU’s mission that are not in exchange for some service, product or property rendered by WSU (the donor may, however, place restrictions on the contribution and still classify as a gift).  A full text definition of a gift as given by Executive Order 04-5 is available here, and is upheld in APPM 1.7.6 – 1.4.

Who Needs To Know About Your Gift: Communicate with the Office of the Provost and the Vice President for Development and Alumni Affairs; any gifts solicited either verbally or in writing from corporations, foundations or individuals must receive prior approval from these two entities.  Once received, a gift check (which must be made out to Wayne State University) should then be brought to the Dean of Students Office.



Executive Order 04-5 similarly defines a “grant” as “a contribution received by the University for either restricted or unrestricted use in furtherance of the institution’s mission that typically comes from a corporation, foundation or other organization, not an individual.”  The similar definitions leave all sorts of gray areas, but the trick here is to determine which subdivision the grant falls into:

  • NON-SPECIFIC Grants are those received by the university that do NOT result from a specific grant proposal.  This type of grant that many institutions may opt to designate as a gift for internal accounting purposes.
  • Who Needs To Know About Your Non-Specific Grant: Just like gifts, the Office of the Provost and the Vice President for Development and Alumni Affairs need to know of the solicitation ahead of time, and the Dean of Students Office must receive the check.
  • SPECIFIC Grants are those received by the university that DO result from a specific grant proposal submitted by the university (or department therein).  There is a defined contribution of university resources or services as a condition of the grant, and an accounting of the use of funds and results is almost always a requirement (any and all research grants meet this requirement).
  • Who Needs To Know About Your Specific Grant: Wayne State University’s Sponsored Program Administration office must be the entity through which you submit for any specific grants.


But wait… what about CONTRACTS?

Contracts are also defined within Executive Order 04-5, as well as APPM 1.7.6 as “an agreement between the University and another entity to provide an economic benefit for compensation. The agreement is binding and creates a quid pro quo relationship between the University and the entity.”  While university policy is to determine the intent of awarding party when determining contract or grant classification, it is helpful to consider the nature of the intended result of the contract: is there a promise to absolutely deliver a product/service in exchange for consideration (i.e. money)?  If so, it’s probably a contract. If, on the other hand, resources are being granted on the basis of reasonable hopes a task can be accomplished (i.e. a hypothesis-based project), it’s likely a grant.

Who Needs To Know About Your Contract: The Office of the Vice President for Research must review any contract before it is signed; additionally, it is recommended that the division of Technology Commercialization be the first contact if the contract involves the School of Medicine, due to the likely scientific nature and plausible discovery associated therewith.  SPA’s Contract division will be responsible for the administration of executed contracts, but will also assist in negotiation procedures before finalization.


The treats of funding aren’t without their tricks to processing, but come and knock on RAS’s door if you need a little help in your determination.  Happy Halloween!


(*UPDATE* This “Gift or Grant” matrix may help you in determining whether you are dealing with a gift or grant.)