A sponsored program is an award to an organization to fund, under the guidance of a principal investigator, a specific project, program, or center of research or other scholarly activity. Award is contingent on many constraints including judged merit of a project, consistency with the agency's objectives, a timed cycle for the use of funds, restriction of funds to "allowable" cost categories (which may vary depending on the agency), and a formal reporting requirement as to progress and at the end of the funding period. There is less, or in some cases, no discretion as to how funds may be used and the use of funds must be auditable by the agency, upon request. Hence, the onus for the proper use of funds and the documentation of such is much greater for a sponsored program, increasing the administration that is necessary to assure that all of the requirements are met by the recipient institution. All proposals and contracts for sponsored programs, whether they be from a company, federal agency, or profit/non-profit organization, MUST BE submitted via the ODU Research Foundation.
A gift is an award that is bestowed upon the institution with few or no conditions or constraints. Gifts may be provided to establish an endowment, to support existing programs, or may be given to the university for entirely discretionary use. Although gifts might be targeted to a particular area of endeavor, or a benefactor's favorite topic (e.g. to support research on the Chesapeake Bay), there are usually no prescribed conditions beyond that for how the money may be used. There is not usually a detailed budget required beforehand and, once awarded, there are no formal reporting requirements for progress in a particular project, although a benefactor may enjoy hearing informally of the good results of the gift. Most institutions voluntarily provide such information. Flexibility and lack of restrictions make gifts attractive sources of support. At Old Dominion University, gifts are managed by the Office of Development.
One might occasionally encounter gray zones in the nature of funding - "Is it a gift or a grant?," especially in dealing with some of the private foundations. Assistance in making these distinctions can be found by contacting the Office of Research and Office of Development.