What is a Sponsored Project?

A sponsored program is any activity that receives restricted external funding.

External organizations may include government agencies, foundations, nonprofits, universities and private sector companies or organizations.

The funding restrictions are the obligations and terms set in the project description of the proposal or agreement.  A gift is generally unconditional and unrestricted.  Some conditions that are typically included in a sponsored project are:

  • A defined purpose and scope of work
  • A specified period of performance
  • Limited funding
  • Fiscal accountability and/or administrative reporting to account for expenses
  • Deliverables, such as a final technical report
  • Possible restrictions on ongoing usage of purchased property

Why the Office of Sponsored Programs?

Grants and contracts are made to the institution, James Madison University, not the Principal Investigator (PI).  Proposals obligate not only the PI, but also university facilities and resources. The legal relationship that is defined in any project or proposal exists between a sponsor and the university. Therefore, JMU institutional approval and involvement is required.

When the OSP reviews and signs-off on a proposal on behalf of the University, it signifies that the project information, including costs and available University resources have been confirmed by the respective individuals who control those resources, typically the PI’s department head and dean. 

To complete a thorough review, it is essential that the complete proposal is submitted at least five business days prior to the sponsor’s deadline.

Types of Sponsored Programs

Sponsored programs are generally categorized into one five groups of University functions:


  • All research and development activities that are separately budgeted and accounted for, including activities involving the training of individuals in research techniques


  • The teaching and training activities of the university except for research training. Examples include curriculum development or teaching/training for non-research purposes


  • The acquisition of pieces of equipment (valued over $5,000)

Public Service/Outreach

  • These activities include community service programs, health service programs, or anything that heavily involves educating the community about a cause


  • All other activities that do not fit in the above categories

These defined categories, as well as determining whether the activity will take place on-campus or off-campus, impact the calculation of JMU’s Facilities and Administrative (F&A) Cost Rates.

Types of Funding


  • A mechanism for procuring a product or service with specific obligations for both sponsor and recipient.
  • Typically, a research topic and the methods for conducting the research are specified in detail by the sponsor, although some sponsors award contracts in response to unsolicited proposals.
  • A legally binding document.


  • A type of financial assistance awarded to an organization to conduct research or other programs as specified in an approved proposal.
  • A grant, as opposed to a cooperative agreement, is used whenever the awarding office anticipates no substantial programmatic involvement with the recipient during the performance of the activities.

Cooperative Agreement

  • A funding arrangement in which the sponsor's staff may be actively involved in proposal preparation and anticipates having substantial involvement in research activities after the award has been made.

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