Please review Tufts process for Notice of Award/Award Negotiation, including responsible offices for various types of agreements, and differences between a sponsored award and a gift. Requirements for the Advance Account are described under Award Account. Please review the section on international awards if you are receiving an award from a foreign sponsor or planning sponsored activities abroad, including a subaward to a foreign organization.
When a sponsor has approved an award for a sponsored project, a notice of award or an award letter is sent to the Central Pre-Award. The notice of award is a legally binding document that notifies Tufts University and the Principal Investigator (PI) that an award has been made, contains or references terms and conditions of the award, and documents the obligation of funds and the period of performance.
If an award notice is received directly by the PI, it must be forwarded to Pre-Award as soon as possible. Pre-Award has a responsibility to negotiate and accept sponsored awards on behalf of the University. In the course of negotiation, Pre-Award works with the Office for Technology Transfer and Industry Collaboration (OTTIC), the Office of the General Counsel, and other Tufts offices as appropriate. If an agreement may have tax implications for the University, Pre-Award forwards a copy to the University Tax Services for the consideration of such implications after the agreement has been fully executed.
Pre-Award routes the fully executed award agreement / signed notice of award together with the proposal package and any pertinent information to Central Post-Award. Post-Award opens an award account and communicates the account number to the PI and his/her Local Research Administrator (LRA) via the Internal Notice of Award (INOA). All allowable award expenses should be charged to the award account.
Please review responsible offices for various types of agreements other than grants, contracts, and other sponsored project agreements here.
Minimizing the Effect of Currency Conversion on Sponsored Projects
When Tufts University receives funding from agencies outside the United States, the award budget and payments should be in U.S. dollars. This ensures that fluctuations in currency exchange rate will not reduce funds available for program activities. If the sponsor is not able to fund the award in U.S. dollars, the Central Pre-Award will request that the sponsor would bear the cost of currency conversion. If neither scenario is possible, a formal internal approval will be required to continue negotiation of an award. Please contact your Pre-Award Point of Contact for additional details.
Bank transaction fees
Every incoming payment from outside of the United States carries an associated bank transaction fee of up to $25 per payment. Therefore, budgets for proposals from foreign sponsors must include bank transaction fees in the amount of $25 per payment budgeted. The budgeted amount should be calculated based on the expected frequency of payments. If information regarding invoice frequency is not available, quarterly payments should be assumed. Please note that at the time of the award the actual (rather than budgeted) cost of bank transactions will be charged to the account under 5502 – Wire Fees when payments are received.
Outgoing payments from the United States to banks in other countries also bear bank transaction fees. Budgets for subawards with international organizations where Tufts is a prime institution should budget for these fees appropriately.
International projects often require personnel working in foreign countries. Investigators and administrators should consider the country in which the activity will occur, the activities of the project, and Tufts’ status in that country to determine the appropriate hiring mechanism.
Global Operations Support is a resource to investigators and administrators when international activities are planned. It brings together experts in the areas of tax, purchasing, legal, human resources, and compliance to assess issues, provide advice, and reduce internal infrastructure barriers for University faculty and staff undertaking research, projects, or programs abroad.
The distinction between a gift and a sponsored award (grant or contract) can be ambiguous. Determination of whether funds given to an investigator represent a gift of a sponsored award requires consideration of many factors, including but not limited to:
the mission of and potential benefit received by the funder
the value exchanged
the project scope of work
whether there are any defined activities and, if so, their nature and the specificity with which they are defined
the terms of accountability for use of funds and deliverables
the ability of the funder to recoup the disbursed funds or to obtain a refund of unused funds.
The information below is provided to assist in determining if funds given to an investigator represent a gift or a sponsored award. Please note that when it is not readily apparent whether funding constitutes a gift or a sponsored award, Central Post-Award will review the documentation and make a final determination which classification is most appropriate. As of May 1, 2018, the determination is issued via Sponsored Award or Gift Determination Checklist that is issued by Post-Award staff that have signature authority. To request a determination, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Generally speaking, a gift is a voluntary, non-reciprocal transfer of money or property from a donor. The donor may be an individual, a corporation, or a non-profit organization. The donor does not expect anything of value in return other than recognition, and does not have control over expenditures. A gift may meet the interests of the donor and can be restricted or unrestricted. A restricted gift is a contribution designated for a specific purpose, program, or project. If the donor does not specify any restrictions, the gift is unrestricted and Tufts allocates the funds at its own discretion.
A sponsored award (a category including grants and contracts) is the transfer of funds from a sponsor to an institution to carry out specific activities that align with sponsor’s mission or interests. Sponsors typically provide such funding on the basis of a specific project or research plan and budget, for a specified period of time, with funds unused at the expiration of the time period often reverting to the sponsor. Central Pre-Award accepts sponsored awards on behalf of Tufts University. Sponsored accounts are then opened by Post-Award and assigned award account numbers.
Any funding provided by U.S. Government agencies, at the federal, state, or local level, in support of Tufts University activities is treated as a sponsored award and not a gift. Similarly, funding from voluntary health organizations or associations, such as the American Cancer Society or American Heart Association, is usually treated as a sponsored award and not as a gift.
Sponsored Award vs. Gift
Represents an “exchange transaction” in which each party receives commensurate value
Represents a “contribution,” an unconditional transfer of cash which is voluntary and non-reciprocal
Usually has reporting requirements or specific restrictions on how the funds can be spent
No reporting No restrictions
Usually has a specified time period over which the work will be done (a start date and an end date)
No specific time period
Often requests that unused funds must be returned to the awarding agency /foundation /corporation
Usually all the funds are received upfront. Tufts is given unconditional rights to the funds and unspent funds do not need to be returned to the sponsor
To facilitate creation of the award account please ensure that:
documentation routed to Central Post-Award is complete
the award document is signed by all parties involved
a budget that matches the obligated award amount is provided.
Advance Accounts provide Principal Investigators (PIs) with the opportunity to initiate a sponsored project and begin incurring associated expenses prior to institutional acceptance of an award. An Advance Account is established upon notice that a formal award is forthcoming, but will be delayed past the start date of the project. Setting up an Advance Account enables the Principal Investigator (PI) to begin spending the anticipated budget on project activities prior to having a fully executed award in place.
Request for Advance Account
An Advance Account is requested via the Request for Advance Account Form. The PIs’ Department / School or Center is the initial approver of the Advance Account form (consult with your Local Research Administrator on who should sign in your unit). The form is then routed to Central Pre-Award for approval, with a final signature required from Post-Award. After reviewing and approving the Advance Account request, Post-Award will assign an internal award number to be used for allocating expenses for the project.
Advance accounts are established for the initial 3-month project period, with the budget adjusted accordingly to the three months’ timeframe. If at the end of three months a fully executed agreement is not yet in place, the end date of the Advance Account may be extended. For extending the end date a second request must be submitted and approved. Please include supporting documentation presenting evidence of the forthcoming award with the Advance Account request.
A PIs’ Department / School or Center accepts financial responsibility for an Advance Account in the event that the sponsored award is not received. If this is the case, all expenses incurred will be applied to the Department’s account noted on the Request for Advance Account Form.
Cost Share Account
For the awards with committed cost share, Post-Award will request a dedicated cost share account from the Budget Center at the time of the award account set up. Cost Share account will remain open for the duration of the associated award and will close when the sponsored project reaches the end date. Cost sharing from gift accounts or other private sources, as well as cost sharing using unrecovered indirect costs does not require a cost share account.
Q: Receiving awards is the best possible news Pre-Award can give PI’s, so why would the processing take longer than a few days?
A: Due to non-negotiable proposal submission deadlines proposal submissions take precedence over all types of award management, including award acceptance.
Q: Why do some agreements take so long to negotiate?
A: An agreement with standard terms can be reviewed quickly by the Pre-Award, but sometimes sponsors insist on provisions that are unusual, and/or fall outside of either Tufts policies or Pre-Award’ latitude and would require consultations with other offices across the University. Because acceptance of a funding agreement binds the institution to those terms, it is important to resolve all issues prior to signing. The negotiation of a contract (or a non-standard subcontract) is more time consuming because it includes processing time not only at Tufts, but also at the sponsor institution with which we are contracting. Once Tufts suggests changes, the agreement is returned to the sponsor for comment, leaving us with little influence over how quickly the other party will respond.
Q: Why do multiple offices have to get involved with negotiating agreement clauses?
A: An agreement with no special issues can be reviewed quickly by the Pre-Award, but sometimes sponsors insist on provisions that are unusual, and/or fall outside of either Tufts policies or Pre-Award’s scope. In those cases, Pre-Award engages offices that have specialized expertise. For example, Pre-Award and the Technology Transfer Office (TTIC) collaborate in negotiating provisions pertaining to intellectual property; Risk Management Office is consulted for Insurance matters, and the Office of the General Counsel is used as a resource for any legal concerns, including the use of Tufts name. In addition, voluntary reductions in overhead require additional approvals at the School/Center.