How can a sponsor of research be thought to receive a benefit from a sponsored award it provides? What is a “benefit received” by the funder?

In most cases, a gift, although related to the personal interests of a donor (for example, an interest in an area of scientific research or of humanities education), does not directly benefit the donor, except insofar as it promotes the donor’s personal philanthropic interests. There is, in general, a more attenuated relationship between a donor and Harvard’s use of a gift, than between a sponsor and Harvard’s discharge of its duties under a sponsored award. A sponsor’s interest is fundamentally tied to the purpose and goals of a sponsored award, and a sponsored award is typically intended to lead to the creation of specific knowledge. A gift to a scientific department to promote studies or education in that area would be consistent with the donor’s personal interest in that topic, but the donor typically allows the department, the investigator or lab to whom or to which the gift is directed to determine the best specific uses of the funds. A sponsor expects that the investigator will execute the proposed research plan as proposed, or seek approval to vary from the proposed plan. In general, therefore, a donor of a gift expects less control over the use of the gift funds than a sponsor expects over the use of a sponsored award. The gift donor most often trusts the recipient to use the gift for its own purposes, while a sponsor expects the recipient of a sponsored award to use the sponsored award as proposed. In executing a research plan as proposed under a sponsored award, the investigator, his or her department and school, and the University, presumably are yielding a direct benefit to the research agenda of the sponsor.