Funding Mechanisms

Funding mechanisms vary with agencies and funding sources. The list that follows is not exhaustive, but most sponsored project funding at Fisk University will probably fall into one of these categories.


Contracts are legal agreements used to buy products and services. Failure by the contractor to deliver the results anticipated or to perform the work as promised is a breach of contract with legal ramifications.

A number of government agencies and businesses utilize contracts to support and conduct basic and applied research. They may be utilized for product acquisitions that range from information or technology supplies to sophisticated state-of-the-art equipment and systems. Service acquisitions range from complex field trials to information dissemination to management consulting.

Contracts may be awarded as fixed-price contracts, i.e., a set lump-sum payment is established in advance for performance of a specified set of tasks or delivery of a certain service (e.g., $/analysis). Payment is limited to the agreed cost multiplied by the number of units delivered.

Cost-reimbursement contracts provide payment for actual costs incurred, up to a maximum amount equal to the total estimated cost established when the contract was made. At times, the ceiling amount may be raised if the sponsor agrees to such costs, otherwise the contract may be discontinued.

Cooperative Agreement

A cooperative agreement is a mechanism in which a sponsor works jointly with the grantees in a partner role. This source of funding may involve both the government and the grantee sharing responsibility for programmatic and/or management portions of the project.

Each agreement will have its own specific terms of collaboration. The OSP will carefully review with the investigator the details of a proposed cooperative agreement. Other aspects of cooperative agreements follow the policies applicable to grants.


Grants are awards by a sponsor to achieve some general or specific purpose. Although generally less restrictive than contracts, technical and financial reports are generally required. Grants are awarded by a number of sponsors including foundations, industries or agencies of the federal government. Amounts and types of awards will vary. Many agencies offer several types of grant opportunities.

A partial list of funding sources from several federal government agencies is provided in APPENDIX A.


A broad range of sponsors may award individual fellowships to support educational or scholarly work in specialized areas of interest. Applicants meeting the requirements to qualify for specific fellowships in specified disciplines should seek foundations, governmental agencies and professional societies for sources of funding.


These are funds or tangible property provided to the University. Generally, the donor does not receive goods or services for the donation or gift. The donor may stipulate that the contribution is to be used for a designated purpose, but detailed expenditure or technical reports are usually not required as a condition of the award. However, good stewardship in the form of timely acknowledgement of gifts and reports on the use of funds, if appropriate, is necessary. These actions will help to build good donor relations in anticipation of future solicitation.