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Open grants call

On this page you'll find everything you need to apply to our annual open grants call. Remember to check eligibility information carefully before applying.

Introduction

Every year, we offer grants of up to £30,000 for projects lasting up to two years to civil society organisations in the Commonwealth. We support projects that seek to facilitate constructive engagement between civil society and decision makers, including civil society participation in policy development and decision-making.

Applications must address one or more of our three priority themes. All applications are required to demonstrate how they will integrate gender considerations into their project design and implementation. 

Applicants must check our eligibility criteria thoroughly and download the guidance documents from this page before applying. 

Grant status

The grants call is now closed.

Deadline

The deadline for this year's call was 23 October 2023 1pm BST

What we fund

Applications must address one or more of our three priority themes and other funding considerations such as partnerships and exclusions. Suggested areas of focus under each theme and other important funding considerations are set out below:

Funding priorities

  1. Projects could support civil society to engage meaningfully with government on:

    • Universal health coverage
    • Realising the right to health: better availability, accessibility, quality, participation and accountability in health services and delivery
    • Programmes and policies that focus on social determinants of health as part of the inclusive right to health
    • Challenging systemic discrimination in health systems and promoting equitable access to health services for marginalised groups and those with special needs
    • Promoting the participation of marginalised groups and those with special needs in decision-making processes
    • Promoting health and well-being by combating communicable and non-communicable diseases
    • Equitable access to essential medicines

    Examples of previous projects we’ve funded under this theme can be found here.

    Please note: this is not an exhaustive list but rather a set of examples to demonstrate the range of possible areas of focus under this theme.

  2. Projects could support civil society to engage meaningfully with government on:

    • Advancing a legal and regulatory environment that protects and upholds freedom of expression for all. 
    • Advancing a legal and regulatory environment that promotes the freedom, growth, and vibrancy of civil society. 
    • Promoting access to information and transparency in governance, including through a free and independent press, robust freedom of information laws and their practical application. 
    • Advancing civil society engagement in national, regional and/or international mechanisms and processes to promote freedom of expression (e.g., national human rights institutions; Universal Periodic Reviews). 
    • Promoting art and creativity as means of advocating for and raising awareness of freedom of expression. 

    Examples of previous projects we’ve funded under this theme can be found here.

    Please note: this is not an exhaustive list but rather a set of examples to demonstrate the range of possible areas of focus under this theme.

  3. Projects could support civil society to engage meaningfully with government on:

    • Ensuring representation, inclusion, and protecting the rights of those most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. 
    • Addressing the social, political, and economic root causes of climate injustice. 
    • Strengthening the voices of those most affected by the climate crisis in multilateral and national spaces.  
    • Ensuring that the voice, agency, and leadership of young women and men are at the centre of policy discussions and decision-making at all levels. 
    • Advocating for corrective justice for environmental harm, including compensation mechanisms, access to justice and effective remedy, and legal empowerment. 
    • Ensuring accountability and effective remedy for human rights harms caused by climate change.  
    • Developing, reviewing, improving, and monitoring laws, policies and practices promoting climate justice.  
    • Exposing and addressing the factors that contribute to the increased vulnerability of social groups to the consequences of climate change. 
    • Exposing and addressing negative social and distributional outcomes of climate change mitigation policies and/or encourage support for the development of pro-poor mitigation approaches. 

    Examples of previous projects we’ve funded under this theme can be found here

    Please note: this is not an exhaustive list but rather a set of examples to demonstrate the range of possible areas of focus under this theme.

  4. The Foundation’s three themes overlap and connect in myriad ways. For example, freedom of expression and protection of the free flow of information are critical to ensuring meaningful progress on health justice and climate justice. 

    Applicants are encouraged to explore the intersections between our three themes when developing their proposals and, where appropriate, to consider addressing more than one. 

    For example, a project could focus on using freedom of information legislation to ensure access to reliable information on the state of the environment or to promote government accountability in relation to climate laws and policies. Another project might focus on the links between climate change and health and how these can be addressed at the national level in ways that make a difference to vulnerable groups. 

    Gender as a cross-cutting theme 

    The Foundation’s commitment to supporting the constructive participation of citizens in their governance, and to nurturing the growth of vibrant and free civil societies is informed by a recognition that social structures and systems are not neutral. Rather, they operate in and are shaped by power dynamics that too often reflect and perpetuate inequality and discrimination. We understand that gender inequality is a major challenge to our vision of a Commonwealth of equal, just, and inclusive societies and are committed to integrating gender considerations across our work and the work we support. To that end, we ask all applicants to demonstrate an understanding of how gender operates within their chosen theme/s and show how they will integrate that understanding into their project. 

    For example, a persuasive project proposal that seeks to promote free access to healthcare for workers in the informal sector would likely demonstrate an understanding of how gender affects access and what this means in terms of different needs and priorities. That same proposal would also likely demonstrate an understanding of how gender in this setting intersects with other forms of discrimination (e.g., how race or age impacts on the hurdles facing women workers seeking to access healthcare services) that are different from those faced by other female informal workers; and how that understanding informs the project. 

    Partnerships 

    The Foundation understands the limits of our own capacity to fund worthwhile initiatives and we encourage applicants to consider carefully how they can leverage partnerships to enhance the scale, depth, and breadth of their work. Only the lead applicant organisation, and not the partner(s), needs to satisfy the core eligibility criteria. Partners might be informal groups, social movements, individual artists or advocates whose contribution to the project will increase its impact. (Note that if any proposed partners are registered organisations in the country of implementation, their registration certificates should also be provided as part of the application). 

    Participation of young people 

    While not a formal cross-cutting theme, young people are central to the Foundation’s mission and its vision for a future Commonwealth of equal, just, and inclusive societies. Applications are encouraged from civil society organisations working to support and advance the involvement of young people in governance, as well as from those that include young people in their organisational structure and implementation approach. 

    Small and vulnerable Member States 

    The Commonwealth Charter explicitly affirms the role of the Commonwealth as a champion of small states and a special duty on the Commonwealth to support and advocate for the interests of small states as well as those that are otherwise vulnerable. Applications from civil society organisations in small and vulnerable states that are members of the Foundation are strongly encouraged.  

    Note that applicants from small and vulnerable states whose projects are not selected under this open call may be contacted to discuss other potential funding opportunities. 

    Capacity Strengthening  

    This call is for specific project proposals. It means that the budget which is submitted must relate to the costs that will be incurred in implementing the proposed project. The Foundation does appreciate the importance of strengthening organisational capacity. Those applicants whose projects are shortlisted will therefore be invited to propose capacity-strengthening initiatives as part of their project’s budget, at up to 5% of the grant amount requested. These funds can be used to cover organisational needs that are distinct from the project, but that help to enhance broader organisational effectiveness. 

    Exclusions

    Before developing your project, please read about exclusions in our Guidelines for Applicants 2023. This describes activities that are not eligible for funding.

Who we fund

Before you apply, please check if you are eligible.

Only applications meeting the eligibility criteria will be considered.

The applicant must be a not-for-profit civil society organisation (CSO) registered in an eligible Commonwealth Foundation Member State.

Applicant organisations that are currently implementing, or that have recently completed, a Commonwealth Foundation Grant but have not received their final payment, are not eligible to apply to this grant call.

To check your eligibility, please refer to the eligible countries map and complete the eligibility quiz.

Eligible Countries

  • Cameroon
  • Gabon
  • Kenya
  • Kingdom of eSwatini
  • Lesotho
  • Malawi
  • Mauritius
  • Mozambique
  • Namibia
  • Rwanda
  • Seychelles
  • South Africa
  • Uganda
  • United Republic of Tanzania
  • Zambia
  • Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Canada*
  • Guyana
  • Jamaica
  • St Kitts and Nevis
  • St Lucia
  • Bangladesh
  • Brunei Darussalam
  • India
  • Malaysia
  • Maldives
  • Pakistan
  • Cyprus
  • Malta
  • United Kingdom*
  • Australia*
  • Kiribati
  • New Zealand*
  • Samoa

*If your organisation is registered in a country that has an asterisk (*) next to it in the list above, you are ineligible to apply for a grant as a lead applicant. Please note that while organisations registered in these countries cannot apply for a grant as a lead applicant, they can participate in a project as partners, so long as the lead applicant is from another eligible country.

 

Take our eligibility quiz

Take this short quiz to determine whether your project or organisation is eligible for this grants call

Question 1

Is your country listed on our map of eligible countries?

Question 2

Is your civil society organisation registered in an eligible Commonwealth Foundation Member State?

Question 3

Was your organisation registered more than 12 months ago?

Question 4

Will the project be implemented in the country where your organisation is registered?

Question 5

Is your organisation currently implementing or has your organisation recently completed a Commonwealth Foundation grant but not received the final payment?

Question 6

Does your project use constructive engagement to influence policy decisions that affect people’s lives?

Find out more about constructive engagement in our application guidance documents

Question 7

Does your project address at least one of the priority themes?

Question 8

Does your organisation have a minimum of two years’ demonstrable experience working on participatory governance and advocacy within the area of focus of the proposed project?

Question 9

Is the total grant requested from the Foundation either £15,000 or between £15,001 and £30,000 per year, for a maximum of two years?

Question 10

Is the annual income of your organisation less than £2.5m?

You're eligible to apply for this grant.

Before clicking ‘Apply now’, please go to ‘How to apply’ to learn more about submitting your application.

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How to apply

  1. Before you apply, please ensure you have completed the the eligiblity quiz and check your country is eligible in the dropdown menu on the eligible countries map.

    Only applications that meet our eligibility criteria can be considered.

  2. Survey Monkey Apply are the providers of the online platform we are using for grant applications. We will only consider completed applications that have been submitted using the online application system.

    Before applying, you need to set up a SurveyMonkey Apply account. To set up your account, click ‘register’ on the website here.

  3. To apply, you will first need to log in to your SurveyMonkey Apply account and complete and submit an online application form on the website here.

    The application and supporting documents cannot be emailed to the Foundation.

    Applications open at 1pm BST on 18 September 2023 and close at 1pm BST on 23 October 2023.

  4. All applicants must submit a completed online application form. All applications must include the following additional documentation:

    1. A logic model (using the template provided here).
    2. A copy of the organisation’s registration certificate. This should be a clear scan of an official registration document provided by the relevant authorities in the country where the applicant organisation is registered. Trust deeds will be accepted in lieu of a registration certificate. When the original registration certificates are not in English, shortlisted applicants maybe asked to provide a certified translation.
    3. For grants of £15,000 per annum: The applicant organisation may choose to submit either their audited accounts or a copy of the organisation’s most recent annual accounts. Annual accounts must include a balance sheet, a profit and loss statement and notes about the account. They must be signed off by the organisation’s Board or its principal executive officer. Audited or annual accounts must not be older than December 2021.
    4. For grants of £15,001 and above: a copy of the organisation’s most recent audited accounts. Note that audited accounts must include both the accounts and the opinion of the external auditor who has certified them. They must be signed off by the auditor and the organisation’s Board or its principal executive officer. They should not be older than December 2021.

    Please note: incomplete applications will not be considered.

  5. Filling in the application form does not automatically submit it. Please make sure that after you fill in the application form you go back to the main application screen and click on the submit button to submit your application.

    You will receive an email from noreply@mail.smapply.io, the email address from SurveyMonkey Apply, acknowledging receipt of your application soon after it is submitted. If you do not receive this acknowledgement email one of three things may have happened:

    • Your application was not successfully submitted
    • The email was sent to a different email that was provided in the form
    • Your email is in your spam inbox

    Please check out all these options and if you are still experiencing problems contact the grants team at cfgrants@commonwealth.int

Application guidance documents

Download the documentation you need to apply for this grants call

Frequently asked questions

  1. The Foundation’s Member States have agreed that this call is restricted to civil society organisations in countries that are members of the Foundation in good financial standing and, further, to those countries where the need for support to civil society is greatest.

    See our map of eligible countries for more information. 

  2. No. Only applications submitted using the online application system will be considered.

  3. No. An organisation can only apply for one grant under this call.  

  4. Yes, two or more organisations may apply for funding. However, one organisation must be nominated as the lead applicant and the other(s) must be identified as the partner(s). The lead applicant will conclude the grant agreement with the Commonwealth Foundation and will accrue all relevant rights and responsibilities under that agreement. 

  5. For grants of £15,001 and above, applicants are required to submit a copy of the organisation’s most recent audited accounts. Audited accounts must include both the accounts and the opinion of the external auditor who has certified them. They must be signed off by the auditor and the organisation’s Board or its principal executive officer. They should not be older than December 2021. Project audits and independently verified accounts will not be accepted in place of the organisation’s audited accounts. Audited accounts for an affiliated organisation registered in a different country will not be accepted.

    For grants of £15,000 per annum, the applicant organisation may choose to submit either their audited accounts or a copy of the organisation’s most recent annual accounts. Annual accounts must include a balance sheet, a profit and loss statement and notes about the account. They must be signed off by the organisation’s Board or its principal executive officer. Audited or annual accounts must not be older than December 2021.

  6. Past and current projects funded by the Commonwealth Foundation can be found on our website: commonwealthfoundation.com/projects  

    While these provide a good overview, applicants should be aware that requirements and focus areas differ from year to year, and it is important to carefully consider the specificities of this call. 

  7. If you have problems with your application, please contact cfgrants@commonwealth.int and a staff member of the Foundation will assist you.

    We strongly advise that applicants requiring help reach out to us as soon as possible. Last-minute requests for help may not be responded to in time, and you could miss the deadline. Submission after the deadline is not possible and you should not rely on people being available to assist in the final days.

  8. You can find out more information by downloading our application guidance documents which include:

    • Frequently Asked Questions
    • Grant Application Form
    • Guidlines for Applicants
    • Logic Model Template
    • How to Submit an Online Application
    • What is Constructive Engagement?

The application process

  • 18 September 2023

    The call opens for applications

  • 23 October 2023

    The call closes for applications and assessment begins

  • February 2024

    If you haven’t been contacted by the end of February, your application has been unsuccessful

  • June 2024

    Successful applicants will be informed before the end of the month

What happens next

  1. We typically receive around 1000 applications which are assessed in line with the eligibility criteria.

    The assessment criteria for applications are as follows:

    1. Your organisation meets all eligibility criteria
    2. Your application provides a clear description of the problem that the applicant is seeking to address
    3. Your application provides a clear explanation of how you plan to address the problem and contribute to its resolution
    4. Your organisation provides good evidence of having consulted with the project’s supposed beneficiaries
    5. Your application makes a persuasive case for the proposed approach to the problem. It is both timely, relevant and feasible
    6. Your organisation demonstrates that it has the capacity to undertake the project and complete it successfully within the stipulated time
    7. Your organisation demonstrates a serious commitment to gender equality.
  2. Shortlisted applicants will be contacted by Foundation staff by the end of February 2024. These applicants will be invited to provide further information in support of their application, including a detailed project budget.

    If you have not been contacted by the end of February 2024, it means that your application has not been shortlisted.

  3. Shortlisted applicants will be informed of the result of their application by the end of June 2024, and it is expected that grant agreements will be concluded soon thereafter, allowing for implementation to begin as soon as possible in the third quarter of 2024 (July-September).

  4. Successful applicants will be asked to develop a monitoring plan for their project. The Foundation will provide guidance and support to grant partners with their monitoring plan.

    Grant partners who are implementing a one-year project will be asked to provide an end of project narrative report, along with a financial report. Grant partners who are implementing a two-year project will submit a narrative and financial report at the end of the first year as well as an end-of-project narrative and financial report. Reporting schedules will be agreed between the grant partner and the Foundation and set out in the grant agreement.