What is the Darwin Initiative?

The Darwin Initiative is a UK government grants scheme that helps protect biodiversity, the natural environment and the communities that live alongside it in locally led projects worldwide.

What types of projects does the Darwin Initiative support?

The Darwin Initiative competitively awards grants for biodiversity conservation and multidimensional poverty reduction activities in eligible countries, helping these countries meet their commitments under the Multilateral Environment Agreements, Sustainable Development Goals, and national policy. There are currently four active schemes:

  • Extra: £800,000 - £5m
    This grant scheme is intended for approaches that are on a clear scaling pathway: building on good evidence from smaller projects and demonstrating the potential to scale further by completion, delivering strong results for biodiversity conservation and poverty reduction within its lifetime.
  • Main: £100,000 - £800,000
    Darwin Initiative Main grants are expected to deliver strong results for biodiversity conservation and poverty reduction based on good evidence, and strongly demonstrate the potential to scale further.
  • Innovation: £10,000 - £200,000
    Innovation grants are intended to test and evaluate novel approaches that if proven could scale to deliver results for biodiversity conservation and poverty reduction.
  • Capability & Capacity: £50,000 - £200,000
    This grant scheme is intended to focus on developing the capability and capacity of identified local and national organisations (civil society, research institutes and public bodies) to efficiently deliver effective and successful biodiversity conservation - poverty reduction projects.

Further information on the Darwin Initiative can be found in the ‘About Us’ section of the website. Both past and current project information is available under the ‘Projects’ tab.


How do I apply for funding?

All applications are managed through the online system, Flexi-Grant. Further information on how to get started on your application can be found in the latest version of the Darwin Initiative guidance. There is also separate Flexi-Grant guidance available. Both can be found on the Apply page.

What is the application process like?

The application process varies for different funding schemes – some schemes are single stage whereas others are a two-stage process. Please note that application to Stage 2 is by invite only. The specific requirements for each funding scheme can be found in the Guidance for applicants, found on the Apply page.

What do I need to include in my application for it to be considered eligible?

All applications must be submitted through Flexi-Grant and must be in comprehensible English. Please note that applications at both Stage 1 and Stage 2 must meet the published administrative, technical and financial criteria in order to be considered. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • All questions must be completed (N/A is acceptable if appropriate)
  • Applications must be signed (with a PDF signature uploaded as part of the Flexi-Grant application)
  • The start and end dates must be within the funding period stated in the guidance
  • Ensure all other required supporting materials are submitted, adhering to format and length requirements outlined in the guidance (for example, CVs should be one page only and uploaded as a single PDF document)

Further information on essential and supplementary materials can be found in the Darwin guidance on the Apply page.

Who do I speak to about application queries?

We would recommend reviewing the guidance available as most common queries are answered in there. If you still have questions, please get in touch! For general application queries please get in touch with the team at, for Flexi-Grant specific queries contact us at

Which countries can my project work in?

Darwin Initiative projects work in developing countries. The list of eligible countries changes year to year so please review the latest guidance on the Apply page for a list of countries currently eligible.

When do applications open for the next funding Round?

We aim to open a funding Round to applications each year, but the timing can vary and an annual cycle is not necessarily guaranteed. To be kept up to date on the specific dates, follow updates on our social media or sign up to our Darwin Initiative mailing list to be informed of when the new Rounds launch.

Can the budget change between Stage 1 and Stage 2?

Yes. Stage 1 should be indicative, but need not be fully worked out. Stage 2 should be fully budgeted. As long as the differences are not too extreme and you can explain any major changes at Stage 2, then Stage 1 can be a best estimate.

What happens if I do not receive my letters of support in time?

The letters of support are required as evidence of the relationship with partners and contacts within the host country and also to support the demand for the work. Without these letters, the application will still be assessed, but may be marked less favourably. The letters not only support the application, but also show the applicant’s ability to meet deadlines and to be able to achieve results with local contacts.

Do you need translations for letters of support?

Yes – letters that are not written in English must be accompanied by a translation. These do not need to be official translations.

Does a main project have to start in April?

Your project should begin at a time that aligns with the allowable dates in a specific funding round and that is suitable to both the host country and the project team. A start date of 1st April will allow your project budget to align with UK government budgets, so financial reporting will be simpler. A later start may be possible, if appropriate, and may be necessary within a particular funding round, but budgeting should always match April – March financial years.

Who should sign the application?

The Stage 1 form can be signed by anyone willing to confirm that the content of the application is correct. The Stage 2 form must be signed by someone from the lead organisation who takes responsibility for the content of the application and who is authorised to submit applications on behalf of the institution.

Can I have an extension on the submission date?

We cannot normally extend a submission date, but if there are mitigating circumstances, Defra will consider them.

Can I withdraw once I have submitted an application?

Yes, but give attention to your reasons before making the decision. If you have been invited to apply for Stage 2 and then withdraw, be aware that you may have cost another applicant the chance to submit a Stage 2 application.

Can I resubmit an application if I am not successful?

Yes, but we do not normally accept more than two submissions so be sure to address the issues that were included in your unsuccessful feedback letter.

Project Communications

How do I communicate about my project?

There are several different ways that you can communicate about your project, using media that is most relevant to the needs of your project and that of your target audience. The Biodiversity Challenge Funds have a number of communications channels you can engage with – including social media (X (Twitter)Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram) as well as a Newsletter which features articles from projects.

How do I contribute to the Newsletter?

We love to hear from projects and contributing to our newsletters is a great way to share your project stories. To receive the latest news on the newsletter themes and calls for articles get in touch with us at to sign up to the newsletter mailing list. Although the newsletters are usually based on a theme, we are also happy to accept general project updates.

Do we need your approval for external project publicity/communication?

You do not require formal approval. However, the Terms and Conditions for your project ask you to notify Defra about any relevant UK media/news stories before they are published and to ensure that you acknowledge the funding scheme. However, there is no need to notify us of every news article so please use your judgement accordingly.

Is there a Comms user guide package (including logos etc)?

Our Logo and Branding Guidelines provide detailed information on how to acknowledge funding. This is something all projects should comply with when referring to project funding or when using the Darwin Initiative or UK International Development (UK Dev) logo. Further details are included in the Terms and Conditions.


The Darwin Initiative logos can also be downloaded from the Project Publicity page.

Finance And Administration

What are the main financial and administrative requirements of the project?

For information on the financial and administrative requirements for main Darwin projects please refer to the Finance Guidance and Guidance for Applicants. In general, these include:

  • Quarterly claims and end of year actual claims
  • An end of project audit/statement for projects over £50k
  • Technical reporting for main Darwin projects:
    • Half year reports due 31st October
    • Annual Reports due 30th April
    • Final Reports due within 3 months of project end (please note there are different requirements for the small schemes)
Can I/ How do I make changes to my project?

Any changes to your project, including budget spread, need to be approved via the Change Request process. There is a template available here which includes detailed guidance. There are two main types of request:

  • Financial: involves the movement of funds from one financial year to another. For these requests we require a clear justification and will not grant requests due to poor budget management
  • Other: these requests cover everything else, such as changes to staffing, logframes, and the movement of funds across budget lines within the same financial year. In other words, any changes to the currently agreed project that would make a significant change.

Please ensure that your request is clear and provides adequate justification for any changes.

What does Darwin mean by financial years?

Project budgets are required to follow the UK Government financial years which run from 1st April to 31st March.

What does Darwin mean by budget lines?

Budget lines are the high-level summary categories such as “Travel and Subsistence” or “Staff Costs”.

Can I make changes to the project budget without submitting a change request?

You can operate with some flexibility between budget lines within a financial year (of up to 10% in any one high level budget line), but cannot change the total annual budget. If you overspend on one line, you must ensure you cover that from another line or meet the additional costs from other matched funding or from within your own organisation. If there is more than 10% change to any budget line within a specific financial year, you need agreement from Defra through the Change Request process.

Is it possible to carry over unspent budget within a financial year?

No – carry forwards are not allowed (the change request form has more specific guidance). But if you need to review the full budget, you can submit a change request to revise the spread of funds across the years

Is it possible to overspend in total yearly budget? (e.g. £1,000 out of £100,000 yearly budget)

You cannot spend more than your awarded grant in any particular year from Darwin funds. If you do need to spend more money, this additional money must come from other sources. You will need to submit a change request if you are rebudgeting Darwin grant money between financial years.

Is it possible to request additional funds under certain circumstances?

No, the total grant amount cannot increase. Any changes you are proposing to your project needs to be managed within this overall award figure amount, although movement of money between budget lines and financial years can be considered through the change request process.

Do we need to substantiate annual actual spend claims with evidencing documents?

No. The claim form is signed to certify spend is accurate. You should hold all the documentation, but we will only ask to see if it you are asked to take part in a Spot Audit.

Is there any flexibility around timing of submitting the claim forms – e.g. if there is a delay for some reason would that render the claim void?

Payment schedules are detailed the Finance Guidance and in the T&Cs. For main projects, as the Advance claims are simply 25% of your total grant award for that year, we you should submit your claim within the quarter it is for. Q4 end of year Actual claims are due by 31st  May, and claims submitted more than 3 months after the financial year end (i.e. after 30th June) may not be paid. Defra expects you to demonstrate good financial management by submitting timely claims. You are expected to submit claims to the deadlines in the guidance. Defra requires accurate financial information to report on fund management and this is only possible if claims are submitted on time. If you believe your project is likely to underspend, please do not submit a claim that would take you over what you expect to spend. Please get in touch to discuss what is happening with your project.

Do we need to submit hard copies of the claim forms?

Projects are not required to submit hard copies of their claim forms, we are happy to accept electronic versions.

How do I change the signatory information for my project?

To change your project signatories, please complete the amendment to signatory form which can be found under 'Signatory and supplier forms' here and send this to Darwin Finance at

When does the project audit have to happen?

The project audit should take place when the project has ended and all expenditure has been gathered in. It should be completed and submitted within 6 months of the formal project end date. There are different levels of audit requirement and the amount varies depending on the grant figure:

  • Projects over £50k but under £100k need an audit statement which can be by an independent examiner and need not be a formal audit.
  • Projects over £100k but under £600k need and end of project audit.
  • Projects over £600k require annual audits as well as a full end of project audit.
How do we account for/acquit funds that transferred for use by partners for their activities?

It is your responsibility to ensure you have adequate reporting and evidence from partners to account for all funds you send them. We would recommend this is done in a way that meets your own organisation’s financial processes and requirements.

How will the auditing of collaborating partners abroad be managed?

Our audit requirements currently only relate to the lead organisation. When it comes to accounting for the spend of partners, please apply your own organisation systems ensuring they are appropriate for use by your auditor/independent examiner.

At the end of the project, can we plan for the audit to take place before the final project report is submitted to Darwin?

Yes – but it should include all project costs. Ideally, the audit will happen alongside the writing of the final report so they can be submitted together.

Will all the award paperwork be received electronically, or will hard copies be required?

All award paperwork will be shared electronically. No hard copies are required.


Is it possible to discuss queries before the reporting deadlines?

Yes, we are happy to support on both technical and financial reporting queries before the deadlines. We would recommend considering the guidance contained in the reporting templates as well as looking at relevant information notes that can be found here.

Should there be an unforeseen challenge in meeting the reporting deadline, is there room to negotiate for extension of the deadline?

Contact the mailbox relevant to your fund ( in advance of the deadline – there is room to negotiate on a case by case basis, but remember that the reporting deadlines are fixed and known in advance, so you should plan to meet them as far as possible.

Are there reporting requirements for the partner organisations included in our grant budget?

The lead organisation, as the grantee, is responsible for all reporting. You may wish to ask for, or require, input from partners and we would always recommend this and like to see input into reporting from partners – however there are no strict requirements. Your budget should already include scope for partners to contribute to project reporting as part of their input to the project.

Is there overlap between reports? Do you include information from the half-year report in the annual report, or just the previous 6 months?

Half Year Reports cover the period 1st April to 30th September and annual reports cover the period 1st April to March 31st (i.e. you will need to report on the April-September period twice – however, the level of detail required at the half year reporting stage is much less).

Are templates of technical and financial reports available?

Yes, templates can be found online here. Please note that the templates are updated each year so please check for the latest version.

What supplementary material should be included with project reports?

You should submit sufficient evidence to support claims made in your report, however we do not need to see all project documentation, as this cannot be reviewed in detail by the independent reviewer. We recommend you use a common-sense approach – consider sampling key documents or providing only sections of longer reports. They key thing is that we have independent evidence of claims you make and an indication of the technical quality of your work. Please ensure it is clear which annexes support which elements of your reporting (such as clear cross referencing).

When will feedback be received on annual reports?

Once you have submitted your annual report, it is independently reviewed by a monitoring and evaluation expert. Please allow up to 8 weeks for us to return the completed annual report review to you.

What do I do next if this page doesn't answer my question?

For queries not addressed here, see our Contact page.

For queries not addressed here, see our Contact page