Guidance on applying for funding

We give guidance below to support you when applying for funding with Comic Relief and to explain our position on a number of areas.

About applying




About applying

Countries where we fund

For projects in the UK, we fund work in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. However, please check the eligibility criteria for the initiative through which you wish to apply as some initiatives may have restrictions.

For our international work, we primarily fund work in sub-Saharan Africa, but also fund work in a limited number of locations outside of Africa. Please check the eligibility criteria for the initiative to which you wish to apply.

Who we fund

Comic Relief welcomes proposals from organisations registered in the United Kingdom (including the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man). Proposals may also be accepted for work in the UK from UK non-registered organisations which have a formal signed constitution.

The governing documents of an organisation that is not also a registered charity must clearly outline the organisation’s social purpose, demonstrate that any profit or assets are used for this social purpose, and show that an asset lock is in place. We will ask for a copy of your governing documents as part of your application.

Depending on the funding initiative, Comic Relief may also welcome proposals from organisations registered outside of the UK.

Commitment to safeguarding, equality and diversity

Comic Relief is committed to the principles of equality and diversity. Through our funding we also have a strong commitment to protect those most at risk. We therefore expect all organisations we fund (including international partners funded through a UK-based organisation) to either have an equality/diversity policy and relevant safeguarding policies in place or to have plans to develop these in the immediate future. We can support organisations to develop these policies as part of their funding from Comic Relief.

How to submit a proposal

All proposals must be submitted through on our funding management system GEM. First you will need to register as a user. Once you’ve done this, you’ll need to link yourself to an existing organisation or create the organisation if we do not already know about it. If you’re linking yourself to an existing organisation, we’ll need to check with their current proposal administrator as to whether you’re authorised to make proposals on their behalf. Once you’re linked to an organisation, you’ll be able to submit proposals on their behalf of that organisation through GEM

Support before you submit your proposal

We have limited resources relative to the number of proposals we receive and, therefore, are not usually able discuss your proposal with you before you submit. As well as the information we provide on our website, for each initiative we also provide an applicant guidance document tailored to the specific questions we will ask you in the proposal. This will be available to you in GEM once you have started your proposal. If you have a particular issue that needs resolving before submitting, please email and we'll do our best to help you.

Submission of applications by previously unsuccessful applicants

Comic Relief will only consider proposals from organisations who have previously failed our compliance checks if the issues we identified have subsequently been addressed. Comic Relief will not accept proposals for projects which we have previously decided not to fund, unless we have invited an organisation to resubmit their proposal. Any organisation weaknesses identified through our assessment would need to have been addressed.

Comic Relief will consider proposals from organisations with previously unsuccessful proposals as long as their new proposal is for a different piece of work. This may be differentiated through the type of activities, the location of the work or the target beneficiaries.

Feedback if my proposal is not successful

We get a lot of applications and unfortunately can’t provide feedback on proposals which do not make it through to the full assessment stage (other than what’s in the letter of notification). We’ll provide written feedback on unsuccessful proposals which make it through to assessment and, in some cases, may provide telephone feedback. This will be made clear in the letter of notification.

Appeals if my proposal is not successful

Comic Relief works hard to ensure that all proposals are thoroughly considered and that everyone is treated equally and fairly. However, we will not consider appeals against the rejection of a proposal. If you are unhappy with your experience of Comic Relief, and have genuine concerns about the way an assessment has been undertaken, or the general service provided, this should be dealt with through the complaints procedure.



Fundraising appeals and requests for sponsorship

Comic Relief does not support or fund general appeals, individual and group sponsorship, marketing appeals, proposals for bursaries from individuals or proposals from individuals for the funding of study or attainment of qualifications.

Religious activities

Comic Relief will not fund activities which evangelise (the practice of preaching or spreading religious beliefs), or proselytize (the practice of trying to convert people to one’s own belief or religious views).

We recognise that faith-based organisations undertake valuable work in supporting disadvantaged and marginalised communities both in the UK and internationally, and we are able to support their work. We would expect these organisations to be able to evidence the practical implementation of their diversity policy, so that people from all faiths or none can become a member of staff, board member, volunteer, or benefit from the work. We would also expect any partners working internationally to be taking an inclusive approach to their work.


Comic Relief is unlikely to fund one-off conferences or workshops as it is difficult to demonstrate what impact such events are likely to achieve. However we are willing to fund conferences, workshops and other gatherings as part of a longer-term project where, for example, it can be shown that such events will help to bring about improvements in the implementation and outcomes of projects, influence wider policy development, or share knowledge and experience with interested parties.

Political campaigning

Comic Relief seeks to effect change in society, to bring about our vision of a Just World Free from Poverty.

However Comic Relief cannot support organisations which adopt a partisan political stance or activities which are party political. Comic Relief will take particular care to respect the Charity Commission of England and Wales and the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator guidance, as well as relevant policies in countries where our funding is being spent - on this issue and we expect all charities we fund to do likewise.

To help move closer to our vision we will support activities that seek to influence public opinion or public policy. Comic Relief will not support organisations that advocate the use of violence as a means to campaign or influence public opinion.

Working with private providers

Where proposals include the engagement of private providers (e.g. as service providers or consultants) as part of a project to deliver specific objectives, applicant organisations are required to demonstrate that the use of a private provider is ultimately resulting in public good, rather than solely private profit for those private providers.

Funding institutional care

Comic Relief upholds the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which is emphatic that a positive family environment is paramount for the good development of a child. Comic Relief will not fund work where the long-term institutional care of children or young people is a preferred way of working over the longer -term (e.g. setting up or running orphanages). Where short-term, temporary institutional care is used as part of an intervention to support children and young people, applicants will need to demonstrate how the work they propose seeks to develop and implement community-based alternatives.

Funding services in an International context

Comic Relief is unwilling to fund the provision of services that are the primary and legal responsibility of government. However, we recognise that in some cases government provision of basic services may be weak or non-existent; therefore in exceptional cases we may be willing to fund the provision of some services. An example of this could be the provision of basic education for conflict affected children.

Funding services in a UK context

Comic Relief will not fund services or activities which are the responsibility of the state. However, we are aware that in the UK relationships and responsibilities between the state, civil society and the private sector are changing. Where there is a grey area, we will always consider the value and implications of awarding charitable funding.

We believe that charitable funders can sometimes play a useful role in helping organisations manage the loss of funding or contracts from statutory bodies. Whilst we will not usually replace a direct cut in statutory funding, we may bridge a gap to a more robust future, help organisations think differently about new income streams or support a new or different way of delivering the service.

Using local expertise in an international context

Comic Relief is committed to supporting local businesses, skills and expertise. To that end, we expect applicants and their partner organisations to recruit staff, volunteers and consultants from the country or regions where the work is being implemented. Where a strong case is made for the use of non-local expertise, your proposal will must demonstrate how local staff, volunteers and consultants will be supported to take on the responsibilities during the course of the project.



Funding capital costs

Comic Relief will not usually fund building costs, the purchase of vehicles, land or heavy equipment unless it can be clearly shown that such expenditure is proportionately small in relation to the overall budget and adequately justified as essential to the proposed activity. In these instances, you must be able to demonstrate how it will be used to achieve a demonstrable social impact, reflected in your organisation’s overall purpose as stated in the Articles of Association or other relevant documents. Applicants must also be able to demonstrate how sufficient funds have been allocated in the budget to ensure the effective use and management of the asset over its life and the duration of the funded activities. Comic Relief is willing to fund small capital items such as office furniture and computers.

When high value items are being acquired, applicants are expected to have a procurement policy in place which represents good practice. Where capital expenditure is approved, it will have been clearly demonstrated how any assets acquired will be used during and at the end of the funded activities within the spirit of the funding agreement.

Budgeting for inflation

Comic Relief expects all applicants to provide an explanation of how they have addressed likely inflation in their project budgets. The inflation rate used will depend on current and projected inflation rates in the country where activity is being delivered, as well as the particular items of expenditure. We will question any rates which appear disproportionately high or low.

Full cost recovery

Comic Relief supports the principle of full cost recovery; as well as funding project costs it will make a reasonable, proportionate contribution towards an organisation’s overhead costs. Overhead costs included in the budget must be shown to be essential to the effective delivery of the proposed activities. There is no set formula, but organisations should be able to demonstrate clearly how they have arrived at the overhead costs and we will look at these in relation to the size of the organisation and scale of the work. We are willing to fund up to 100% of the salary costs for staff posts that are included in proposals where post-holders are working solely on the work we are being asked to fund.

Match and Co-funding

Comic Relief is willing to fund up to 100% of the cost of a proposal. However you are encouraged to seek other sources of funding for your proposal. Comic Relief would usually expect to fund a minimum of 25% of the total costs of the proposed activities to ensure that it has a meaningful stake as a funder. We recognise that many organisations will apply for funding from a range of sources and therefore match funding does not need to be confirmed at the time of application. However, where we feel that other funding is essential for the success of your proposal, we may ask you for confirmation that this is in place before making any payments if a funding is awarded.

Considering your reserves

Where an applicant’s unrestricted reserves are more than one year’s running costs, we expect applicants to make a significant contribution to the costs of the proposed activities. We may not fund the proposal if we feel your organisation has enough to pay for the proposed activities itself. However we will not penalise organisations for holding reasonable reserves to meet organisation liabilities.

By unrestricted reserves, we mean reserves which are not committed legally or contractually for a specific use but are free to be designated by your organisation in furtherance of your objectives.

Living Wage

Comic Relief is a Living Wage employer and a Living Wage Friendly Funder and expects all UK salaries and staff costs included within proposal budgets to reflect the Living Wage. When we talk about staff or salary costs this covers any posts you are asking us to fund in full, part contributions to a staff post (i.e. you are asking us to pay for 50% of a role), sessional workers, interns or apprentices. Find out more about the Living Wage here.