Children Survive and Thrive: Rise and Shine

12 noon GMT on 22 March 2019

We are inviting applications from Kenya, Malawi and the United Kingdom

We will commit funding for 3 to 5 years

Up to £150K in the UK and up to £300K in Kenya and Malawi with larger investments in some cases

Apply now

“We believe every child has the right to the best start in life”

“We want all children to achieve their potential during the first years of life through good health, nutrition, opportunities for early learning, responsive and supportive caregiving, safety and protection”


The opportunity

We are excited to launch this funding opportunity focused on community action for early childhood development – to help make sure that all children have the best possible start, and become happy, healthy and confident individuals.  

For the past twenty years, a growing body of evidence has shown that significant results in children’s development can be achieved through critical support from the time of pregnancy through the early years of life.  

The aim of this programme is to support child-centred approaches, and to make progress in addressing the comprehensive development needs of children during their early years, up to and including their transition to primary school.  These child-centred approaches should be based on recognised good practice.

What do we mean by a child-centred approach? 

Early childhood development needs to be integrated simply because young children and their parents have holistic needs.  An integrated approach can include the following elements:

  • Grow – children’s health and nutrition 
  • Love – responsiveness to children, and caring and supportive relationships
  • Play and Learn – children’s stimulation and early learning
  • Safe – safety and protection in homes and communities
  • Secure – linking family’s needs and social protection programmes (e.g. child benefits)

It is also important to meet the needs of children who are at high risk of not achieving their full developmental potential.  

  • For example, this can include children at greater risk of malnutrition or disease, or with insufficient opportunities for early learning  
  • There could also be a focus on children and families who are experiencing or at high risk of neglect or abuse
  • Programmes could build resilience among children with adverse childhood experiences

Early childhood development also needs to be inclusive.  

  • This means organisations will often support early development of children who have developmental difficulties or disabilities, who are marginalised, or are living in deprivation 
  • It is also important that equity is carefully monitored

Proposals might also consider how to address harmful gender-related barriers to early childhood development.  This could include gender-based roles of parents and other carers – e.g. the burden of care that is often carried by women, addressed through greater involvement of male family members.  It could also include gender norms related to both girls and boys having equal access to support from their family, community and local services.

We are interested in work that:

  • Adopts the principles of children’s rights to survive and thrive, leaving no child behind, and supporting child-centred and family-centred care and nurturing
  • Uses a participatory approach at all project stages, and values the experience and insights of people who are directly affected by factors that impede early childhood development, including parents, family members and other carers, and communities.  Depending on the age group, this can also include children’s views, e.g. through child-to-child approaches 

Young children also have specific needs in different age groups.  The precise age groups can vary depending on policies and programmes that are prevalent in your country, such as the age when children start primary or pre-primary school.  Some organisations may have a clear rationale to concentrate on one of these age groups, and others may have the ability to include both:  

Infants and toddlers, from conception to the third birthday

This period is recognised as a key window to ensure early development, and an important time to reach vulnerable families.  Children at this stage are very susceptible to environmental influences – e.g. the mother’s stress during pregnancy (both physical and emotional), and the baby’s opportunities for growth, love and play up to their third birthday.  Nurturing care during this period will influence children’s health, well-being, learning and productivity throughout their lives.  

From 3 years of age, up to and including the young child’s successful transition to primary school  

For young children from the age of 3 years, pre-school learning starts to become important.  At the same time, health and nutrition remain essential priorities, and children’s own hygiene practices also become important.  Some existing efforts at this stage of life include integration of care and education by providing learning with nutrition, health checks and family support (sometimes referred to as “early childhood development, care and education”).  These and other approaches attempt to provide support in a way that is user-friendly and appropriate for young children and their parents.  

We want to hear from locally-rooted organisations about the solutions you believe will work, demonstrating how these are informed by your experience of programme implementation and the experiences of those most affected by the issues.  

Funding criteria

We will make investments in organisations that directly support families with young children.  

Organisations with demonstrable experience in one or more of the key areas – for instance in health, or in education – may be able to extend this and integrate multiple elements of early childhood development.  

However, we do not expect organisations to be able to achieve all this on their own.  

  • To meet the holistic needs of children it may be important to create strong linkages from communities to different services, and ensure integrated follow-up with families after they return home
  • Some organisations might also consider a specific approach, such as implementing a missing key activity in local communities, e.g. community-based and pre-school activities that address gaps in young children’s holistic needs
  • We also welcome applications from organisations working in partnership

Alongside direct delivery, your application could also include complementary activities.  For example:

  • Building capacity to improve the delivery of early childhood development
  • Developing or influencing guidelines, procedures, policies and implementation plans 
  • Acting on opportunities for making progress for children in collaboration with other key stakeholders
  • Strengthening organisations driving these changes, to ensure the work has long term benefit

In developing your application, you should be able to: 

  • Demonstrate your understanding of the context of the location(s) where the work will take place.  Data is more readily available for some aspects of early childhood development and less so for others, depending on the local context.  However, your proposal should clearly identify relevant needs of young children and their families, priority issues and gaps for early childhood development, availability of services and other support, and relevant government policy and programmes
  • Propose a feasible set of actions that directly reach children and their families, using a comprehensive approach to early childhood development that will address a clear set of identified obstacles

What we want to learn from this work

We want to work with people who are interested in engaging in shared learning, and we will support collaboration between funded partners.  We hope this will contribute to learning about the value of grassroots efforts for early childhood development, and how key stakeholders and funders can provide support that creates long-term change.  

Shared learning activities will run alongside your own organisation's efforts. You will also be expected to have your own learning questions about the specific work you are doing, its outcomes and impact.

Cross-cutting approaches

We will consider supporting one of the following approaches as part of this funding opportunity.  However, they do not have to be included in your proposed work.  

  • We welcome applications using Sport for Change approaches – please see the website and the guide to applying for Sport for Change funding
  • We also welcome Social Tech approaches: a tailored digital approach using a range of technologies (low or high tech) can contribute to early childhood development, and enable more ambitious services and solutions.  In proposing this approach, you will need to demonstrate that you understand how to manage a successful digital project, and you have sound internal or external technical expertise for managing and delivering it.  At a minimum, some research into the need, demand and expected value of this digital approach will have already taken place.  The proposed solution must be appropriate for the context in which you are working.  It will also focus on specific user needs in its design, delivery and development, with potential to improve or transform existing service models to achieve greater scale or sustainability 

What we will fund

  • Funding is available for 3 to 5 years
  • In the UK we will make investments of £150K and below, and in Kenya and Malawi we will make investments of £300K and below.  
  • In some cases, we may approve investments at a higher level – up to £300K in the UK, and up to £750K in Kenya and Malawi – for organisations that will both deliver strong community-level efforts and also contribute to strategic changes. For example, this could be through a combination of supporting families directly, and influencing stakeholders, policy or guidelines at local or national level.  Please note, however, that we do not expect to fund many grants at the higher level.
  • The investment can be used to cover specific activities, or a combination of activities and the organisation’s core costs or overheads.  If an organisation’s main purpose is to advance early childhood development, and it can demonstrate its impact, we may consider funding core costs only. 


  • As of 7 January Comic Relief changed these funding criteria, so please read the following carefully.
  • The applicant organisation must have a minimum annual income of £250,000 a year in the UK, or £75,000 in Kenya or Malawi. The applicant must also not have an annual income of more than £10 million. This needs to be shown in your most recent annual accounts submitted to the relevant authority.  
  • All organisations must apply within the funding limits for the Rise and Shine programme as outlined above. 
  • In addition, Comic Relief aims to fund no more the 40% of an organisation’s future annual income. This limit applies to the overall funding amount for your organisation and includes any funding distributed to partners. 
  • The 40% limit will apply to the percentage of the organisation’s total funding per year, after Comic Relief’s investment is added to other income your organisation already receives. The simplest way of calculating the maximum annual funding request to Comic Relief is to multiply last year’s income by two-thirds. This amount will represent 40% of the forecast annual income if your proposal is successful. 
  • For example, an organisation in Kenya or Malawi with income of £75,000 as shown in its latest annual accounts can apply for average yearly funding of up to £50,000.  Its forecast income will be £125,000 a year on average. (£50,000 is 40% of £125,000.) In this case, if the proposal is for three years of funding, the total request can be 3 x £50,000 or a maximum request of £150,000.
  • This will apply to the average annual funding - so we will consider budgets that have higher amounts in some years, as long as the average annual funding is within the new 40% limit.

Who can apply?

  • Proposals can be made by single applicants, or by partnerships of two or three organisations that will receive funding (but only one organisation can act as grant holder)
  • Comic Relief predominantly funds charities.  We will always prioritise applications from organisations that are registered in the country where the work will take place.  Applicants are welcome to include partners not registered in the country, but must be able to clearly demonstrate the added value of all partners included in the proposal.
  • In addition, you are welcome to include collaboration with government organisations, but Comic Relief will not fund government organisations
  • To give as many organisations as fair a chance as possible, organisations can only submit one proposal (though they can be named as partners on any number of applications). Please be aware we will never read more than one proposal per organisation


Please note there is a two-stage application process.

  • The deadline for first stage applications will be 12 noon GMT on Friday 22 March 2019 
  • If your application is shortlisted you will be given a further 6 weeks (not 7 weeks as previously stated) to submit a full proposal, and the Stage 2 deadline will be 12 noon GMT on Friday 31 May
  • Stage 2 proposals will then be shortlisted for a full assessment
  • Once assessments are completed, the funding decisions will be made by the Comic Relief Trustees by the end of September 2019

Information needed in the concept note at Stage 1

At the concept note stage, the following are some of the things we will want you to explain

  • The people who will benefit, and the problems they face in their lives
  • The changes you expect to see as a result of your proposed work
  • The types and numbers of people benefitting directly, including core target groups, frontline workers and other direct beneficiaries
  • What you will do to help people to address their problems
  • Why you think this approach will be effective
  • Who will be involved in delivering the activities, and what they will do
  • The location and duration of this work
  • The total amount of funding requested per year, and for each of the funded partners
  • For your organisation and any funded partner: the organisation’s purpose, what it is most proud of, and why it is well placed to carry out this work

If you want, you can include a video of up to two minutes to summarise what you want us fund.  Please note, however, that this is not a requirement.

You can follow this link to download the Stage 1 proposal guidance*.

*This was updated on 9 January. You may need to clear your browser cache to view the updated version. 

Further information that will be needed at Stage 2

If your proposal is approved for stage 2, some of the things you will need to explain are the following (complete guidance for the full proposal will be made available to successful applicants at stage 2).

  • How you involved the target groups in developing the initiative, and how you will listen and respond to them during its delivery
  • Risks for beneficiaries, staff or others in the community and how these will be mitigated
  • Monitoring, evaluation and learning, including what you will track to show change is happening, what you want to learn, and how you will use the learning
  • How your organisation has managed safeguarding concerns 
  • A detailed budget
  • More information about each partner organisation and their annual finances, key organisational policies, and constitutional documents.


Further Guidance