The following policy statements are intended to explain Comic Relief's position on a number of key issues that relate to its grant making and grant management. However, Comic Relief reserves the right to review or amend its policy position to take account of changing circumstances or where the context of a specific proposal is particularly complex.
Applying to Comic Relief for a grant
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.
Applying for continuation funding
Comic Relief may consider proposals for work we have previously funded in whole or part. Proposals must fit within the current grants strategy and should respond to an open initiative. Such proposals would be subject to our usual assessment and decision making process. Applicants would be expected to have provided evidence of good performance and impact of their previous grant, and have undertaken and submitted a satisfactory evaluation or report as defined in the offer letter for their previous grant, prior to submitting a new proposal.
Applicants would also be expected to provide evidence of the need for further funds. We are keen to see organisations diversifying their funding base and not become over dependent on any single source of funding, including our own. For this reason, we would not usually expect to fund an organisation for the same work more than three times.
Comic Relief is open to proposals for work previously funded by other donors. If a proposal is submitted for work that has been previously funded by another donor, the proposal and assessment process would need to see evidence of, and reference to, good performance and impact of the previous grant.
Responding to 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.
Funding religious activities
Comic Relief will not fund activities which evangelise (the practice of preaching or spreading religious beliefs), or proselytise (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.
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.
Comic Relief is very 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.
Commitment to safeguarding, equality and diversity
Comic Relief is committed to the principles of equality and diversity. Through our grant-making 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 grant from Comic Relief.
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.
Approaches / Methodologies
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 basic 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.
Statutory funding 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, proposals must demonstrate how local staff, volunteers and consultants will be supported to take on the responsibilities during the course of the project.
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. Comic Relief will question any rates which appear disproportionately high or low. Where the eventual inflation rate is significantly higher than expected, we are unable to provide any further funding to supplement grants. However, we can take a flexible approach and will consider proposals from the grant recipient on how restructuring budgets will help alleviate the impact of higher than anticipated inflation.
Exchange and interest rate gains and losses
Comic Relief acknowledges that where a foreign currency loses its value against the pound, there will be less money available to deliver activities but it is unable to provide any further funding to supplement grants. However, we can take a flexible approach and will consider proposals from the grant recipient on how restructuring their budgets will minimise the impact of losses. Where there are more advantageous exchange rates than originally envisaged in the proposal there will be a resulting underspend. We would expect the grant recipient to discuss with Comic Relief staff whether the underspend could be used to enhance the existing project and, if not, would require it to be returned or withheld from final payment.
Comic Relief appreciates that grant recipients may earn money on grant funds held prior to being spent on the project (e.g. by accruing interest). Comic Relief takes the view that it would neither be appropriate nor feasible to require grant recipients to report to us on sums earned. We do not require such gains to be returned to Comic Relief, but expect that these gains would be allocated to work within the spirit of the original grant agreement.
Capital expenditure and managing assets
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, applicants must be able to demonstrate how it will be used to achieve a demonstrable social impact, reflected in the organisation’s overall purpose as stated in its 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 must be clearly demonstrated that any assets acquired will be used during and at the end of the funded activities in the spirit of the original grant agreement.
Grant recipients must be able to show that no conflicts of interest exist between the parties acquiring or providing the assets and that they comply with relevant national laws and guidelines on the disposal of assets.
Match funding and Co-funding
Comic Relief is willing to fund up to 100% of the cost of a proposal. However applicants are encouraged to seek other sources of funding for their proposals. 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.
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.
Paying for long-term periods of absence on Comic Relief funded posts
Comic Relief is willing to fund up to 100% of the salary costs for staff posts that are included in proposals. In the event that a staff member funded with Comic Relief money goes on a long-term leave of absence, Comic Relief’s funding should be directed to a replacement of that post.
Any support that the grant recipient provides to the absent staff member in addition to statutory entitlements would come out of its own contingencies. Comic Relief will not in normal circumstances provide any additional funding, however we can take a flexible approach and will consider proposals from the grant recipient on how restructuring their budgets will minimise the impact of that absence. We recognise that where projects are delivered by staff with mental health or long term health conditions, organisations may wish to budget for more frequent absence periods.
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 the applicant 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.
Comic Relief is a Living Wage employer and expects all salaries 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.