How to apply for CEPF funds

biodiversityPhoto: © HHCC/Lu Gang 2015

Call for Proposals

IUCN announces open calls for proposals related to CEPF on this page. Check here regularly for future opportunities, or follow IUCN Asia on social media for announcements.

General FAQs

Grant size and duration

What is the upper limit for the size of grants?
Small grants are those for funding amounts up to USD40,000.  Large grants are those for funding amounts between USD40,000 to USD250,000. During Phase II of CEPF's investment in the Indo-Burma hotspot (2013-2020), the average size of large grants was just over USD160,000.  Please see ( for more information.

We prefer that budgets are made to reflect the expected cost of the work, rather than aiming to create a project that suits the maximum possible grant size.  

What is the maximum duration of projects funded by CEPF?
The maximum length is five years. In practice, small grants are usually 1-2 years in length, and large grants usually 1-3 years in length.


Organisational Eligibility

The organisation that I work for is not yet legally registered. Can I apply for funding? 
No. Organisations applying for funding must have some form of legal registration (details of registration will vary by country).

What can we do if we are not legally registered?
You could work in collaboration with a registered organisation on a project seeking to build the capacity of NGOs by securing their official registration. Work of this kind would relate to Strategic Direction 8: “Strengthen the capacity of civil society to work on biodiversity, communities, and livelihoods at regional, national, local and grassroots levels.”

The organisation I work for is legally registered but does not have a bank account in its own name (it uses a personal bank account). Is this a problem?
This is a problem because the use of personal bank accounts to manage project funds represents an unacceptable risk from a financial perspective. To receive funding a legally registered organisation must have a bank account in the name of the organisation.  

Are small grants only available to local NGOs?
No. Small grants are available to all eligible organisations.

Are large grants only available to international organisations? 
No. Large grants are available to all eligible organisations.

I work for a university. It operates independently from government but is a public body. Can I apply for funding?
Public universities are typically eligible for funding. However, this varies across CEPF regions. To be eligible for funding, an organization must be able to demonstrate that it has a legal personality independent of any government agency or sector. It must have the authority to apply for and receive private funds, and must not be in a position to assert a claim of sovereign immunity.

The following questions may help you determine this:

  • Does the organisation have private (as opposed to appropriated) sources of funds?
  • Can the organisation open and maintain a separate bank account for private funding?
  • Will CEPF or any of its funding sources have access to books and records in order to conduct a full project financial audit?
  • If CEPF had to disallow costs, is the organisation legally permitted to reimburse CEPF for such disallowed costs?
  • Can the organisation subject itself to binding arbitration to resolve disputes?

If you have any concerns, please feel free to contact the Regional Implementation Team (RIT) at

I work for a private company. Can I apply for funding?
Yes. Private companies are considered civil society organisations by CEPF. However, the company must not take any indirect costs/overheads/management support percentage, etc. Compensation for staff time must simply be salaries and must not incorporate any fee. The company should be prepared to share financial documentation if it is required by the CEPF financial risk assessment.

Can I apply for funding as an individual, not connected to an organisation?
No. CEFP funding is not available to individuals. You must apply through a legally registered organisation.

I work for local/regional government. Can I apply for funding?
No. CEPF funding is not available to government.


Strategic directions

I find the language of the Strategic Directions quite hard to understand. Do you have a simple summary?

  • SD1 aims to safeguard priority, globally threatened species, and can only be used to address those species identified in Table 28 of the Ecosystem Profile. Projects can be undertaken anywhere in the Hotspot.
  • SD2 seeks to mitigate zoonotic disease risks by reducing illegal trande and consumption of and threats to wildlife. Projects can be undertaken anywhere in the Hotspot.
  • SD4 seeks to engage local communities in the management of priority sites, and must be undertaken in one or more of the priority KBAs (Table 27 in the CEPF Ecosystem Profile).
  • SD6 is about demonstrating scalable approaches for integrating biodiversity and ecosystem services into development planning in the priority corridors. Projects must take place in one of the five priority corridors (Table 27) or one of the 24 limestone karst KBAs in Myanmar.
  • SD8 is about strengthening civil society, from grassroots right up to regional levels, and can take place anywhere in the Hotspot.

The work I want to do relates to more than one Strategic Direction (SD). How can I explain this in my Letter of Inquiry (LoI)?
Your LoI must be aimed at one single SD. This must be stated in the LoI under the section “Strategic Direction from the CEPF Ecosystem Profile.” However, we appreciate that in reality, most projects will have impacts that relate to more than one SD. Your LoI can explain this under “Link to CEPF Investment Strategy.”

What will happen if I submit a LoI focusing on multiple SDs?
If you submit a LoI that states multiple SDs under the item “Strategic Direction from the CEPF Ecosystem Profile,” the RIT will contact you and ask you to select one. If you do not select one SD at this stage, your LoI will not be considered for funding.

Does my project have to focus on one Investment Priority (IP)?
Your project does not have to focus on one IP. Some funded projects will relate to one IP. Some may relate to more than one. In rare cases, some might not directly relate to any IPs. LoI will be reviewed and evaluated for their relevance to the priorities of CEPF (among other criteria). All other things being equal, LoIs that closely relate to one or more IP are more likely to be funded than LoIs that do not.

The call for Letters of Inquiry (LoI) states that projects must relate to only certain SDs. What about the other SDs mentioned in the ecosystem profile? How can I apply for funding under these?
Although the Ecosystem Profile identifies 11 Strategic Directions for the Indo-Burma Hotspot, CEPF only provides funding for six SDs. During each call for LoIs CEPF and IUCN will indicate which of the six eligible SDs are open for the submission of LoIs. Note, one of the SDs specifically supports the services of the RIT.   However, the remaining SDs (3, 5, 7, 9 and 10) are priorities for other donors. Please note that some of these donors operate on an invitation-only basis, not through open calls for proposals and that they do not accept unsolicited applications.

I want funding for a species-focussed project (SD1: “Safeguard priority globally threatened species by mitigating major threats”), but the species I work in is not listed on Table 28 of the Ecosystem Profile. Can I apply under SD1 anyway?
No. Projects funded under SD1 can only relate to the species listed in Table 28 of the Ecosystem Profile (page 234), or on Ailao toad (Bufo ailaoanus), which has become eligible for CEPF investment following a reassessment of its global threat status on the IUCN Red List. However, your work might be eligible for funding under a different SD. For example, if the species is threatened by illegal wildlife trade, you could write a LoI that focusses on SD2. If you want to protect this species through building the capacity of civil society organisations, you could write a LoI that focusses on SD8.

But I think that this species should be a CEPF priority. Can species be added to Table 28?
The species listed in Table 28 were chosen through a priority-setting exercise carried out in the development of the Ecosystem Profile. The profile also includes a list of “Provisional Priority Species” (Appendix 4). Any of these species could become eligible for CEPF investment if their global threat status was reassessed as globally threatened during the five‐year investment phase.

I want funding for work relating to SD4: “Empower local communities to engage in conservation and management of priority key biodiversity areas.” How can I find out if my site is in a Priority KBA?
There is a list of priority sites in Table 27 (page 229) of the Ecosystem Profile. In addition, Figures 7 to 12c (pages 48 to 70) include the locations of all the KBAs in the Hotspot. Priority KBAs are those that are darkly shaded in the Figures, and are all found within the CEPF priority corridors (Chindwin River, Mekong and Major Tributaries, Myanmar Limestone Karst, Northern Plains Seasonally Inundated Forests, Sino-Vietnamese Limestone, Tonle-Sap Lake and Inundation Zone).


CEPF priorities

Can work funded by CEPF only focus on the CEPF priority species?
No. Work funded by CEPF can address any species in the hotspot. The only SD that imposes restrictions on species is SD1: “Safeguard priority globally threatened species by mitigating major threats.” Work under SDs 2, 4, 6, or 8 can relate to any species.

Investment priority 1.3 is to “conduct research on globally threatened species for which there is a need for greatly improved information on status and distribution.” Am I free to decide which species these are, or has CEPF already determined this?
The fourth column on Table 28 of the Ecosystem Profile (page 234) states which priority species have an “overriding need for improved information.” There are currently 24 priority species in this category.

Can work funded by CEPF only focus on the priority corridors?
No. Work funded by CEPF can be carried out anywhere in the Hotspot. The only SD that requires a focus on the priority corridors is SD6: “Demonstrate scalable approaches for integrating biodiveristy and ecosystem services into development planning in the priority corridors. ”

Can work funded by CEPF only focus on the priority KBAs?
No. Work funded by CEPF can be carried out anywhere in the Hotspot. The only SD that requires a focus on priority KBAs is SD4: “Empower local communities to engage in conservation and management of priority sites.”

Can work funded by CEPF only focus on the Hotspot?



I ticked “yes” to one or more of the safeguard questions on the LoI template. Does this mean that my project is less likely to be funded?
No. Triggering safeguards is not a problem. Projects that trigger safeguards are not less likely to be funded unless they include ineligible activities. The RIT will contact you if further steps are necessary to respond to the safeguards, and we may ask that you make some revisions to your LoI.



Do all Letters of Inquiry (LoI) have to be submitted in English?
Large grant (USD40,000 to USD250,000) LoIs must be submitted in English, French, Portuguese or Spanish. Small grant (up to USD40,000) LoIs can be submitted in English, or in local languages (Khmer, Chinese, Lao, Myanmar, Thai, or Vietnamese).


Letter of Inquiry (LoI) Submission

Can I ask the RIT to look at a draft of my LoI before I submit it?
Of course. RIT members are happy to answer questions, look at drafts before submission, and give suggestions. RIT members are particularly happy to answer questions about the eligibility of organisations, and the relevance of proposed work to CEPF priorities and SDs. As the submission deadline approaches, however, RIT members are likely to be very busy and may not have time to look at draft LoI in any detail.

Can I speak to a member of the RIT in person?
Yes. The RIT has members based in Bangkok (Thailand), Phnom Penh (Cambodia), Vientiane (Lao PDR), Hanoi (Viet Nam), Yangon (Myanmar), and Beijing (China). If you are in one of these cities, we would be happy to speak with you in person. To arrange a meeting, please contact: If you are based elsewhere in the hotspot, an RIT member would be happy to speak with you over the phone or over Skype or a similar platform.

Can I submit my LoI as a hard copy (or on a disc, on a flash drive, etc.)?
No. LoI must be submitted electronically. LoI submitted as hard copies or as physical media will not be considered for funding.

Should I submit any accompanying documents with my LoI?
It is not necessary to submit any accompanying documents with your LoI. We will contact you if we need any additional documentation.

What email address should I submit my LoI to?
Small grant LoIs should be submitted to Large grant LoIs should be submitted online at this

Will I receive a confirmation email that my LoI has been received?
Yes. Small grant LoI submission will be confirmed by the RIT. Large grant LoI submission must apply through CEPF’s online portal, ConservationGrants. First-time users will need to register to create an account. Applicants encountering any technical difficulties with the online portal should contact

I submitted my LoI earlier today, but I haven’t received a confirmation email. What should I do?
If you submitted your LoI on the day of the deadline, there may be a delay confirming receipt. The RIT receives a large number of LoI on this date, and it takes time to confirm receipt of them all. If you have still not received a confirmation email a number of days after the deadline, you may contact the RIT again to confirm receipt.

I submitted my LoI to the wrong address (for example a large grant LoI was sent to What will happen?

The RIT and CEPF Secretariat are in constant communication. We will make sure that your LoI reaches the right people.

I have submitted my LoI a few hours after the deadline. Will my LoI still be considered for funding?
Unfortunately, we will not be able to consider your LoI. We can only accept LoIs that are submitted before the deadline. We strongly recommend that LoIs are submitted well before the deadline.

My submission email bounced back to me. What should I do?
The RIT is not responsible for email failures of any kind. This is one reason that we recommend that LoIs are submitted a few days before the deadline. If your email did not reach the RIT before the deadline, it will not be considered for funding. However, you can re-submit at the next call for proposals.


LOI review

What happens during the LoI review process?
LoIs will first be screened for eligibility. LoIs will then be reviewed in each country by the RIT, a National Advisory Committee, and external reviewers (when necessary, for technical content or potential conflict of interest).  For large grants, the CEPF Secretariat is also invovled in the review process. 

For small grant LoI, contracts will then be made with successful applicants and funds will be transferred. For large grant LoI, shortlisted applicants will be invited to submit full proposals which will then undergo further review. For small grants, decision-making authority lies with the RIT. For large grants, decisions are made jointly by the RIT and the CEPF Secretariat.

How long will the review process take?
We are typically able to inform applicants of our decisions within 6 months after LoI submission.

Against what criteria will LoIs be evaluated?
LoIs will be evaluated for:

  • their fit with the CEPF investment strategy,
  • the likelihood that the project approach will achieve its stated objectives,
  • the degree to which the work builds upon past initiatives and how it complements ongoing initiatives in the Hotspot which have similar objectives,
  • the appropriateness of the budget, and
  • the perceived capacity of the applicant to carry out the work effectively and efficiently.


Conflicts of interests and complaints

The RIT is led by IUCN. Will IUCN Members be given preferential treatment?
No, IUCN Members are not given preferential treatment. All LoIs submitted by IUCN Members will be subject to an external review to ensure that there is no conflict of interest.

Can IUCN apply for CEPF grants in the Indo-Burma Hotspot?
No. Because IUCN is leading the RIT its country offices etc. are not eligible for CEPF grants.

I would like to complain about the RIT and/or the grant-making process. Who can I contact?
If you have a concern or a grievance about the decision on your LoI or any aspect of the CEPF programme in Indo-Burma more broadly, please contact the RIT ( and we will be happy to address your query. If you are unsatisfied with the response, please direct your concerns to the IUCN Project Complaints Management System ( or the CEPF Executive Director ( (Please note that neither one of these are members of the RIT.) If you are not satisfied with the response, or if you wish to file another complaint related to the administration of a CEPF project of grant funds, a complaint may be submitted to the CI Ethics Hotline at or via phone to a local dial-in number displayed at CI will promptly investigate any complaints submitted to the CI Ethics Hotline. CI will treat complaints as confidential to the extent possible, with the understanding that confidentiality may not be maintained where identification is required by law or to enable CI or law enforcement to conduct an adequate investigation. 

For more information on CEPF grants