Frequently Asked Questions: Marking Requirements for Assistance Awards

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Updated as of 12/20/05

Marking Requirements for Assistance Awards

OVERVIEW

What is the new marking requirement for assistance awards?
USAID requires that all programs, projects, activities, public communications and commodities, partially or fully funded by a USAID grant or cooperative agreement or other assistance award or subaward, must be marked appropriately overseas with the Standard Graphic Identity or USAID Identity in a size and prominence equal to (or greater than) any other logo or identity. The requirement does not apply to a partner’s own corporate communications or in the United States, unless the U.S. activity is a component of an overseas program.

Where can missions and partners obtain information about marking requirements?
New marking requirements for assistance awards are detailed in Acquisition and Assistance Policy Directive (AAPD) 05-11 (PDF)

Does this requirement apply to all organizations?
This requirement was established by a recently published federal regulation for U.S.-based nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that received USAID funding and, by USAID policy, it also applies to international and local NGOs. Marking requirements "flow down" and therefore also apply to subrecipients. The marking regulation DOES NOT apply to Public International Organizations.

What is the USAID Identity?
The Identity is USAID's official U.S. Government symbol. It includes both the Agency seal or "logo" together with our "brandmark" and tagline, "From the American people." Graphic files for the Identity (in a variety of colors and formats) and guidelines for its use are available at no cost at www.usaid.gov/branding.

When is the Identity larger or more prominent?
USAID reserves the right to require the USAID Identity to be larger and more prominent if it is the majority donor. This will be done on a case-by-case basis depending on the audience, program goals, and materials produced. USAID will provide direction on the size and prominence of the Identity when negotiating the Branding Strategy and Marking Plan (see below) that will be included in all new awards after January 2, 2006.

Why is USAID requiring marking?
To ensure the American people are visibly recognized for the foreign assistance they finance. Recent studies show, marking aid can have a positive impact on perceptions of the U.S. -- an important public diplomacy goal. This requirement fully aligns our policy and practice with the Foreign Assistance Act (section 641 as amended) which requires all overseas programs to be identified appropriately "as American aid."

When is the requirement effective?
The regulation becomes effective beginning January 2, 2006. It applies to all FY ’06 and subsequent fiscal year funds obligated after the effective date, including incremental funding actions on existing awards.

Are there any other new requirements?
Yes, select applicants must submit a pre-award "Branding Strategy" -- answering questions about how the project will be named and promoted and how USAID will be acknowledged -- when specifically requested to do so by the Agreement Officer (AO), after technical evaluation. The same select applicants will be requested to submit a pre-award "Marking Plan" -- detailing program deliverables that will visibly bear the USAID Identity. Only those applicants recommended for award (know as the Apparently Successful Applicants) will be required to submit a Branding Strategy and Marking Plan.

Are there times when the marking requirements do NOT apply?
Yes. AOs can approve one or more of seven "exceptions" for certain programmatic reasons. Also, Mission Directors can "waive" marking requirements for safety or security reasons or special situational circumstances such as the marking would cause an adverse reaction in the host country.

What about an NGO’s own website or the organization’s annual report?
USAID’s marking requirements to not apply to an implementing partners own “corporate communications.” If USAID is not funding the communication than the USAID Identity is not included.

Should the USAID Identity be on an NGO’s procurement or employment communications?
No. Letterhead used to hire/fire staff, rent office space or equipment, book hotel rooms or transportation, or other communications in the ADMINISTRATION of the grant or cooperative agreement, should not include the USAID Identity. However, materials produce to communicate or promote the program or project, including invitations to events, letter to ministries, press materials, etc. must include the USAID Identity.

How will the requirement be implemented?
Three new standard provisions – 1) Branding Strategy, 2) Marking Plan, and 3) Marking Under USAID-Funded Assistance Instruments -- will be added all NEW Request for Applications or Annual Program Statement and any resulting award after January 2, 2006.

What about current awards?
These new requirements are NOT automatic for current assistance awards. USAID must incorporate the standard provision “Making Under USAID-Funded Assistance Instruments, in any current award, when obligating funds after January 2, 2006, to the grant, cooperative agreement or other assistance instrument, whether the obligation is incremental funding within the existing Total Estimated Amount or the obligation increases the total, or when amending the award to reflect significant changes in the program description, budget, or scope of the instrument. When the grant or cooperative agreement does not contain an approved Marking Plan, the recipient will propose and submit a plan for implementing the requirements of this provision within a specified time period.

Is there a marking requirement in agreements awarded BEFORE 2006?
Yes. Current agreements do have marking provisions for publications and media materials and those are still valid for existing awards that may not have these new provisions added. Specific questions about current awards should be directed to the Agreement Officer.

Is the requirement retroactive to FY '05 or before?
No, but USAID is happy for partners to voluntarily use the USAID Identity on any new materials produced.

 

CO-BRANDING

What is Co-branding?
Co-branding is placing the USAID Identity next to the award recipient's logo--and ensuring equal size and prominence--on USAID partially or fully funded programs, projects, activities, public communications, and commodities.

Will USAID ever require greater prominence?
Yes, if USAID is the majority donor. It will be on a case-by-case basis depending on the audience, program goals, and materials produced. Final Branding Strategies and Marking Plans included in assistance awards outline if materials will be equally co-branded or if the USAID Identity will be larger and more prominent as well as any host-country government or ministry involvement and their positioning.

What about the host-country government?
USAID often encourages co-branding with the cooperating country; many ministries have a logo that is included on program materials. At times, USAID may require the government or ministry logo to be more prominent.

What must be co-branded?
Program deliverables and materials funded by USAID that don't qualify for an exception. But, we are not requiring marking of recipient's offices, vehicles, or items and supplies used by recipients for administration of the award.

Does the policy apply to subawards?
Yes. To ensure that the marking requirements "flow down'' to subrecipients, recipients of USAID- funded grants and cooperative agreements are required to include a USAID-approved marking provision in any USAID-funded subaward. (See AAPD 05-11)

BRANDING STRATEGY

What is a Branding Strategy?
A new required document for assistance awards that tells the Agency how applicants propose to name and promote USAID-funded projects, and how the recipients plan to acknowledge the U.S. contribution. Our goal is to ensure that a wide range of host-country citizens--including direct beneficiaries--understand that the assistance provided is, "From the American people." This strategy will help us determine in advance if that goal will be met for each project we fund.

Will it be competitively evaluated?
No, but it is a pre-award eligibility requirement. The Branding Strategy is NOT a scored evaluation factor, but the applicant must submit -- and the AO must approve for adequacy -- the Branding Strategy to be eligible for award. In this regard, it is similar to the requirement to submit a small business subcontracting plan.

When is the Strategy due?
After technical evaluation, and only from Apparently Successful Applicants notified by the AO. The AO will determine the timing.

If you submit a Strategy will you win the award?
No. The AO must approve the Branding Strategy for adequacy, like making a responsibility determination. Apparently Successful Applicants who have submitted a Branding Strategy can still be denied an award.

What is required in a Branding Strategy?
Apparently Successful Applicants must answer a series of questions that focus on program positioning, promotion, communications, and acknowledgements. (See AAPD 05-11)

What happens after it is submitted?
The Agreement Officer will review it and negotiate it (if necessary,) approve it, and incorporate it into the award agreement. CTOs will monitor recipient compliance based on the agreed Branding Strategy.

MARKING PLAN AND EXCEPTIONS

What is a Marking Plan?
A Marking Plan is a related, pre- award requirement of Apparently Successful Applicants. It details the commodities, communications, and other program materials that will visibly bear the USAID Identity.

What is the purpose of the Marking Plan?
To ensure the American people are visibly acknowledged for the foreign assistance they finance.

Who prepares it and when?
It will be prepared by Apparently Successful Applicants after they are requested to do so by the AO. The Marking Plan will be reviewed for adequacy, negotiated, approved and incorporated in the award. The Marking Plan will be the basis for any waiver of marking requirements, and will be monitored for compliance by the CTO.

What is required in a Marking Plan?
Apparently Successful Applicants need to itemize program materials and deliverables they propose be marked, explain materials to be used for marking, and detail how the USAID Identity will be incorporated such as on project signs, plaques, stickers, professional printing, or other means that ensure durability.

Does every single item need to be marked?
No, judgment is required to determine what is reasonable. For example, if USAID is funding construction of a school, providing a temporary sign during construction, and then a permanent plaque in the lobby and stickers on computers may satisfy the requirement, versus marking every desk, chair, and blackboard. The Marking Plan enables the recipient to propose what is reasonable. Guidance is to strike a balance between over marking and too little recognition.

Is anything exempt from marking?
There are seven categories of 'presumptive exceptions' for which marking will not be required. An Apparently Successful Applicant may request approval of an exception(s) in the Marking Plan. Each 'exception' must be approved by the AO in the award. Approved exceptions 'flow down' to subrecipients unless otherwise provided.

What are the Exceptions?
Marking is not required if it would compromise the independence or neutrality of a program or materials, such as election monitoring or ballots or political party work; diminish the credibility of reports, analyses, etc. whose data or findings must be seen as independent; undercut cooperating country government "ownership" of laws, policies, studies, or other communications; impair the functionality of an item, such as sterilized equipment or spare parts; incur substantial costs or be impractical, such as items too small or other otherwise unsuited for individual marking, offend local cultural or social norms, or be considered inappropriate on such items as condoms, toilets, etc.; or conflict with international law.

What about marking vehicles, office space, equipment and supplies?
No, marking is not required on items used as part of the administration of the grant or cooperative agreement. Our goal is to mark the programs and projects, not our implementing partners.

How does the AO decide what qualifies?
He or she uses judgment -- reviews the program goals and Marking Plan, consults with the CTO, and the Regional Legal Advisor, if necessary. The CTO should have marking requirements and applicable exceptions in mind when drafting the program description in the RFA or APS leading to the award. The exceptions are based on experience to date and common sense. For example, we don't require marking of election materials because to do so would counter neutrality in the election process.

WAIVERS

What if marking is a security risk?
The regulation and our policy provides for a waiver of marking requirements, as set forth in the Marking Plan, authorized by the Mission Director for safety and security reasons or adverse reaction in the country.

How are waiver requests made?
Recipients can request a waiver any time after award. No marking is required while a waiver request is pending determination.

What happens if a waiver is denied?
Waiver decisions can be appealed to the Assistant Administrator.

What happens in an emergency situation?
Self preservation and common sense prevail. Marking is not required while waiver requests are pending; in a sudden emergency USAID recipients can remove markings while they apply for a waiver within a reasonable time.

MONITORING AND COMPLIANCE

How will compliance be monitored? The approved Branding Strategy and Marking Plan are part of the award. During project implementation, the CTO will be responsible for monitoring compliance based on the negotiated and approved Branding Strategy and Marking Plan.

What happens if there is non-compliance?
USAID will inform a recipient of the incidences of noncompliance and request that recipient carry out its branding and marking responsibilities as set forth in the award. Major or repeated non-compliance with the requirements will trigger the standard suspension and termination procedures established at 22 C.F.R. §226.61 and §226.62.

Will the Inspector General audit compliance?
Yes, just as the USAID Inspector General monitors performance of other material conditions of awards.

POINTS OF CONTACT

For all questions, contact branding.champions@usaid.gov

Last updated: December 19, 2013

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