Applying to DIV
I'm thinking about applying to DIV. Where should I start?
How does DIV select grantees?
What types of innovations are likely to be competititve?
What types of proposals are not likely to be competitive?
How selective is the DIV program?
I have a great idea, but would love DIV’s input on whether it’s a good fit. Can I speak with or receive guidance from the DIV team before I apply?
Who can apply to DIV for a grant?
Does my project have to be implemented in a specific country or region?
Does it matter where my organization is headquartered?
Does my organization have to undergo a financial audit to apply?
Do I need a referral or letter of endorsement from a USAID staff member or the USAID Mission(s) relevant to my proposal?
Does whether or not my organization has received funding from USAID in the past matter for my eligibility?
Does my organization have to contribute to project costs to be eligible?
Where do I submit my application?
When can I submit my application?
Does my application have to be in English?
Can I submit more than one application at the same time?
Can I make updates to my application after submission?
Will I have to submit a longer “full application” at some point after the first submission?
How will I know the status of my application? How can I inquire about the status?
Will I receive feedback on my proposal if you decline it? Can I re-submit a proposal after it has been declined?
What stage and funding amount should I apply for?
How long is the award period for a DIV grant?
If I receive funding at one stage, once the award is complete, does my innovation automatically enter into a higher stage of funding?
What can DIV funding be used for?
Are there specific activities for which DIV funding cannot be used or for which funding is more difficult to use?
Does DIV have guidance regarding acceptable overhead for our proposed budget?
Can DIV funding be allocated for salary support?
Partnering with DIV
Does DIV partner with other parts of USAID?
Does DIV partner with others outside of USAID?
Apply to DIV
Q: I’m thinking about applying to DIV. Where should I start?
We are excited that you are thinking about applying to DIV! We strongly encourage all applicants to review DIV’s website for information regarding the grant program and our selection criteria. Of particular importance is our Annual Program Statement (APS), which contains information on DIV’s three core principles and how they apply to each stage of funding. Applicants should also review the sample application, which contains questions that each applicant must answer. The most competitive applicants make a compelling but succinct case on how their innovation addresses each of DIV’s three principles commensurate with the stage of funding applied for. When you are ready to apply, you can access the online application through our How to Apply page.
Q: How does DIV select grantees?
DIV reviews applications on a rolling basis. Each applicant undergoes an initial review and the most competitive applicants are invited to the due diligence stage, where the DIV team reviews proposals in further depth. Highly competitive proposals are ultimately voted on by a Decision Panel composed of USAID and external experts. The specific criteria and process for application review are outlined in the Annual Program Statement and on our How to Apply page.
Q: What types of innovations are likely to be competitive?
DIV is an open innovation program that supports creative solutions to any global development problem across all sectors in which USAID works. Innovations funded by DIV include products and services, as well as applications of new business or delivery models, production processes, or insights from behavioral economics. Solutions need not be limited to technological or product innovations.
You can explore the portfolio of current and past DIV winners on https://divportal.usaid.gov/s/. Strong DIV applicants demonstrate a thorough understanding of DIV’s model, especially the emphasis on rigorous evidence of impact, cost-effectiveness, and pathways to scale. In general, competitive innovations are those that have a significant, measurable, scalable, and cost-effective impact on the lives of the poor.
Q: What types of proposals are not likely to be competitive?
Listed below are common examples of proposed projects that are not likely to be competitive for DIV funding:
- Development interventions with limited potential to scale or evidence of impact and cost-effectiveness (e.g., building schools, constructing orphanages)
- Innovations that do not focus on customers or end users at the “base of the pyramid”, with limited wealth or access
- Support for intermediaries with an indirect impact on people’s lives (e.g., incubators, accelerators, conveners)
- Basic scientific research (e.g., pharmaceutical testing before full regulatory approvals; lab testing of a prototype with no field testing)
- Innovations with limited potential for expansion to other contexts
- Innovations with an unclear theory of change (i.e., that don’t directly connect to measurable development impacts)
Q: How selective is the DIV program?
The DIV program is highly selective. Selection rates vary according to the number of applications received, but DIV selections typically follow the trends below:
- More than 1,000 applications are submitted to DIV each year.
- About 100 of those 1,000 applicants (10 percent) move beyond the initial review stage and into the due diligence stage, where the DIV team reviews proposals in further depth and in some cases, co-creates the project with the applicant.
- About 10-20 of the initial 1,000 applicants (one to two percent) receive DIV funding after the full evaluation process.
Q: I have a great idea, but would love DIV’s input on whether it’s a good fit. Can I speak with or receive guidance from the DIV team before I apply?
Unfortunately, no. To comply with U.S. Government procurement rules that require fair competition, we are unable to accommodate individual call requests to comment on specific innovation ideas or proposals and whether they would be a “good fit” before an application is submitted.
Q: Who can apply to DIV for a grant?
Almost anyone! DIV accepts applications from U.S. and non-U.S. individuals and organizations, nonprofit and for-profit entities, researchers, faith-based organizations, governments and non-governmental organizations, alike. Note that under the DIV Annual Program Statement, funding foreign government organizations is possible only through an approved subaward agreement with a prime or lead non-governmental recipient (for more information, see ADS 303.3.21).
Q: Does my project have to be implemented in a specific country or region?
DIV is open to projects in any country where USAID provides funds to development efforts. Since there are countries without USAID Missions or those that have Regional Mission coverage, the physical presence of a USAID Mission in that country is not required for a proposal from a particular country to be eligible. For a small number of countries, the application processing timeline can be longer than normal due to special requirements for providing U.S. foreign assistance to operate in that country. Promising applicants from a country with these special requirements will hear from the DIV team regarding the process.
Q: Does it matter where my organization is headquartered?
No, it does not matter to DIV where your organization is registered or headquartered. You can apply to DIV from anywhere in the world. You do not have to implement the proposed activities in the country in which your organization is registered.
Q: Does my organization have to undergo a financial audit to apply?
No. In most cases, you do not have to undergo a financial audit to apply, even if you have never received funding from USAID before. However, in some cases, the Agency may require a financial audit before issuing an award. If you move past the initial review stage of our application process, the DIV team will inform you what is required.
Q: Do I need a referral or letter of endorsement from a USAID staff member or the USAID Mission(s) relevant to my proposal?
No. Letters of support from USAID Missions or Bureaus are not required or requested. However, upon award, DIV grantees may be expected to coordinate with USAID Missions and Bureaus as appropriate. The application form does include a field where applicants can note whether a USAID staff member referred the applicant to apply. A USAID staff referral does not guarantee an application’s success.
Q: Does whether or not my organization has received funding from USAID in the past matter for my eligibility?
No. You are eligible to apply to DIV regardless of whether you have previously received funding from any part of USAID, including DIV. Note that, if you have received funding from other parts of USAID in the past, DIV may contact the relevant USAID staff member who managed that grant or contract to understand the nature of that work and your performance. Note also that approximately 85% of DIV applicants and 55% of DIV awardees are “new to USAID”, meaning they have never received funding from USAID before.
Q: Does my organization have to contribute to project costs to be eligible?
No, applicants are not required to contribute to project costs. However, applicants are encouraged to leverage other resources for the projects and the type, amount, and source should be described in the application where we ask applicants for their proposed “cost-share”. The cost-share does not need to be other funding; it could be labor hours that are not funded through DIV support or it could be equipment/machinery already owned or donated, which you will use to perform proposed activities.
We ask for this to understand what resources an applicant proposes bringing to the project that will not be financed by DIV grant funding. Our objective in doing so is to understand the total value of resources for the proposed activities so we can understand the full cost of your innovation and the significance of DIV funding in relation to other resources
Q: Where do I submit my application?
All applicants must submit an application via the online application portal, but you may download a Word version of the application to work offline prior to submission. Please review the application instructions and process on our How to Apply page.
Q: When can I submit my application?
DIV accepts applications 365 days a year. There is no deadline for submission. The Annual Program Statement is renewed on an annual basis, subject to availability of funds.
Q: Does my application have to be in English?
Yes. Unfortunately, we do not have the ability to review applications submitted in languages other than English. Please note that applications are judged by the content and quality of their proposal, not by English fluency.
Q: Can I submit more than one application at the same time?
Yes. We will accept more than one application at a time from an organization, as long as each application is unique and for a separate innovation. For example, an applicant can submit one application for an energy project and another for a separate agriculture project. However, multiple applications cannot be submitted for the same project. If DIV receives multiple submissions of the same or substantially similar application, we will review the first submitted application.
Q: Can I make updates to my application after submission?
No, you will not be able to update an application once it has been submitted. We highly encourage you to download a Word version of the application to work offline prior to submitting the application online. We understand things may change in the time between submitting an application and moving into review. If your proposal moves to the due diligence stage, you will have the opportunity to share any updates or changes with the team.
Q: Will I have to submit a longer “full application” at some point after the first submission?
No, DIV applicants do not have to fill out a longer “full application” after the first submission. As outlined in the Annual Program Statement, if an applicant moves into the due diligence phase, then DIV may request tailored information and materials. DIV may engage with the applicant in a variety of ways, such as: interviewing the applicant, requesting supplementary materials that further outline the technical approach and how it responds to DIV’s criteria, contacting other funders or partners of the applicant, engaging internal USAID or external experts to review the application, and any other information-gathering to fully evaluate the application. Supplementary materials may include an initial budget, financial model, proposed milestones, and implementation plan. DIV may assist the applicant in developing these materials.
Q: How will I know the status of my application? How can I inquire about the status?
Confirmation of DIV’s receipt of your submitted application: After submitting your online application, you will receive a confirmation email from DIV with your application number.
Updates on DIV’s review of your application: You will receive an automated email when the status of your application changes with any of the following: Submitted, Review in Progress, Diligence, Intent to Award, or Declined. You may check the status of your application at any time by logging into the DIV Portal with the username and password you established during the online application process.
Outcome of DIV’s initial review of your application: DIV reviews applications through a multi-step process. Once we complete our preliminary review, we may request written answers to questions, a phone interview, or decline an application. We aim to complete preliminary application reviews and send a response to this initial application within 1-3 months of submission.
Decline or “Notice of Intent to Award”: If you pass the preliminary application review and move into the due diligence phase. DIV staff will review your materials and determine what additional information is needed for a comprehensive review and evaluation. The due diligence process takes 2-5 months, depending on a variety of factors, such as the proposal’s technical complexity. DIV may decline an application at any time during the due diligence phase; if your application is declined, you will receive an email with feedback explaining the reasons behind the decision. If your proposal is recommended for funding, then you will receive a Notice of Intent to Award. The process to negotiate and finalize the award can take 2-3 months.
Q: Will I receive feedback on my proposal if you decline it? Can I re-submit a proposal after it has been declined?
While we would like to provide every applicant with thorough and thoughtful feedback, due to the large number of applications we receive, we are typically only able to provide detailed feedback to applicants that make it beyond the initial review phase.
Applicants whose proposals are declined may submit a new application to DIV if the new submission includes significant changes from the previous application. Many applicants resubmit an application to DIV taking into consideration any feedback provided by DIV or significant new developments with the innovation.
Q: What stage and funding amount should I apply for?
Applicants can apply for funding at any stage. Stages are determined by the maturity of the innovation and proposed activities. The DIV team reserves the right to adjust the stage and funding amount requested during the review process. Please review DIV’s Annual Program Statement and our About DIV page for more information on DIV’s funding stages.
Q: How long is the award period for a DIV grant?
The typical award period for a DIV grant is 26 months. DIV may make awards for a maximum of three years in length.
Q: If I receive funding at one stage, once the award is complete, does my innovation automatically enter into a higher stage of funding?
No. All applicants, whether or not they are a previous DIV winner, must complete the full application process for any stage of funding. DIV is not a pipeline: grantees can also apply and be considered for funding at the same or lower stages as that which they had previously received funding.
Q: What can DIV funding be used for?
DIV funds are flexible and can be spent on a broad range of inputs and activities, including personnel. Please see the next question (1.d.v) for specific activities for which DIV funding cannot be used.
Q: Are there specific activities for which DIV funding cannot be used or for which funding is more difficult to use?
Yes, there are a small number of specific activities or costs that USAID cannot fund or can only fund in specific and special circumstances, governed by rules in our ADS. After an application is selected for DIV funding, it moves into the award “negotiation” process to finalize the grant agreement with USAID. During this process, USAID conducts a "cost analysis" to examine preliminary budgets from the applicant to determine compliance with federal regulations. During this process, the DIV team will flag if there are any expenses that USAID is unable to support, or those which may require further administrative approvals. The list below outlines three common categories of expenses that may present challenges.
- Ineligible Commodities are goods and services that a DIV grantee cannot procure with U.S. Government funding. Specific examples include: military equipment, surveillance equipment, commodities or services for support of police or other law enforcement activities, abortion equipment and services, luxury goods, gambling equipment, weather modification equipment, goods or services from ineligible suppliers, including any firms or individuals who do not comply with the requirements in Standard Provision, "Debarment, Suspension and other Responsibility Matters" and Standard Provision, "Preventing Terrorist Financing" for US-based and non-US organizations.
These restrictions apply to all sub-agreements under the DIV award but do not apply to commodities or services that the recipient provides with private funds as a part of a cost-sharing requirement or with "program income" generated under the DIV award (typically applicable to for-profit grantees).
- Restricted Commodities are goods and services for which additional supplementary approval from USAID is required. Specific examples include: agricultural commodities, motor vehicles, pharmaceuticals, contraceptives and condoms, pesticides, used equipment, and fertilizers.
- Special Situations may also arise, depending on how the applicant proposes to use DIV funding. Common examples include:
- Construction is prohibited under the grant agreements used by DIV.
- Activities or goods that could have an impact on the environment (e.g., pesticides) may require additional approvals or restrictions on the use of funds. Every grant receives an "initial environmental examination” prior to award finalization. If certain activities or goods are determined to have an impact on the environment, then those activities or goods might require further approvals or paperwork or be excluded entirely.
- Activities in certain countries might require further approvals by USAID, which could lead to a longer award finalization process and possibly additional restrictions on how funding can be used. This includes the listed countries for "special notification" of Congress, as identified in the annual Appropriations Act and countries with special security concerns, such as a recent coup d'état.
- Equipment over $5,000 (e.g., motor vehicles) may necessitate that you provide the DIV team evidence that you have reviewed the options available and selected the best value.
- Purchase of real property is prohibited under the grant agreements used by DIV.
- Source and nationality of goods and services may also be stipulated in the award agreement you receive from USAID. One example is the "Fly America Act," which stipulates considerations for how to book program-funded travel through U.S. and non-U.S. air carriers.
Q: Does DIV have guidance regarding acceptable overhead for our proposed budget?
No, DIV does not stipulate a maximum overhead rate (indirect costs). We accept applications from any type of organization, which have diverse indirect rates. Applications that are selected for funding based on the merits of the ideas proposed and the project team (as determined by the selection criteria in our Annual Program Statement) will later be subject to a cost analysis by USAID’s assistance team to understand the basis of costs claimed in the application. The purpose of this analysis is to validate and finalize the requested budgetary sum.
A selected applicant can negotiate with USAID on their indirect cost rate. If a selected applicant has never received a negotiated indirect cost rate with USAID, the recipient may choose to charge a de minimis rate of 10 percent of modified total direct costs. For additional information on NICRA (Negotiated Indirect Cost Rate Agreement) for non-profit organizations, visit USAID’s Grant and Contract Process website.
Q: Can DIV funding be used for salary support?
Yes, DIV funds may be spent on personnel. Such costs are allowable.
Partnering with DIV
Q: Does DIV partner with other parts of USAID?
Yes! We partner with other USAID Bureaus in Washington and Missions around the world during our application review and due diligence processes, and throughout the award period. For example, DIV may work with other parts of the Agency to co-fund or co-manage an award, or to source technical guidance from subject matter experts throughout the award.
Q: Does DIV partner with others outside of USAID?
Yes, absolutely! DIV leverages a large network of partners in many ways, such as by sourcing ideas, conducting due diligence, evaluating proposals, co-funding grants, supporting the growth and accelerating the impact of our grantees, and sharing lessons learned to support evidence-driven innovation in global development