NICFI 2021-2025: Q&A to the call for proposals

Is your organisation eligible for the NICFI call for proposals? How are the applications assessed? Norad's answers to the frequently asked questions are gathered here.

Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative (NICFI) has launched a call for proposals funding projects of civil society organisations for the grant period 2021-2025. The funding scheme is administered by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad). 

Norad receives a number of questions related to the call for proposals. In order to share the answers to all possible applicants, we have gathered the most relevant frequently asked questions on this page. This Q&A will be regularly updated until May 1, 2020. 

Applications must be submitted electronically and in English through the Grants Portal. The applications will not be accepted later than the extended deadline 19 May 2020 at 13:00 CEST (see update at the bottom of the page).

The FAQ was last updated 4 May 2020. 

Frequently asked questions 

Push the plus sign to see all questions gathered under each category.  

1. Conceptual clarifications

Q: What is the definition of tropical forests?
A: Tropical forests refers to forests in countries around the tropical Equator belt, please see the list of priority countries in the call.

Q: What types of ecosystems are prioritised by this call for proposal?
A: The main principle is that the ecosystem in question contains tropical forests, and that the project contributes to NICFI’s strategic goal: Reversed and reduced loss of tropical forest contribute to a stable climate, protect biodiversity and enhance sustainable development.

Q: Do you require applications to relate to REDD+ phases and/or is it an added advantage to do so?
A: Relevance to the seven listed outcomes and the five thematic categories is more important for civil society projects within this call for proposals.

Q: Can projects aimed at climate mitigation apply?
A: Within this call for proposals, Norad seeks to support projects that contribute to the goal of reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.

Q: Do projects have to have a carbon credit component?
A: No, projects within this call are not required to have a carbon credit component. However, projects should demonstrate that they contribute reduced or reversed loss of tropical forests.

Q: Are afforestation and reforestation projects acceptable in this call?
A: Yes, such projects are eligible. Please note that we will prioritize projects that most effectively contribute to the stipulated goals set out in the call for proposals.

Q: What are the NICFI outcomes?
A: The NICFI outcomes are the seven outcomes included at the bottom level in the NICFI strategic framework.

Q: How and to what extent will projects be assessed against their integration with the three REDD+ phases described in the Grant Scheme Rules?
A: Projects will primarily be assessed based on their ability to contribute to one/several of the seven outcomes in NICFI's strategic framework and show how this in turn can be expected to contribute to the strategic goal of reduced deforestation and forest degradation in tropical forest countries. If the project is based on an existing or planned process for reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation within one of the three REDD+ phases that enjoys strong support from the government of the country in question, this will be viewed favourably, but it is not a prerequisite.

2. Eligibility

Q: Would it be possible for organisations that are locally registered in tropical forest countries and independent affiliates of a global organisation to apply separately from the global organisation?
A: Yes, as long as they are separate legal entities with an independent board of directors.

Q: Given the call’s focus on supporting activities in forest geographies, are there any restrictions for supporting civil society activities in import market countries?
A: Projects targeting drivers of deforestation in emerging economies and developed countries with significant import markets for commodities linked to forest loss are also highly relevant. All projects must demonstrate a plausible causal link to reduced deforestation and to sustainable development effects in developing countries with tropical forests.

Q: Will projects in tropical forest countries where NICFI has not established larger partnerships be considered?
A: The countries where NICFI has large partnerships will be prioritized. However, projects of special strategic relevance to NICFI's goal in other tropical forest geographies may also be considered.

Q: Can for-profit actors apply as the main applicant or be a sub-grantee in an application?
A: Only civil society organizations as defined in the call for proposals can be the main applicant. Sub-grantees also need to fulfil the criteria for a civil society organization. Specific deliverables under the project that require expertise from for-profit actors will be subject to the procurement provisions that are part of the grant agreement between Norad and a grantee.

Q: Can universities, including private universities, apply for funding under the call?

A: Universities can apply if they fulfil the criteria for a civil society organisation under the call for proposals. This also applies to universities that are applying as consortium members/sub-grantees.

Q: Can multilateral organisations such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) be an applicant or a sub-grantee under the call for proposals?

A: No.

Q: Is it still possible to apply if you have a longer time frame for the project than five years?

A: The project needs to be within the five-year frame. If you have a longer time frame, one option can be to add a sustainability strategy of seeking more funding or to continue the project with other means or ways. Another option could be to divide the whole project into different phases and then seek funding for the specific phase covered by this call for proposals. You may also apply for a shorter time period than five years.

Q: Is there any restriction on consortia members having previously received funding from NICFI? For example, can you have a consortium lead who has already received funding historically?
A: There is no restriction on consortium members having received funding previously.

Q: One of our consortium partners is in the process of establishing a nonprofit entity for the not-for-profit activities of their for-profit organisation. The nonprofit will be established after the application deadline. Will this be an issue for the application?
A: All consortium members need to fulfil the criteria for a civil society organisation at the time of application. If a partner is not registered in accordance with the criteria at that time, it is not eligible for support under the current call for proposals.

Q: We understand that public universities and government agencies cannot receive direct funding. However, could these be recipients of goods or services? For example, could an Environment Agency be the recipient of a forest monitoring tool that has been developed or hired using the project financing, as a way of strengthening their forest governance and control over deforestation?
A: Having a government agency as a target group is different from being a consortium member or sub-grantee, and in fact for many of the priorities of the call for proposals, it is essential.

Q: Does a company limited-by-guarantee, without a profit motive, qualify as the applicant?
A: Companies are not eligible for this call. However, a company limited-by-guarantee without profit motives are eligible candidates if they have obtained registration as a charitable organisation or equivalent in their country of registration.

Q: If the Civil Society Organisation has proposed a budget amounting to the double of what the annual budget the organisation normally operates with, will the application still be valid?
A: Yes, the application will be valid. But the fact that the organisation is proposing a much higher budget for the project than what the organisation usually manages will carefully be assessed by Norad. The applicant needs to explain and justify the budget amount and how it is able to manage such an increase in its budget.

3. Consortia

Q: How is a consortium defined?
A: By having a main organisation leading a consortium with partners as sub-grantees.

Q: Do you channel funding through headquarters or local partners/branches of the organisation?

A: All funds from Norad are channeled to the main partner of the grant agreement, which has the responsibility of distributing funds to branches and partners, according to the agreed budget.

Q: Who is eligible to lead a consortium? Does the main partner have to be Norwegian?

A: The main partner does not have to be Norwegian. The partner with most experience in results reporting and grant management could be the lead, but there are no formal requirements here beyond the ones stated for a civil society organisation in the call for proposals.

Q: How many consortia can one organisation participate in? 

A: No applicant may lead more than one consortium and, at the same time, be a member of more than two other consortia. Local partners, defined as established organisations that represent target groups and driving forces in the country in which the intervention will be implemented, are exempted from this rule. The call for proposals has been updated to reflect this more clearly.

Q: Are there any limitations on how many consortia a local partner can be a member of? 

A: No. However, Norad will make an assessment on the role of the organisation in question in each application and how this aligns with the implementation capacity of the organisation.

Q: If a consortium decides to buy services required for the implementation of a project through procurement rather than to subgrant these funds to another organisation, does that count towards the limitation on consortia membership?

A: No, procurement and consortia membership are separate and should not be mixed. However, as pointed out in the call for proposals, applicants that can demonstrate complementary expertise, thematic and administrative competence and working methods within the consortia will be prioritized. Projects that don’t have the necessary competence within the consortia to implement the project, but rather rely on procurement, will therefore score lower on these criteria. Applicants that plan to procure goods or services under the project they apply for, shall submit a preliminary list of planned procurements when submitting the application to Norad through the grants portal. This requirement has been added to the call for proposals.

Q: Can you confirm that a lead organisation can be defined as not only a lead of a consortium, but also as a lead on a proposal that does not have any subgrantees? 

A: Yes, this is correct.

Q: What responsibilities do each institution that is part of a consortium have?
A: If the application is successful, the main applicant will sign a grant agreement with Norad and have responsibility for all aspects of follow up related to the approved programme. These responsibilities are described in the General Conditions of the grant agreement published at Norad’s website.

Q: Do all institutions that are part of a consortium need to be registered on the Norad platform or just the leading institution that will submit the application?
A: Only the lead applicant needs to be registered at Norad’s grant portal.

Q: What documents do we need to present to demonstrate a consortium or partnership? Are there legal requirements or documents that we need to present to the institutions that make up a consortium and are not leaders?
A: An established partnership can be demonstrated through an existing working relationship and/or a signed MoU.

Q: Do all members of the consortia need to present policies and safeguards to Norad or only the lead applicant?
A: Only the lead applicant has to confirm to Norad that it has these in place. However, it is the responsibility of the lead applicant to ensure that all consortium members have the required policies and safeguards or abide by the ones established by the lead applicant. Norad may ask to see these, including from consortium members, later in the application process.

4. Application requirements

Q: What level of detail should be the implementation plan have?
A: The implementation plan should include general descriptions of the types of activities the project will execute to achieve each of the outputs included in the results framework. The descriptions should be kept general. There is no need to enter specific details for each activity.

Q: What is the format of the implementation plan? What do we do if we have several projects?
A: It should be sufficient to sketch out the different types of activities that will be included in the outputs without going into great detail. It should be for the project overall, not just the first year. If there are several projects within the same application, an implementation plan of up to three pages each can be submitted for each project. It can either be uploaded as one document under "Implementation plan" or as several documents under "Other documents" in the Grants Portal.

Q: Is it sufficient that planned procurement is indicated in the budget(s) or will we need to specifically detail planned procurement in a separate section (e.g. a specific procurement plan for what, when and how)?
A: It is enough to indicate this in the budget. Norad will ask the applicants that advance to RAM assessment for more details with regards to planned procurement. Please also see Norad’s Procurement Provisions that will be part of the grant agreements to be signed between Norad and the agreement partner .

Q: Do we have to provide the required documents (results reports, policies and safeguards, anti-corruption policies etc) from all consortium partners?
A: At this point, these documents are only required from the main applicant. Norad may ask for the policies of other consortium partners and/or sub-grantees to be submitted at a later stage of the application process.

Q: How detailed do you expect the baseline to be and could some of this be done during an inception phase?
A: We look at the baseline description both in the narrative problem description and in the results framework. Both should be sufficiently specific to justify the project and theory of change. At the time of application, you should already have a baseline for as many of the indicators in the results framework as possible. This will be one of the aspects that we consider when evaluating the quality of the proposed results framework.

Q: Can applications indicate that they contribute to more than one NICFI outcome? If yes, how should we capture this in the results framework template?
A: One programme may very well contribute to several NICFI outcomes. You may for example list the first NICFI outcome with related project outcomes and outputs (1.1 etc.), then the second NICFI outcome as 2 with relevant project outcomes and outputs (2.1 etc.) and so forth. See also NICFI's stratgic framework

Q: Related to the list of documents that the applicant needs to upload in the grants portal (such as procurement, ethical guidelines, etc.), do they have to be in English? All the documents we have is in our native language.
A: The application language is English. All documentation submitted should be translated into English.

Q: Does the required documentation need to be authenticated by a notary?
A: At this point, it is not necessary that project documents are authenticated by a notary.

Q: Can we arrange for a call with the NICFI team at Norad to discuss our proposal and get some feedback?
A: We do not have the possibility to give feedback or discuss with organisations regarding their concept and application. As per Norway’s Public Administration Act, we are required to ensure equal treatment of all applicants, and this is best done by applicants submitting written questions that are then shared with their answers at this Q&A page for all potential applicants to see. Questions will be answered through 1 May 2020.

Q: In the case where the applicant has just one project in the proposal, can we adopt the same overall problem analysis and Theory of Change in both the “overall summary" and “add projects" templates?
A: Yes, you can apply the same Theory of Change in both the overall summary and in the “add project” part if your proposal only includes one project.

Q: Under the section “Application requirements”, it says that applicants need to show their annual accounts for the past three years. Where should these be uploaded? And what are the requirements for these accounts?
A: Annual accounts are part of the documentation that can demonstrate the entity’s legal registration. They should be prepared in accordance with standards for financial information in the country of registration of the applicant, and should be uploaded when registering the organisation in the grants portal.

5. Assessment of applications

Q: In the current project cycle, you have 450 million NOK per year and 42 projects. Will the number be the same for the next project cycle?
A: We will consider the total budget for the call and the number of projects after we have assessed the quality of the proposals we have received.

Q: Is value for money part of the requirements?

A: Value for money is part of the assessment of cost effectiveness in Norad’s Resource Allocation Model (RAM) standard 7.

Q: What will you be looking at when assessing relevance?
A: The NICFI strategic framework and the call for proposals specify the assessment criteria in terms of relevance. Visit for details

Q: Will new applicants be assessed the same way as existing partners, with the same criteria?

A: Norad will ensure that new and existing partners are assessed by the same criteria. The most obvious challenge pertains to RAM standard 2, where existing partners might have an advantage from having provided previous results reports from cooperation with Norway. In this case, Norad will make sure to collect information about previous results that new partners have contributed to if the application advances to the stage of assessment by RAM. See Norad’s Resource Allocation Model (RAM).

Q: Do you have a percentage of projects that will be funded through Norwegian/international organisations vs organisations based in tropical forest countries?

A: We do not have a fixed percentage. This will depend on the quality of project proposals we receive.

Q: How is inclusion of marginalised groups (including but not limited to indigenous peoples, local communities, refugees) assessed within the call for proposals?

A: The applicant needs to demonstrate how the target group depends on forests for subsistence and link this to the priorities set out in the call for proposals. Applications will also be assessed on how the cross-cutting issues human rights and women’s rights and gender equality are included in the proposal. It is required to provide an analysis of relevant risk factors and to include a mitigation plan for possible risk factors that can have a negative impact on human rights and gender equality e.g. Under priority 1 (Indigenous peoples, local communities and environmental defenders), the call also places particular focus on women as a target group, which will be: RAM standard 3 will assess this as a Relevance criterion.

Q: Do funds from other donors or sources have a positive value in the assessment of the project?

A: Yes, it will be viewed favorably if applicants have a sustainable and diverse funding base.

Q: Where do we find MFA’s circular R10 concerning indirect costs for RAM standards on Cost efficiency?

A: This document is available on the NICFI page at Norad’s website.

Q: Norad’s resource allocation model (RAM) defines assessment criteria for civil society grant schemes operated by Norad. These are fairly broad. Are there any that do not apply to the current NICFI call for proposals? 
A: The seven RAM standards define the main criteria to be used in civil society grant schemes operated by Norad. They will be applied to the applications that pass the initial screening, as explained in the RAM document. It is true that these standards are general, and some of them are refined to meet the needs of the NICFI call for proposals:

  • The weighting of assessment areas (point 4.3.) will not be used for this call.
  • The calculation mechanism described under point 5 will not be applied to the NICFI call. Furthermore, NICFI is a programme funded by the Ministry of Climate and Environment, which holds the same role as the one described for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I.e. “The scope of grants available from year to year will largely be dependent on the appropriation in the government budget and Letter of Allocation from the Ministry of Climate and Environment.”
  • For RAM Standard 3 in Appendix (Assessment of relevance), the objectives and target groups described in the call for proposal are the main point by which applications will be assessed.

6. Budget and cost distribution

Q: What is the percentage of cost distribution between administration, project costs, monitoring and evaluation, salaries etc.?
A: Our only requirement is the limit for indirect costs. More information on the matter can be found and downloaded from the NICFI page at Norad’s website. Remaining budget allocations will depend on the type, structure and location of the project and partners.

Q: The call notes that priority will be given to applications above 20 million NOK, but is there an upper limit? Is there any guidance on how much can be requested?

A: There is no pre-defined upper limit, but cost effectiveness, value for money and financial management capacity will be weighted heavily in the determination of the amount of funding approved.

Q: Is it required for applicants to cover a percentage of the costs for the project from other sources than Norad?
A: Funding from other sources than Norad is not required. However, it will be viewed favorably if applicants have a sustainable and diverse funding base.

Q: Is there any specific annual budget my organisation should have in order to be eligible?
A: There is not a specific amount the annual budget should have. However, priority will be given to projects with a total budget over the 5-year period above 20 million NOK.

Q: Is it sufficient that planned procurement is indicated in the budget(s) or will we need to specifically detail planned procurement in a separate section (e.g. a specific procurement plan for what, when and how)?
A: It is enough to indicate this in the budget. Norad will ask the applicants that advance to RAM assessment for more details with regards to planned procurement. Please also see Norad’s Procurement Provisions that will be part of the grant agreements to be signed between Norad and the agreement partner .

Q: Can we present the international partner as a ‘breakdown partner’ in the budget template?
A: Please use the ‘Breakdown Reg or Country Office’ sheet for partners that cannot be defined as local partners (according to the definition in budget template) and ‘Breakdown partner X’ for local partners according to the definition.

Q: How many evaluations of the project are expected to be budgeted by the applicant (for both lead and partners) over the duration of the grant?
A: For the grant period, the budget should reflect the costs of one mid-term review and an audit report each year. The applicants are free to include other reviews, but this must be well explained and justified.

Q: Do consortium members/sub-grantees qualify for indirect cost contribution? Can partners embed their overheads in their daily rates or report this separately? Based on the application documentation, indirect cost contribution is max. 5%, but does it also apply to partners?
A: Only Norad’s direct agreement partner will qualify for a general indirect cost contribution. All costs at sub-partner level will be looked upon as direct project costs in this respect, and they cannot embed overheads in their daily rates. To this end, Norad will conduct a cost-efficiency analysis of the budget.

Q: The template requires an allocation of costs based on country. Would you like us to base this on (1) where the funds will be spent, OR (2) the country that will benefit from the program?
A: The costs should be based on where the funds will be spent.

Q: Is the budget we include in the application to be considered as the final one, or will it be possible to reallocate some amounts as implementation progresses?
A: The budget can be modified later on if the grant is awarded, but it needs to be as realistic and in accordance with the results framework as possible from the outset. Annual budgets are prepared by each grant recipient for Norad’s approval, and divergence of more than 10% for each budget line are subject to explanations from the grant recipient and in some cases also Norad’s prior approval.

Q: Is construction of physical infrastructure permitted (as the guidance note suggests on p.2 under "project outputs"), or does it require expressly requested permission (as the Grant Agreement General Conditions mentions under section 10)?
A: Construction of physical infrastructure is indeed subject to Norad’s approval, as per section 10 of the General Conditions and will be determined on a case-by-case basis. Generally, Norad can cover costs for such outputs as long as the end products/facilities serve the use of the project and its beneficiaries during the grant period, and ownership is transferred to the beneficiaries/target group during the project period if Norad is to accept such an arrangement. Norad will generally not cover such costs where the physical infrastructure is to remain the property of the grant recipient after the end of the project period.

Q: Could we consider an exchange rate cushion in our budget?
A: No. In general, it is the grant recipient that holds the risks associated with exchange rate fluctuations. In case of currency loss compared to the established budget, the grant recipient might submit a modification of project activities to Norad for approval.

Q: Can our partners include operating costs in their budgets? Will this count as overhead in the total budget?
A: Yes, your partners can include operating costs in the budget, and this will not count as overhead in the total budget, as operating costs are considered direct costs. Please ensure that you use the budget template for sub-grantees for operating costs for partners.

Q: Can we add line items in our budget?
A: Yes, you can add budget item lines, as long as the cost categories remain the same.

Q: How shall daily rates for staff be calculated (i.e., what kinds of costs can be included)? For example, in some countries total employment costs include for example taxes and health insurance.
A: All costs related to employment should be included in each budget line. For costs related to employment, we stress that only costs related to the staff member in question directly are eligible. Indirect costs and overheads cannot be included in other budget lines than the one explicitly dedicated to this (cf. other answers provided under this section).

7. Multi-themed applications

This question regarding how multi-themed applications will be reviewed and scored relative to single-themed applications is three-parted: 

Q: Is there a risk of multi-themed proposals being discounted because they’re being reviewed by single-themed committees?
A: Multi-themed proposals will be reviewed for relevance by the priorities set by the call, and proposals undergoing the RAM assessment will be reviewed and compared across themes.

Q: How many theories of change and results frameworks and budgets shall we submit?
A: One theory of change, one result framework and one budget for the entire submission. In addition, a project-specific theory of change is required for each project submitted as part of the application.

Q: Since our proposal is multi-themed and has several global and country-specific objectives, we would ideally tailor the target group for each objective, and thus would have several target groups for each Project. Can we do that?
A: Yes, you can incorporate multiple target groups into your proposal.

8. Organisational issues

Q: Can we use long-term consultancy contracts instead of ordinary staff contracts?
A: Consultancy contracts are to be used for specific, time-bound services and goods to be delivered. We strongly encourage organisations to hire those working on the Norad-supported project as staff with contracts with tax deductions and benefits. Consultancy contracts can only be given after a competitive procurement process, please refer to the procurement provisions published at Norad’s website. Failure to comply with these provisions will make the consultancy contract ineligible for Norad funding, and the grantee will in this case have to bear the cost itself.

Q: How do we include actors that do not fulfil the criteria of being a consortium member or sub-grantee (e.g. a private company) in the best way in the proposal, when we know the implementation of the project depends on their services?
A: Such actors can be procured to perform specific services under a grant agreement between Norad and a civil society organisation. Norad requires such procurement processes to be conducted in accordance with the procurement provisions included in the agreement. Procurement provisions are strictly enforced and monitored throughout the grant period, and failure to comply with them will render the project expenditure in question ineligible for Norad funding, cf. article 1.3. These actors will not be counted as members of the consortium applying for the grant, therefore such projects will score lower on the criterion regarding complementary expertise, thematic and administrative competence and working methods.

9. Grants Portal

Q: What is the definition of a "programme" in the application form as opposed to a "project"?
A: Inside the grants portal, a programme may contain several projects. The information to be entered in the "programme" section is for the overall application, while the "projects" section gives you an opportunity to be more concrete in terms of what is to be accomplished, e.g. in different geographies or thematic areas. It is up to the grant applicant to decide how to organise the set-up of the application, whether that is with one or several projects.

Q: If we are developing our application as one project but in multiple countries, is it acceptable to submit it as one project or is it required that we separate it into country projects?
A: Both options are possible. You may enter a project in the portal with multiple countries or divide it into separate country projects.

Q: Can I add and edit a text at the same time as someone else on the same application? 
A: Yes, you can. However, in the project section (Add project) , only one person at a time can fill out and save the work.

Q: Is my work in the portal saved automatically? 
A: Yes, all text is saved automatically in the portal. The exception is in the project section. Autosave does not work in the Add projects work window. Once you have started filling in information about a project, all required fields should be filled in immediately.

Q: We have not yet received any confirmation about the approval of our registration. Can you estimate how long it takes for the approval?
A: Applicants are accepted on a rolling basis. Please note that you do not need approval of your registration to edit and submit the application in the grants portal; this can be done from the time you register in the portal. When the applicant is approved, other users, organizations and co-applicants can be added. Please find more info about this here:

Extended deadline

The Covid-19 virus has severely impacted society at large in most countries relevant to Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative. The situation requires a lot from all of us.

We understand that several organisations are in a difficult situation and cannot function efficiently at the moment. We have therefore decided to postpone the application deadline for the current NICFI call for proposals to 19 May 2020 at 13:00 CEST.

We still intend for projects to begin implementation during the first quarter of 2021. Our current plan is to decide which applications to award by January 2021, and sign grant agreements during the first quarter of 2021, which will be effective starting 1 January 2021.

We strongly urge all potential applicants to exercise the necessary social responsibility by following the instructions of national and local authorities, ensuring that life and health remain the upmost priority. This also pertains to the process for developing your applications. We encourage you to avoid physical meetings to the extent possible and specifically avoid potential spread to vulnerable groups that do not have adequate access to health care.

We have also received messages from applicants that are planning to submit by the original deadline. As it is unclear how the situation with Covid-19 will evolve, we would encourage the applicants that are able to submit before the new deadline to do so.

We are no longer answering inquiries regarding the application process as of May 1st, as the deadline to submit an application is approaching. We suggest that you redirect towards our updated Q&A page for any doubts you might have regarding the call.

Published 13.02.2020
Last updated 04.05.2020