What is the Illegal Wildlife Trade (IWT) Challenge Fund?

The IWT Challenge Fund is a competitive UK government grants scheme. The objective of the IWT Challenge Fund is to tackle the illegal wildlife trade and in doing so, to contribute to sustainable development in developing countries.

What types of projects does the IWT Challenge Fund support?

The objective of the IWT Challenge Fund is to tackle the illegal wildlife trade and in doing so, to contribute to sustainable development in developing countries, through projects which address one, or more, of the following themes:

  1. Reducing demand for IWT products
  2. Strengthening law enforcement
  3. Ensuring effective legal frameworks
  4. Developing sustainable livelihoods to benefit people directly affected by IWT

There are currently three active schemes:

  • IWTCF Extra: £600,000 - £1.5m
    The Extra grant scheme funds projects aimed at expanding activities that have already demonstrated success and impact at a smaller scale.
  • IWTCF Main: £75,000 - £600,000
    Under this grant scheme, projects will deliver strong results to tackle both IWT and poverty reduction based on good evidence, and strongly demonstrate the potential to scale.
  • IWTCF Evidence: £20,000 - £100,000
    Evidence grants are for projects which gather evidence to design an intervention. Applications should describe how the improved evidence base will be used to design an intervention where there is a gap in approaches.

Further information on the IWT Challenge Fund can be found in the ‘About Us’ section of the website. Both past and current project information is available under the 'Projects' tab.


How do I apply for funding?

All applications are managed through the online system, Flexi-Grant. Further information on how to get started on your application can be found in the latest version of the IWT guidance. There is also separate Flexi-Grant guidance available. Both can be found on the Apply page.

What is the application process like?

The application process varies for different funding schemes – some schemes are single stage, but most are a two-stage process. Please note that application to Stage 2 is by invite only. The specific requirements for each funding scheme can be found in the Guidance for applicants, found on the Apply page.

What do I need to include in my application for it to be considered eligible?

All applications must be submitted through Flexi-Grant and must be in comprehensible English. Please note that applications at both Stage 1 and Stage 2 must meet the published administrative, technical and financial criteria in order to be considered. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • All questions must be completed (N/A is acceptable if appropriate)
  • Applications must be signed (with a PDF signature uploaded as part of the Flexi-Grant application)
  • The start and end dates must be within the funding period stated in the guidance
  • Ensure all other required supporting materials are submitted, adhering to format and length requirements outlined in the guidance (for example, CVs should be one page only and uploaded as a single PDF document)

Further information on essential and supplementary materials can be found in the IWT Challenge Fund guidance on the Apply page.

Who do I speak to about application queries?

We would recommend reviewing the guidance available as most common queries are answered in there. If you still have questions, please get in touch! For general application queries please get in touch with the team at, for Flexi-Grant specific queries contact us at

Which countries can my project work in?

IWT Challenge Fund projects work in developing countries. The list of eligible countries changes year to year so please review the latest guidance on the Apply pagefor a list of countries currently eligible.

When do applications open for the next funding Round?

We aim to open a funding Round to applications each year, but the timing can vary and an annual cycle is not necessarily guaranteed. To be kept up to date on the specific dates, follow updates on our social media or sign up to our IWT Challenge Fund mailing list to be informed of when the new Rounds launch.

Can the budget change between Stage 1 and Stage 2?

Yes. Stage 1 should be indicative, but need not be fully worked out. Stage 2 should be fully budgeted. As long as the differences are not too extreme and you can explain any major changes at Stage 2, then Stage 1 can be a best estimate.

What happens if I do not receive my letters of support in time?

The letters of support are required as evidence of the relationship with partners and contacts within the host country and also to support the demand for the work. Without these letters, the application will still be assessed, but may be marked less favourably. The letters not only support the application, but also show the applicant’s ability to meet deadlines and to be able to achieve results with local contacts.

Do you need translations for letters of support?

Yes – letters that are not written in English must be accompanied by a translation. These do not need to be official translations.

Does a main project have to start in April?

Your project should begin at a time that aligns with the allowable dates in a specific funding round and that is suitable to both the host country and the project team. A start date of 1st April will allow your project budget to align with UK government budgets, so financial reporting will be simpler. A later start may be possible, if appropriate, and may be necessary within a particular funding round, but budgeting should always match April – March financial years.

Who should sign the application?

The Stage 1 form can be signed by anyone willing to confirm that the content of the application is correct. The Stage 2 form must be signed by someone from the lead organisation who takes responsibility for the content of the application and who is authorised to submit applications on behalf of the institution.

Can I have an extension on the submission date?

We cannot normally extend a submission date, but if there are mitigating circumstances, Defra will consider them.

Can I withdraw once I have submitted an application?

Yes, but give attention to your reasons before making the decision. If you have been invited to apply for Stage 2 and then withdraw, be aware that you may have cost another applicant the chance to submit a Stage 2 application.

Can I resubmit an application if I am not successful?

Yes, but we do not normally accept more than two submissions so be sure to address the issues that were included in your unsuccessful feedback letter.

Project Communications

How do I communicate about my project?

There are several different ways that you can communicate about your project, using media that is most relevant to the needs of your project and that of your target audience. The Biodiversity Challenge Funds have a number of communications channels you can engage with – including social media (X (Twitter), Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram) as well as a Newsletter which features articles from projects.

How do I contribute to the Newsletter?

We love to hear from projects and contributing to our newsletters is a great way to share your project stories. To receive the latest news on the newsletter themes and calls for articles get in touch with us at to sign up to the newsletter mailing list. Although the newsletters are usually based on a theme, we are also happy to accept general project updates.

Do we need your approval for external project publicity/communication?

You do not require formal approval. However, the Terms and Conditions for your project ask you to notify Defra about any relevant UK media/news stories before they are published and to ensure that you acknowledge the funding scheme. However, there is no need to notify us of every news article so please use your judgement accordingly.

Is there a Comms user guide package (including logos etc)?

Our Logo and Branding Guidelines provide detailed information on how to acknowledge funding. This is something all projects should comply with when referring to project funding or when using the IWT Challenge Fund or UK International Development (UK Dev) logo. Further details are included in the Terms and Conditions.


The IWT Challenge Fund logos can also be downloaded from the Project Publicity page.

Finance And Administration

What are the main financial and administrative requirements of the project?

For information on the financial and administrative requirements for all IWT Challenge Fund projects please refer to the finance guidance and guidance document for applicants.

  • Quarterly claims and end of year actual claims
  • An end of project audit for projects over £100k
  • Technical reporting for main IWT projects:
    • Half year reports due 31st October
    • Annual Reports due 30th April
    • Final Reports due within 3 months of project end
Can I/How do I make changes to my project?

Any changes to your project, including budget spread, need to be approved via the Change Request process. There is a template available here which includes detailed guidance. There are two main types of request:

  • Financial: involves the movement of funds from one financial year to another. For these requests we require a clear justification and will not grant requests due to poor budget management
  • Other: these requests cover everything else, such as changes to staffing, logframes, and the movement of funds across budget lines within the same financial year. In other words, any changes to the currently agreed project that would make a significant change.

Please ensure that your request is clear and provides adequate justification for any changes.

What does the IWT Challenge Fund mean by financial years?

Project budgets are required to follow the UK Government financial years which run from 1st April to 31st March.

What does the IWT Challenge Fund mean by budget lines?

Budget lines are the high-level summary categories such as “Travel and Subsistence” or “Staff Costs”.

Can I make changes to the project budget without submitting a change request?

You can operate with some flexibility between budget lines within a financial year (of up to 10% in any one high level budget line), but cannot change the total annual budget. If you overspend on one line, you must ensure you cover that from another line or meet the additional costs from other matched funding or from within your own organisation. If there is more than 10% change to any budget line within a specific financial year, you need agreement from Defra through the Change Request process.

Is it possible to carry over unspent budget within a financial year?

No – carry forwards are not allowed (the change request form has more specific guidance). But if you need to review the full budget, you can submit a change request to revise the spread of funds across the years. Please refer to the Finance Guidance for deadline dates.

Is it possible to overspend in total yearly budget? (e.g. £1,000 out of £100,000 yearly budget)

You cannot spend more than your awarded grant in any particular year from IWT funds. If you do need to spend more money, this additional money must come from other sources. You will need to submit a change request if you are rebudgeting IWT grant money between financial years.

Is it possible to request additional funds under certain circumstances?

No, the total grant amount cannot increase. Any changes you are proposing to your project needs to be managed within this overall award figure amount, although movement of money between budget lines and financial years can be considered through the change request process.

Do we need to substantiate annual actual spend claims with evidencing documents?

No. The claim form is signed to certify spend is accurate. You should hold all the documentation, but we will only ask to see if it you are asked to take part in a Spot Audit.

Is there any flexibility around timing of submitting the claim forms – e.g. if there is a delay for some reason would that render the claim void?

Payment schedules are detailed in the Finance Guidance and T&Cs. For main projects, as the Advance claims are simply 25% of your total grant award for that year, we you should submit your claim within the quarter it is for. Actual claims are due by 31st  May, and claims submitted more than 3 months after the financial year end (i.e. after 30th June) may not be paid. If you believe your project is likely to underspend, please do not submit a claim that would take you over what you expect to spend. Please get in touch to discuss what is happening with your project.

Do we need to submit hard copies of the claim forms?

No, we only accept electronic claim forms.

How do I change the signatory information for my project?

To change your project signatories, please complete the amendment to signatory form which can be found here and send this to BCFs Finance at

When does the project audit have to happen?

The project audit should take place when the project has ended and all expenditure has been gathered in. It should be completed and submitted within 6 months of the formal project end date. It is required for all projects with an award from IWT of over £100,000.

How do we account for/acquit funds that transferred for use by partners for their activities?

It is your responsibility to ensure you have adequate reporting and evidence from partners to account for all funds you send them. We would recommend this is done in a way that meets your own organisation’s financial processes and requirements.

How will the auditing of collaborating partners abroad be managed?

As above, auditing of the lead organisation only is sufficient to meet our requirements. When it comes to accounting for the spend of partners, please apply your own organisational systems.

At the end of the project, can we plan for the audit to take place before the final project report is submitted to IWT Challenge Fund Admin?

Yes – but it should include all project costs. Ideally, the audit will happen alongside the writing of the final report so they can be submitted together.

Will all the award paperwork be received electronically, or will hard copies be required?

All award paperwork will be shared electronically. No hard copies are required.


Is it possible to discuss queries before the reporting deadlines?

Yes, we are happy to support on both technical and financial reporting queries before the deadlines. We would recommend considering the guidance contained in the reporting templates as well as looking at relevant information notes that can be found here.

Should there be an unforeseen challenge in meeting the reporting deadline, is there room to negotiate for extension of the deadline?

Contact the mailbox relevant to your fund ( in advance of the deadline – there is room to negotiate on a case by case basis, but remember that the reporting deadlines are fixed and known in advance, so you should plan to meet them as far as possible.

Are there reporting requirements for the partner organisations included in our grant budget?

The lead organisation, as the grantee, is responsible for all reporting. You may wish to ask for, or require, input from partners and we would always recommend this and like to see input into reporting from partners – however there are no strict requirements. Your budget should already include scope for partners to contribute to project reporting as part of their input to the project.

Is there overlap between reports? Do you include information from the half-year report in the annual report, or just the previous 6 months?

Half Year Reports cover the period 1st April to 30th September and annual reports cover the period 1st April to March 31st (i.e. you will need to report on the April-September period twice – however, the level of detail required at the half year reporting stage is much less).

Are templates of technical and financial reports available?

Yes, templates can be found online here. Please note that the templates are updated each year so please check for the latest version.

What supplementary material should be included with project reports?

You should submit sufficient evidence to support claims made in your report, however we do not need to see all project documentation, as this cannot be reviewed in detail by the independent reviewer. We recommend you use a common-sense approach – consider sampling key documents or providing only sections of longer reports. They key thing is that we have independent evidence of claims you make and an indication of the technical quality of your work. Please ensure it is clear which annexes support which elements of your reporting (such as clear cross referencing).

When will feedback be received on annual reports?

Once you have submitted your annual report, it is independently reviewed by a monitoring and evaluation expert. Please allow up to 8 weeks for us to return the completed annual report review to you.

For queries not addressed here, see our Contact page