Small Charities Challenge Fund grant holder guidance

If you are a Small Charities Challenge Fund grant holder, this page is for you.

Simply select the + sign on the right hand side to expand the sections and read further.

Don’t miss the guidance and templates you can download also in each section. These are designed for you to read and share with your colleagues and partners.

Financial guidance

Financial guidance for Small Charities Challenge Fund (SCCF) grant holders is distributed throughout this page according to what is being considered at the time. For example, under the header ‘grant set-up’ you can find the UK Aid Direct guide to budget classification and budgeting or under the header ‘reporting’, you will find the UK Aid Direct guide to the principles of reporting.  However, to make things easier for you we have also grouped all the key financial guidance documents into this one section below.

Due diligence

After you have been informed that you been awarded a provisional grant your organisation will be required to undergo a financial management assessment (FMA), which will be conducted by an experienced member of the fiduciary risk team at UK Aid Direct. This must take place before your grant is approved and any funds are released – this process is known as due diligence and will initially take place either through a face-to-face meeting at your registered office or remotely via Skype / telephone, dependant on the type of funding applied for.

Initially, you will be asked to complete and return a self-assessment questionnaire, alongside supporting documentation such as key policies and procedures. The questionnaire explores your organisation’s governance and internal control, your ability to deliver, the financial stability, and downstream delivery partner management.

It is important to note that if you do not have all the funding requirements in place, we want to hear about it so that we can make suitable recommendations. Please note that not having everything in place does not necessarily mean you would be unable to secure funding.

After the visit or call, the UK Aid Direct team will prepare and complete an FMA report. The draft report is sent to you to fact check and then submitted to the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) for their consideration and for grant approval.

If approved, your final FMA report will be shared with you so that – if required – you can put a plan in place to deliver against the recommendations. Please note: these recommendations will become conditions of your grant arrangement.

After your grant is approved you will be allocated a Performance and Risk Manager (PRM). They will be your point-person for UK Aid Direct and will support with the due diligence process, finalising your project design and providing guidance on your reporting requirements.


SMILE is our online system which UK Aid Direct grant holders use to report and evaluate their projects. It is useful to familiarise with the SMILE system as this will play a vital role in the management of your grant.

You can access the portal via the same login details you used when you made your application.

If you have any questions, please contact our SMILE support team by email (opens in a new window).

Grant set-up

Once you have successfully gone through the due diligence process, the next stage is grant set-up where you will work closely with your Performance and Risk Manager (PRM) and the fiduciary risk team (FRT) to ensure your project design is robust, with appropriate monitoring and evaluation measures in place to deliver results and impact.

The set-up process involves the below steps:
1. Design meeting
2. Documentation approval
3. Accountable Grant Arrangement signature
4. Branding and communications webinar
5. Project implementation.

The design meeting is the first step, within which you will meet (in person or virtually) with your PRM and our FRT. In this meeting, the technical design of your project will be reviewed alongside financial compliance. Outlined below are the key topics for discussion during the design meeting:

  • Results framework
  • Risk register
  • Beneficiary feedback mechanisms
  • Value for money
  • Sustainability
  • Monitoring plan
  • Budget
  • Workplan tracker
  • Delivery chain map.

You are not expected to prepare anything for the meeting, rather it is intended to review your application and current project design.

In the meeting you will also be reviewing your budget and workplan and discussing your financial management processes, delivery chain management and organisational capacity to deliver. As well as any conditions outlined in your financial management assessment (FMA) report.

Your FMA report will be uploaded onto SMILE containing ‘special conditions’ – these are requirements that must be met either before or during the inception period of your grant and the FMA report will clearly outline what is required and by when.

It is essential you review these conditions and act. An example might be that you are required to have a procurement policy in place before the accountable grant arrangement is signed.

Following the meeting, you will be required to share revised documentation and answer the grant set-up questions that will now be available on SMILE.

Once your project design (and supporting documentation) has been signed off, you will move to the signing of your accountable grant arrangement. Our Grant Officers will support with this process.

An accountable grant arrangement (AGA) is drafted and agreed, following approval of your design documentation and due diligence report.

Following signature, your first disbursement will be processed. This will equate to enough funding to implement your first quarter’s activities, plus a financial cushion of 10% of the project value.

At this stage, you may also be looking to formalise your partnerships with downstream partners and other stakeholders with a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).

Accountable grant arrangements and visibility statements

An accountable grant arrangement is drafted and agreed following the approval of your design documentation and FMA report.

The AGA will have details of all the special conditions that have been highlighted in your FMA report which require actions. These are listed as they are mandatory compliance as part of your grant agreement and must be completed in their allocated time frames.

A UK aid visibility statement sets out which project assets a grant holder will brand with the UK aid logo. This must be completed before the AGA is signed.


Between being provisionally awarded a grant and your accountable grant arrangement being signed, the communications team at MannionDaniels will get in touch with you to request images and copy for use on this website, for social media posts, and for sharing with our colleagues at FCDO.

You will also be invited to attend a communications and branding webinar which is designed to help you understand what we can help you with, how you can prepare for announcing your grant, and for UK aid branding guidance.

Only after an organisation has signed their accountable grant arrangement should a project be publicised.

Communicating a grant award should only happen once the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) or UK Aid Direct has announced it.

Your communications team will keep you updated with this and if you have any questions, please contact the team.

Risk management

A requirement of holding a UK Aid Direct grant is that grant holders identify, manage and record any risks that could impact on the implementation or results of their projects. SCCF grant holders are required to use FCDO’s standard risk register template when reporting their risks on a six-monthly basis.

Please review the UK Aid risk webinar and risk podcast below, for guidance on best practice risk management and reporting, as well as the guidance and template.

Asset management and disposal

As part of your project you are likely to be purchasing equipment or supplies. The guide below will help you to manage these in line with FCDO’s requirements.

Monitoring and evaluation (M&E)

Monitoring and evaluation (M & E) is a critical process, helping improve performance and achieve results.

In this M&E podcast (opens in a new window), we interviewed Community Partnership grant holders, African Initiatives (opens in a new window) on their approaches to data collection and effective beneficiary feedback mechanisms for their projects in northern Tanzania. We asked how they ensured high quality, consistent data and how they use it to inform programming. The importance of community-led feedback, data disaggregation and intersectionality is highlighted, as well as behavioural change monitoring and some overall advice for new and existing grant holders.

On our grant holder SoundCloud channel (opens in a new window) you can also listen to further podcasts on managing risk, as well as partnerships.

Grant reporting

Throughout your Small Charities Challenge Fund (SCCF) grant, you will be required to report on progress at different stages. All SCCF grant holders are required to submit:

  • A quarterly financial claim every three months
  • A progress report every six months.

Within the progress report (six monthly) you are required to analyse and assess project progress and provide updates on key elements. There is a strong focus on learning and reflection to assess performance, inform future programming and encourage effective delivery. Alongside the narrative questions within the SMILE portal, you are required to submit the following documents with the narrative report:

  • Beneficiary data summary – guidance on how to complete this can be found in the Excel template below
  • Risk register – guidance on completing your risk register can be found in the risk management section above
  • Delivery chain risk map – this is only required if changes have been made (as outlined in the reporting guidance).

Guidance on completing the narrative report is available below.

Alongside the progress report, grant holders must submit a financial claim every quarter. For quarters 1 to 3, there are two claim windows available to allow flexibility with planning and reporting. Further guidance on financial claims can be found in the section below.

Reporting calendar 2023/2024

The table below provides the quarterly reporting timelines for all UK Aid Direct grant holders:

Claim periodReport deadlineEstimated payment date
Quarter 1 (April - June)
Claim window 1
14 April 12-16 May
Quarter 1 (April - June)
Claim window 2
16 May12 - 16 June
Quarter 2 (July - Sep)
Claim window 1
14 July12-16 August
Quarter 2 (July - Sep)
Claim window 2
15 August12 - 16 September
Quarter 3 (Oct - Dec)
Claim window 1
13 October12 - 16 November
Quarter 3 (Oct - Dec)
Claim window 2
17 November12 - 16 December
Quarter 4 (Jan - March)
Claim window 1
19 January12 - 16 February
Quarter 4 (Jan - March)
Claim window 2
16 February12 - 16 March

Further guidance on financial claims can be found in the Financial Claims section below.


The UK government hosted the Safeguarding Summit in March 2018 where the former Department for International Development (DFID), now Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) announced that they would put in place new, enhanced and specific safeguarding standards for UK charities and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) (opens to PDF, 624KB).

As part of your due diligence assessment you will be required to meet these safeguarding standards. Once you are awarded a grant it will be your responsibility to work with your partners to ensure FCDO’s safeguarding and due diligence standards are met.

The FCDO standards cover policies and processes across six key areas:

  • Safeguarding
  • Whistleblowing
  • Human resources
  • Risk management
  • Codes of conduct
  • Governance.

You can use the guidance below to provide your partners with details of the new standards. It includes how they will be used in enhanced due diligence assessments (DDAs) to assess an organisation’s ability to protect from sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment, the children, young people and vulnerable adults they work with as well as their own staff and volunteers. Your Performance and Risk Manager (PRM) will also be able to advise you on this.

It your responsibility as a grant holder to report safeguarding incidents or concerns to FCDO, as soon as you become aware. This can be done by contacting MannionDaniels directly by emailing UK aid safeguarding (opens in a new window) or by contacting FCDO (opens in new window) directly.


UK Aid Direct has a zero-tolerance approach to fraud and fraudulent behaviour that may lead to misuse of grant funds and is committed to creating an environment in which you feel able to report fraud directly to your Fund Manager.

MannionDaniels has engaged Ethicspoint, a whistleblowing and fraud service provider to support you with this. It is an anonymous, free-to-call and confidential service. To report an incident concerning suspected misuse of funds,  visit their website (opens in a new window).

Financial claims

On UK Aid Direct we follow the FCDO standard financial year, from 1 April to 31 March.

You will claim funds on a quarterly basis.

All payments will be made in ‘advance’ of spend and you will be provided with a working capital allowance, plus your first quarter budgeted spend (with your first disbursement) which will be processed for payment by our fiduciary risk team as soon as your Accountable Grant Arrangement (AGA) has been signed.

The amount of working capital provided depends on your project length:

  • One-year programmes will receive 20% of your total project budget in working capital with first disbursement
  • Projects over one year – and up to two years – will receive 10% of your total project budget in working capital with first disbursement

You will be reporting on SMILE on a six-monthly basis, however, will be required to submit financial claims (on SMILE) on a quarterly basis. This means that every other quarter, you will submit a claim without your narrative report.

There are two opportunities every quarter to submit: the first or the second month of each quarter.

The deadline for submission is outlined below, and please note that if this deadline is missed there is no opportunity for us to process your claim until the following quarter.

Financial claims calendar 2023/2024

Claim periodFinal claim deadlineEstimated payment date
Quarter 1 (April - June)
Claim window 1
14 April12-16 May
Quarter 1 (April - June)
Claim window 2
16 May12 - 16 June
Quarter 2 (July - Sep)
Claim window 1
14 July12-16 August
Quarter 2 (July - Sep)
Claim window 2
15 August12 - 16 September
Quarter 3 (Oct - Dec)
Claim window 1
13 October12 - 16 November
Quarter 3 (Oct - Dec)
Claim window 2
17 November12 - 16 December
Quarter 4 (Jan - March)
Claim window 1
19 January12 - 16 February
Quarter 4 (Jan - March)
Claim window 2
16 February12 - 16 March

When submitting your claim, please ensure that all spend at individual transactional level is reported, with information being gathered from your implementing partners (if applicable). It is important that we can understand – from your claim and financial report – where the money has been spent.

Once submitted, your claim is processed by our fiduciary risk team and once approved, payments are usually *made within approximately 30 days.

Project completion reporting

Small Charities Challenge Fund grant holders are required to submit a project completion report (PCR) within three months of the end of the project. The PCR is an opportunity for the project team to reflect on project performance, draw conclusions on how interventions have worked (or not), and reflect on lessons learned. Following submission, the UK Aid Direct team will provide a detailed technical feedback report and support grant holders through the asset disposal process.

The PCR (including all supporting documentation, as outlined in the guidance) should be submitted to the Performance and Risk Manager within three months of the end of the project. A reminder will be sent by the performance team outlining timelines and requirements.

Please note: documents should not be submitted on SMILE.