2020 Application FAQs

Thank you for applying for funding from The Asfari Foundation (AF). Below we answer the most common queries applicants have about our grant application process (pdf version).


  • The Asfari Foundation is a British grant-making charity set up by Ayman and Sawsan Asfari in 2006.
  • Our vision is for a just world where people have equal opportunities to transform their lives, invest in their communities, and shape the future of their countries.
  • Our mission is to invest in, and support the sustainability of, a resilient and empowered civil society infrastructure and innovative youth, who can collectively lead a transformational positive change in their communities and countries.
  • The Foundation focuses its efforts in the Levant and UK.


  1. To enable the development of a resilient, effective and accountable civil society by developing the sustainability, productivity and scalable impact of high potential civil society organisations (CSOs).
  2. To create non-traditional learning and economic opportunities by providing innovative support to young entrepreneurs to help them build sustainable enterprises and tackle social challenges.
  3. To empower partners to transform their organisations, increase their impact, and strengthen learning and collaboration – locally, regionally and globally – through community-led, localised knowledge-sharing.


The Foundation seeks to support organisations that:

  • Align with our values and approach.
  • Operate in our programmatic areas (see below).
  • Have excellent track records.
  • Are leading players, or have potential to be, in their field.
  • Demonstrate a clear sense of purpose and strategy linked to a specific constituency/target group.
  • Are actively seeking to become more effective, accountable and sustainable.
  • Are actively seeking to transform and grow their organisation, and the ecosystem in which they operate, including the professional development of their staff.
  • Directly or indirectly have an impact on community cohesion.
  • Adopt innovative approaches to programming.
  • Address systemic weaknesses in our thematic areas.
  • Committed to transparency, active partnership, and sharing learning and insight.


Civil Society Programme (CSP)

  • This programme supports the development of a resilient, sustainable civil society, with a current focus on Lebanon and Syria. We invest in the organisational development of CSOs to improve the chances for these actors to continue to operate, retain their assets between projects, become professionalised and certified to the point where they can access funds from a diverse spectrum of donors, and engage in a sustainable and impactful way.
  • Our focus is on building the social infrastructure to tackle the chronic issues facing the region and ensuring sustainable impact beyond grant making and project support. Please visit our website for more information on how the programme works.

Youth Learning, Enterprise, and Innovation Programme (YLEAP)

  • This programme focuses investment towards strengthening of social innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystems in the Levant region, offering youth-driven social solutions the support needed from ideation to impact investment. Please visit our website for more information on how the programme works.
  • In 2020 Pitchworthy, in partnership with the Asfari Foundation, will also run a pilot accelerator/challenge prize in Lebanon: the ‘Asfari Challenge for Social Innovation’ (ACSI). The challenge prize has a separate application and funding process – more information can be found here.


Eligibility criteria are specific to each grant programme.

Civil Society Programme (CSP):

  • Must be registered with the appropriate local authorities (and able to provide proof of registration).
  • Must have an overall annual budget in 2019 falling between £100,000 and £750,000.
  • Must be:
    • Syrian-led CSOs serving Syrians living in Lebanon; or
    • Syrian-led CSOs working on global issues that affect all Syrians; or
    • Lebanese or Syrian-led CSOs based in Lebanon and serving the Lebanese, Syrian and/or Palestinian communities in Lebanon.
  • Concept notes must address at least one of the following areas:

(A) Strengthening governance; e.g.

  • Strengthening the governance of CSOs.
  • Nurturing young leaders.
  • Sharing good governance practices.
  • Working to hold authorities and those in power accountable.
  • Safeguarding local or international civil society space.

(B) Promoting active citizenship; e.g.

  • Enabling individuals in the Foundation’s target countries to access their social, political and economic rights.
  • Ensuring freedom of association.
  • Supporting the participation of young people and marginalized groups.
  • Providing platforms for marginalized voices in home or hosting countries.

(C) Development of independent, high-quality media; e.g.

  • Informing the public with credible, reliable and objective news and analysis of the situation in the Foundation’s target countries.
  • Contributing, and inviting the public, to debate solutions to tackle chronic problems facing the region.
  • Investing in building the capacity and skills of media staff, other media channels and workers.

Youth Learning, Enterprise and Innovation Programme (YLEAP):

  • May be located anywhere in the world.
  • Must be registered with the appropriate local authorities (and able to provide proof of registration).
  • Must address social impact.
  • Must serve Lebanese, Syrian and/or Palestinian communities in Lebanon.
    • May be:
      • Local not-for profit organisations (e.g. civil society, community-based, and Non-governmental organisations); or
      • Social enterprises and/or stakeholders from global entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystems; or
      • Private companies with a clear social impact business model.
  • Concept notes must address at least one of the following areas:

(A) Ecosystem building in Lebanon; e.g.

  • Innovating to strengthen collaboration between existing ecosystem stakeholders to help achieve impact at scale.
  • Improving the pipeline supporting young entrepreneurs and innovators, from ideation to impact investment.
  • Democratising access to knowledge and information for young entrepreneurs.

(B) Solutions to challenges; e.g.

  • Innovating solutions to challenges shared by young entrepreneurs and their supporting ecosystem in Lebanon and the Levant.
  • Contextualising and applying global innovations and solutions to fit ecosystems in Lebanon and the Levant.
  • Innovating to solve issues restricting young entrepreneurs in Lebanon from growing their enterprises and achieving impact at scale.
  • De-risking youth to become investment-ready, increasing their access to finance and markets.

(C) Building on the Asfari Challenge for Social Innovation (ACSI)

  • Pitchworthy, in partnership with the Asfari Foundation, are running a pilot accelerator/challenge prize in Lebanon for young entrepreneurs. The structure of this pilot will follow accelerator programming and will be done primarily online.
  • Pitchworthy is an innovative organisation working to overcome the barriers of geographies and limited mobility that excludes many from entrepreneurship and innovation programming. Their online platform is packed with innovations that is based on praxis – learning by doing, maximising one’s strengths, growth mindset and more.
  • Applications to YLEAP are welcome to build on the Asfari Challenge for Social Innovation pilot, offering opportunities and pathways to graduates of the programme.
  • For more information please visit this link.

YLEAP UPDATE: 13 February 2020

We have received some questions asking for clarification of the types of application suitable for YLEAP:

  • We encourage all those with questions who are interested in applying to attend the YLEAP webinar – joining instructions here.
  • Below are some hypothetical examples of applications that could align with the three themes set out in our eligibility criteria.
  • Please note: these examples are NOT intended to be a prescriptive or exhaustive list, just an aid to your thinking. We encourage you to be creative!

Ecosystem building in Lebanon

  • Lebanese entrepreneurship organisation innovating a model that brings together various actors in the ecosystem to support strengthen the entrepreneurship pipeline (grant would be to test the model).
  • Four Lebanon ecosystem players (and maybe another INGO or global entrepreneurship player) come together to create an entrepreneurship programme from ideation to impact investment in Lebanon over three years (grant would be to fund the coordination not programmatic delivery).

Solutions to challenges

  • A Lebanon based enterprise innovating a technology or a model utilising AI and blockchain to reduce cost of running entrepreneurship programmes and improve system efficiencies (grant would be offered to test the innovation).
  • A global entrepreneurship ecosystem player/private company with a validated innovation that offers a solution to access to finance (or any other challenge faced by entrepreneurs and their supporting ecosystem) that could be replicated in Lebanon (grant would be to pilot replicate the innovation).
  • A Lebanon based network working to standardise requirements of each stage of support on the entrepreneurship spectrum to facilitate seamless exits from programmes and entrance in others (grant would be to research the standards and buy in).

Building on the Asfari Challenge for Social Innovation (ACSI)

  • An ecosystem player (anywhere) offering to accelerate a graduate of ACSI (grant would be to support with operational costs).
  • A fabrication lab to support with developing new prototypes for a graduate of ACSI.
  • A mentoring network to support five graduating teams for two years.



  • Six flexible grants of up to £225,000 each are available in total (dispensed over up to three years in equal instalments of up to £75,000 each year).


  • Flexible grants of up to £75,000 for a maximum of one year initially. As this is a pilot programme, up to two further grants may be offered to the organisation from 2021 onwards (e.g. where innovations show promise).

*Note: Challenge prize funding is implemented differently – for more information see here.


The application timeline is as follows:

Application Stages:

Stage One: Concept note application:

  • Once a concept note has been received, the Asfari Programmes team will vet the application to ensure that the applicant organisation meets UK charity legislation, is aligned with the Foundation’s mandate and values, and will contribute meaningfully to the Foundation’s stated programme objectives.
  • Shortlisted applicants will be invited to proceed to Stage Two. Unsuccessful applicants will be notified.

Stage Two: Full proposal application:

  • Applicants who have moved into Stage Two are invited to submit a full proposal and budget, along with financial information for 2019 & 2018.
  • Required Stage 2 documents:
    1. Organisation registration documents.
  • Optional Stage 2 documents:
    1. Strategic plan.
    2. Organisation development plan.
    3. Evaluation reports (programme or organisation).
  • The completed proposal is usually due within four to six weeks of the invitation to submit. A webinar will be held half-way through the proposal stage to answer applicants’ queries.
  • Proposals are reviewed by the Programmes team and then shortlisted again. Shortlisted applicants will proceed to in-depth vetting. Unsuccessful applicants will be notified.

Stage Three: In-depth vetting:

  • The team conducts a desk review, visit the shortlisted organisations and/or their projects, speak to referees, and will ask questions and seek additional information over the phone or via email.
  • The team will explore the organisation’s management and financial systems, its viability, track record and experience in the country (and if relevant, with similar projects) as well as its legal status and reputation. They will look closely at the applicant organisation’s positioning and strategy around the impact it seeks to make, as well as feasibility and risk regarding its implementation plans. Finally, they will consider the applicant’s organisational development and capacity building needs and plans, to get a sense of its growth ambitions and how it intends to achieve them.
  • This vetting period may take up to two months. Applicant organisations will be expected to be responsive to the Programmes team during this time and may be asked to revise their written proposal to reflect agreed changes, any necessary clarifications and/or additional detail identified by the Programmes team.
  • Please note that an important part of our vetting process is a field visit by a Programme Manager to your office and relevant project locations. The Programme Managers will usually ask to speak particularly with senior management, and ideally with other stakeholders, especially recent project participants. Applicant organisations will be given at least three weeks’ notice to allow for time to arrange a visit.

Stage Four: The decision:

  • Once the Programmes Team has thoroughly assessed each shortlisted applicant organisation, it will make a written recommendation to the Board of Trustees. The decision on funding is always made by the Board, and all decisions are final.
  • Applicant organisations will be notified of the Board’s decision by email within two weeks of the Board meeting. Successful applicants will be asked to enter into a formal agreement of partnership with the Foundation and, typically, can expect a transfer of funds within four weeks of signing this agreement.


  • The application form is completed online through a link on our website accessible here.
  • Once you have completed the application online, you will be prompted to submit it with any required supporting documents.
  • You will be notified automatically via email that your application has been submitted.


  • In 2020 we are not able to accept any applications in Arabic. Please complete and submit your application in English.


  • Applicants will be notified of the outcome of the application by email on 1 April 2020.


  • In 2019 we received approximately 200 applications and funded 10 in total – 5% of applicants were successful. A significant proportion of these applications did not meet the eligibility criteria.
  • This year we have introduced an eligibility quiz which will save applicants time and ensure they only pass through to the concept note application if they meet the criteria.
  • This means the chances of success, if eligible, are likely to be slightly higher this year. Nonetheless, the level of competition is expected to be extremely high again – please bear this in mind when making your decision to apply.


  • If you have been awarded a grant – congratulations! You will be informed that your application was successful via email.
  • You will then need to:
    • Finalise a Budget and Monitoring and Evaluation Framework with the AF Programme Manager for the relevant programme.
    • Confirm your Bank details (including IBAN code) and currency preference.
    • Sign a Grant Agreement, including the Terms and Conditions and Payment Schedule.
  • Once the Grant Agreement has been signed by your organisation and the Foundation, the first payment can be released.
  • Please note: the precise amount to be paid to each successful applicant is calculated using the OANDA exchange rate calculator on the date the AF Projects Committee approves the finalised list of grantees for 2020. This amount is then fixed for any subsequent year payments and is not readjusted (barring any exceptional or unforeseen circumstances that would be dealt with on a case-by-case basis).


The Foundation recognises that to plan and implement effectively, non-profit organisations need the security of longer-term funding, the freedom to identify their own strategic priorities, and critically, the space to address their own organisational resilience and growth. The Foundation therefore operates a Flexible Funding Model, where partners will be able to adapt their spending over the lifetime of the grant, to allow them to be responsive to your organisation’s changing context and needs:


  • Applicant organisations may apply for grants to cover organisational development (OD) costs, and core costs where these are supporting OD. These may include for example:
    • Consultant costs where these relate to OD.
    • Salaries of key staff, rent, and legal fees.
    • Training and capacity development of individuals or teams within the organisation.
    • Systems’ development (e.g. fundraising, monitoring & evaluation and procurement).
    • Development of strategy documents, policies and procedures.
    • Communication and convening costs.
    • Organisational learning and knowledge management.
  • Please note:
    • The grant does not cover direct project or programme costs unless applicants can propose to use the fund in ways that sustain and develop their programmatic work – this will require discussion with the Programme Manager.
    • In 2020 we are piloting a self-assessment exercise to help shortlisted applicants identify areas of focus for organisational development. Successful applicants will receive support to develop and implement a pathway for their organisation’s development, including formal OD certification where applicable.


  • All applicants may apply for YLEAP grants:
    • To cover costs of innovation; and/or project testing; and/or existing project costs where projects are relevant to this call.
    • As co-investment with other donors to address the areas described above.
  • In addition, please note:
    • Social enterprises and not-for-profits whose annual budget in 2019 was £100,000 – £750,000 (applicable for Lebanon-based organisations):
      • May apply to use part of the grant to cover core costs.
      • Must utilise at least 25% of the grant for organisational development.

Please note: this funding is NOT unrestricted! AF will need to approve the spending plan and, once terms have been agreed, any further changes will need to be agreed with the Programme Manager.


Yes – as long as your organisation is not currently being funded by AF, you are welcome to apply again.


CSP Webinar 1 Q&A – 19/02/2020

Q: مساء الخير …السؤال حول حصر تغطية مشروع الشباب بلبنان حصرا .. هل يوجد إمكانية لتطبيق المشروع داخل سوريا  ضمن المناطق المحررة ( ادلب وحلب ) 

[Good evening … The question about limiting the coverage of the youth project to Lebanon exclusively .. Is there a possibility to implement the project inside Syria within the liberated areas (Idlib and Aleppo)?]

A: Unfortunately we cannot currently support organisations working entirely inside Syria.

Q: السؤال الثاني  يتعلق ب توضيح اكثر للملاحظة “The grant does not cover direct project or programme costs unless applicants can propose to use the fund in ways that sustain and develop their programmatic work – this will require discussion with the Programme Manager.”

[The second question concerns more clarification of the note…]

A: This refers to our commitment to focus on organisational development rather than purely project-based funding, to make organisations more sustainable. However, we are very happy to discuss ways applicants can use the funds to sustain, develop or extend their programmatic work.

Q: Regarding to the themes or the issues to be addressed, you mean you support organizations those are focusing on those areas, or those the areas within the organization that you support in this call?

A: For this year, applications must focus on any one or more of the 3 themes listed (citizenship, governance, media).

Q: Would our organisation qualify for the grant? We are setting up a non-traditional STEM education programme for young Syrian refugees where they learn skills in tech, science, etc. that contributes to better employment opportunities for them. We are part of an umbrella organisation which would fit the criteria for income. We have already started 2 programmes in Turkey for Syrian refugees but we may start one in Lebanon as well if we had the necessary core funding to strengthen our organisation and develop the programme to scale it up.

A: This would be outside of the scope of the CSP programme eligibility criteria, but we would encourage you to look carefully at the criteria for our other programme (YLEAP) to see whether there is a potential fit for your work there.

Q: My organization is considered a large organization in Lebanon. our budget is above 750,000 pounds. however, one of our programs is made to develop small CBOs and NGOs through capacity building. Is it possible to apply for Asfari call?

A: If the CBO in question is registered as an independent entity then you are eligible to apply, but please make it clear in the application if you are part of a larger organisation.

Q: With regard to innovative approaches to programming could you please clarify or give an idea of what would you like to see in this aspect?!

A: We perceive innovation as new ways of tackling chronic problems faced by people in the region. This could include new technology, but could also be about new ways of collaborating or new ways of thinking.

Q: منظمتي تعمل ضمن مجال الحماية … وتمكين الشباب فيما يتعلق بشكل خاص بقضايا المشاركة المدنية وحقوق الانسان .مرخصة في تركيا والسويد ونعمل داخل الأراضي السورية .. هل يتعبر ضمن المعايير التقديم على مشروع المشاركة المدنية  نظرا لانه لايوجد لدينا  ترخيص للعمل في لبنان  

[My organization works within the field of protection … and the empowerment of young people with regard to specially issues of civil participation and human rights. Licensed in Turkey and Sweden and we work inside Syrian territory .. Is it considered within the criteria to apply for the civil participation project because we do not have a license to work in Lebanon?]

A: We don’t require registration in Lebanon. Organisations can be registered anywhere and apply for funding as long as they meet the eligibility criteria.

Q: When you say budget of last year between 100k and 750k, you mean the budget for only 2019? Our funds overlap from one year to the next and the total is over 100k but over 2 years (some started in 2019 and some started in 2020) If we split them per year it will be less than 100k though. would we still be eligible to apply?

A: The reason we have the lower limit of 100k is that in our experience organisations with annual budget below this lack the infrastructure to meet our financial reporting requirements (e.g. they lack a finance officer, or robust accounting mechanisms) and can struggle to absorb the funds effectively. If you think you are very close to the limit and can provide a strong case for your ability to manage the funds effectively and meet our reporting requirements, then you are welcome to apply and explain this in the application.

Q: Going back to the issue of the budget of the organization, if a branch of an international organization residing in Lebanon has a budget within these limits, can they apply or your look at the budget of the whole organization as a whole?

A: We would look at the budget of the organisation as a whole in this case, but other factors can come into play, for instance – is it a Syrian/Lebanese-led organisation? While we are very open to the work of INGOs and have supported their work in the past, we feel our added value to the sector is to focus on supporting local CSOs to become more sustainable.

Q: Can an organization provide capacity building to small NGOs as part of the program, or the capacity building has to be done by the same organization who is applying for the grant?

A: We would need more detail about the relative size of the organisations and what this entailed before we could answer this. The key thing for your application to be considered is that you meet the eligibility criteria and address the themes of the call in your application.

Q: Does ‘development of independent high-quality media’ entail an already formed news portal or high quality media, or development of new ones?

A: Typically, the organisations we have supported are already established and producing content. It could be written, or visual, or using new innovative methods. So we prioritise organisations with some evidence of a track record in this space who are building on quality work that has already started rather than a new organisation developing an entirely new platform.

Q: Our organization specialized in ICT and one of our programming areas is building Syrian CSOs ICT capacity, does that consider a part of your themes?

A: This would not be directly linked to the themes of this specific call but there could be alternative ways your organisation could collaborate with the Foundation. Anyone is welcome to get in touch if you want to suggest certain avenues you think the Foundation could align with your work, but this would not fall within the scope of this funding call.

Q: You mentioned that you will be looking to fund six organisations under this thematic area. I wonder, based on previous calls, if you could give any indication as to how competitive this call might be – ie, what % of applications were funded in previous rounds?

A: Approximately 5%. However, bear in mind that previously we had many applications from organisations that did not meet the eligibility criteria – this time the chances of success will be higher because we have introduced an eligibility filter which will save time for applicants as they will only be directed to the application if they meet the eligibility criteria.

YLEAP Webinar 1 Q&A – 20/02/2020

Q: We don’t fit in the budget criteria, operating in Lebanon, but have priorities to youth development working on multiple programmes on economic support and entrepreneurship. What are the chances if we apply for this fund?

A: Last year, we received around 180 applications and 10 organisations were selected for funding. Almost 50% of the applicants last year did not meet the criteria and were not shortlisted. We are hoping the eligibility quiz this year will offer more guidance on the profile of organisations that can benefit from the Foundation’s funding. Organisations are welcome to apply if they address any of the thematic areas.

Q: What is early access to the portal mentioned in the call?

A: The Asfari Portal will be hosting localised, Arabised learning content for the Foundation’s partners and other interested organisations to access, including networking and collaboration opportunities. The portal will be piloted in 2020 with a soft launch hopefully in June 2020.

Q: What do we mean investing in ecosystem organisations to strengthen the entrepreneurship pipeline?

A: Investing in entrepreneurship ecosystem players to come together innovating a model that builds on their expertise creating a seamless journey for entrepreneurs from learning, ideation….to impact investment.

Q: Is there is any specific area in Lebanon you recommend applicants to focus their application on?

A: This is up to the applicant and where they understand the need is most. We know however majority of entrepreneurship programming is based in capital and major cities, and we invite partners to be inclusive reaching excluded populations like home bound females, people with disabilities and others.

Q: What do we mean by Organizational Development?

A: Funds focusing on core costs, costs associated with capacity building, training for core staff, consultants to support strengthen internal processes and procedures, new systems that supports efficiency, effectiveness and sustainability of the organisation.

Q: Would we prioritise organisations in Lebanon over international ones?

A: No priority given to location.

Q: Last year we supported 5% of the applicants, do you foresee that to be the same probability this year?

A: No, we digitised our systems to ensure applicants go through an eligibility quiz avoiding time and effort spent by the applicant in submitting an application if they are not eligible. The number of opportunities this year will depend on the size of funding requested.

Q: If we started to apply online, can we have a draft to access in different stages?

A: You can save the application to access later (requires you to check a box marked ‘save and resume’).

Q: Can we apply with an affiliate international partner?

A: Yes, you can as long as the concept focuses on the thematic areas presented. There will be negotiation on budget allocation and co-investment with the international partner.

Q: The application asks, are you registered but does not asks about location?

A: Type and location of registration is not important as long as the concept focuses on the thematic areas presented.

Q: Is there is a soft copy of the application form?

A: You can access an example form here. However, please note: the application must be submitted online, and you must have completed the online eligibility quiz first.

Q: Can the funds be utilised to create a new entity?

A: As long as there is registration, a match in vision, mission, and values with the Foundation’s, that could be possible. We support the growth of new ideas that support the thematic areas advertised.

Q: What type of projects the Foundation is interested in?

A: Ones that respond to the thematic areas listed.

Q: Can more than one concept note be submitted?

A: Yes, multiple concept notes could be submitted covering numerous ideas.

Q: Would the Foundation fund ideas/models that have not been piloted yet?

A: Yes, as long as it is user centric with a tested and validated prototype.

Q: Would the Foundation fund virtual exchange programmes?

A: Yes, if they respond to the thematic areas listed.

Q: Is this all mainly focusing on entrepreneurs’ beneficiaries?

A: No, it is focusing on the ecosystem actors who support entrepreneurs. It also focuses on finding solutions to challenges faced by the entrepreneurs and their supporting ecosystem and not necessarily project delivery.

Q: Would the Foundation fund projects that focus on refugee employability?

A: No, the focus is on supporting entrepreneurship and strengthening its supporting ecosystem.