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SDG Impact Finance Initiative Design Funding Window

The Window is currently closed and not accepting applications. The next application cycle is expected to open on March 8, 2023. Please note that the scope and requirements of the next cycle are being reviewed and subject to change. Stay tuned for more updates.

The SDG Impact Finance Initiative (“the Initiative”), through Convergence Blended Finance as the implementing partner, has opened a call for proposals to award Feasibility, Proof-of-Concept, and Expansion grants to applicants to design Impact Finance Solutions, i.e., investment solutions that channel private capital at scale to/within Low and Middle-Income Countries to support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (“SDGs”). Through these grants, the Initiative and Convergence aim to foster market-wide improvements and key learnings. Under the Initiative’s Innovation Window (“the Window”), organizations can apply for funding to design an Impact Finance Solution that supports the objectives of the Initiative, addresses a specific development challenge aligned to SDG 4, 8, 12 and/or 13, and meets the Eligibility Criteria.

The SDG Impact Finance Initiative has three key objectives: (1) support the design and development of innovative Impact Finance Solutions, (2) scale impact investing solutions by mobilizing private capital at scale, and (3) strengthen the impact investing ecosystem, improve overall frameworks, and promote quality impact management practices to enhance impact investment flows. This first call for proposals is supported by the Initiative with funding from the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs Switzerland (SECO) and the UBS Optimus Foundation (“Funding Partners”).


  • Open period for call for proposals: next period expected to be early 2023.
  • Feasibility: USD 50,000-200,000; Proof-of-Concept: USD 200,000-500,000; Expansion: USD 100,000-300,000.
  • Aggregate grant awards of up to USD 1.5 million in current period.
  • Grants and reimbursable grants to support the design, launch, or expansion of Impact Finance Solutions.
  • Through this first call for proposals, the Initiative aims to support:
    • Innovative and collaborative proposals for Impact Finance Solutions targeting the SDGs in developing countries with a focus on private capital mobilization.
      • “Innovation” in terms of types of solutions, approaches, business models, under-funded sectors/SDGs or capacity to tap into new private capital sources (e.g., pension funds).
      • “Collaborative” in terms of proposals that come from a consortium of private, public, and/or philanthropic parties, e.g., an asset manager partnering with an NGO.
    • Proposals must strongly align with at least one of the following four core Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) :
      • SDG 4: Quality Education – Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
      • SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth – Promote sustained, inclusive, and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all
      • SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production – Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
      • SDG 13: Climate Action – Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
    • The solution must target end beneficiaries located in one or more developing countries eligible for Official Development Assistance (ODA-eligible countries)


Applicants can apply for Feasibility, Proof-of-Concept or Expansion funding:

For early-stage solutions that have not yet launched:

  • Feasibility: Funding to explore the feasibility of a new Impact Finance Solution, particularly to validate the (i) ability to attract private investors, (ii) likelihood of the solution delivering the anticipated development impact, and (iii) to develop the high-level capital structure of the solution. The Window will award grants between USD 50,000 and USD 200,000 for Feasibility funding.
  • Proof-of-Concept: If feasibility (or equivalent) has been achieved, funding to complete all design and structuring activities – for example, finalizing the capital structure, establishing the legal structure, and producing key documents needed to successfully launch the solution. The Window will award grants and reimbursable grants between USD 200,000 and USD 500,000 for Proof-of-Concept funding.

For solutions that have already launched:

  • Expansion: If the applicant has already successfully implemented or launched a financial solution, and now seeks to expand the scope or size of their solution. Eligible scenarios for this stage could include:
    • (i) an impact investing solution has already been successfully implemented in a developed country(ies), and the ambition is now to implement the solution in a developing country(ies); or
    • (ii) the applicant aims to transform their traditional financial solution into an Impact Finance Solution; or
    • (iii) the applicant aims to scale the overall size of their Impact Finance Solution (e.g., scale from an early pilot already completed to USD 25+ million).

The Window will award grants between USD 100,000 and USD 300,000 for Expansion funding. It is likely the grant would be a reimbursable grant.


Applicants and proposals must meet all the following criteria.

Eligibility CriteriaDescription
Developing CountriesThe proposal must target activities that benefit ODA-eligible countries as defined by the OECD Development Assistance Committee. For the purposes of clarity, the applicant does not need to be domiciled in a developing country, but the end beneficiaries must be in developing countries. The Initiative will not fund proposals that involve any organization or end-beneficiaries located in countries subject to financial sanctions.
SDGsThe proposal must have a strong development and impact rationale aligned to one or more of the following SDGs: 4, 8, 12 and/or 13.
End beneficiariesThe proposal must clearly identify the end beneficiaries in developing countries that will directly benefit and the expected impact from the solution. End beneficiaries may include persons, households, companies, SMEs/MSMEs, financial institutions, and investors located in one or more ODA-eligible countries. For proposals targeting SDG 4, preference will be given to proposals with demonstrable benefit for children, but this is not a strict requirement.
Impact Finance SolutionThe proposal must be for the preparation or expansion of an Impact Finance Solution where financing will be deployed to one or more developing countries, contribute in a measurable way to the SDGs, and is intended to achieve market or near-market financial returns.
Private Investment MobilizationThe Impact Finance Solution must target the mobilization of private investment at scale to SDGs in developing countries. See Evaluation Criteria.
ApplicantsProposals will only be accepted from legal entities / organizations or consortium of organizations in which a lead partner holds contractual responsibility. Proof of registration will be required. For avoidance of doubt, individual persons are not eligible to apply. Further, International Financial Institutions (IFIs), Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs), and Development Finance Institutions (DFIs) are not eligible as the lead applicant (i.e., grant recipient). In addition, legal entities where Funding Partners to this call for proposals are also shareholders are not eligible as the lead applicant. Where IFIs, MDBs, DFIs, and/or related parties to the Funding Partners are part of an alliance and the alliance seeks funding, the proposal can be eligible subject to the award funding not accruing to any of the aforementioned organizations (i.e., no direct benefits).
Adherence to submission requirementsFinal proposals must adhere to the requirements of the Call for Proposals (i.e., fully completed proposal using the relevant application template, all the supporting documents provided, and must be submitted by the deadline to be considered).
Minimum size of financial solution budget and self-contributionThe minimum size of the proposed Impact Finance Solution is expected to be USD 25 million, with an exception possible depending on the SDG, sector/sub-sector, geography, and stage of the solution and will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. The proposal must include a full budget including all sources and uses of project costs. The proposal must include a tangible amount of funding (cash and in-kind) from the applicant. The proposal must demonstrate that the organization(s) has prepared a fully costed budget, and is allocating adequate resources to maximize chances of success. As guidance, it is expected the grant request amount would not exceed 50% of the total costs to complete the project, that is, other sources of funding and in-kind contributions would be equal to or greater than 50% of total budget.
International good practice of ESG standardsThe proposal should declare and meet international good practices regarding environmental, social and governance standards, for instance Equator Principles.
Leverage of SDG Impact Finance Initiative resourcesThe proposal must describe the short-term (1 year) and medium term (5 year) expected leverage of the Initiative’s grant resources. For example, for every 1 USD of the Initiative’s resources, how much concessional and private investment funds are expected to be mobilized.


All Proposals will be objectively assessed and scored on a scale of 0-1000 as described in the Evaluation Criteria Table below. The assessment ratings for proposals will remain confidential within the SDG Impact Finance Initiative, but for transparency and learning purposes, applicants may ask for qualitative feedback on their proposal.

Evaluation CriteriaDescriptionMax. Points (Total=1000)
Development impactHow large is the intended social, economic, or environmental impact? Does the proposal identify meaningful metrics to measure the solution’s development impact? Is there a clear impact monitoring framework identified? What best practices will be used to track data?160
Additionality of Initiative funding for proposalTo what extent is the Initiative’s funding required (additional) to achieve the targeted impact?110
Likelihood of successful fundraiseIs the proposal likely to attract investors and close within the short or medium term? Have investors been actively involved in the design of the proposal? Expected timeline to raise investment capital for the solution.140
Additionality of proposal for developing countriesThe proposal must describe the domestic market of the targeted financing. Does the proposal aim to deploy financial products and/or instruments in the developing country that are systemically under-supplied? Does the proposal have strong potential to address a market failure in the short term, and catalyze broader market financing in the long term?100
Pioneering innovationIdentify existing comparable approaches (if any) and identify how the proposal is innovative (e.g., innovative partnerships, mobilization approaches, financial incentives for investment manager to deliver more impact etc.)90
Scale of MobilizationDescribe the amount of expected private investment mobilization (see below). And describe the expected private investment sectors (e.g., pension funds, local commercial banks, insurance companies etc.). Does the proposal have high probability of achieving scale? How much private capital does the proposal aim to catalyze? The proposal should identify the specific target investor segments it seeks to mobilize. For example, institutional investors, family offices, high net worth individuals, or microfinance institutions in developing countries, etc. The source of the private investment may be domestic (within the target developing countries) or cross-border (from developed or developing countries to developing countries). There are two types of private investment mobilization: 1) Private Direct Mobilization - Financing from a private entity on commercial terms into the solution. For example, if the solution is a private credit fund, the amount of private capital raised and invested into the fund; 2) Private Indirect Mobilization - Co-financing from private entities into the solution. For example, if a solution provides a USD 20 million loan to a project that is also co-funded by USD 40 million of sponsor equity and other third-party financing sources.120
Capacity and relevant experience of applicantApplicant(s) provides evidence: 1) They have the necessary knowledge and capacity to implement the project and is organised in an effective and efficient way; 2) They have experience implementing financial solutions in developing countries and/or implementing a comparable Innovative Finance Solution in developed markets.120
Use of concessional fundsApplicant must discuss whether it has received concessional financing to date, and demonstrate a strategy to become sustainable without requiring concessional financing in the long-run.50
ReplicabilityIf the proposal is successful, can other applicants use a similar approach? Are there valuable learnings for the broader impact investing market?50
Gender equalityHow will gender considerations be incorporated into the solution’s design and operations?60


The Initiative and Convergence intend to accept applications on a rolling basis and will review them on a semi-annual basis, with the aim to award (3-6) grants per cycle. There are two major stages to the application process:

  • Stage one: As a first step, applicants must complete this initial questionnaire. Following this, all applicants will be requested to submit a brief concept note (max. 3 pages) and any supporting materials (e.g., pitch deck) for review. If considered eligible, Convergence will provide initial high-level written feedback to applicants via email. Please note that due to the high volume of applications received, we will only contact applicants who meet our eligibility criteria. Upon receiving initial feedback, it is up to the applicant to decide whether to move forward with a full proposal submission. Applicants have the option to submit a draft proposal to [email protected] for additional high-level written feedback before submitting the final version of the proposal by the deadline. Draft proposals must be submitted at least two weeks before the deadline and feedback will be provided within 7 business days. Both draft and final proposals must use Convergence’s proposal templates available below. Final proposals must be submitted by the deadline to be considered. Convergence will evaluate final proposals according to the Eligibility Criteria and Evaluation Criteria and select a shortlist of the most promising proposals.
  • Stage two: If shortlisted, applicants will then respond to clarification questions from Convergence and if required, provide additional information. The SDG Impact Finance Initiative’s Investment Committee, composed of independent experts, meets semi-annually to assess shortlisted proposals, and endorse proposals for grant awards.


  • Convergence will only consider one application per organization or consortium per cycle.
  • At this time, proposals must be submitted in the English language.
  • Applicants can access frequently asked questions here and submit additional questions to [email protected]. Convergence will endeavor to respond within five business days. Convergence will update the FAQ regularly to address recurring questions from applicants.

Grant Portfolio