Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO): Internet Freedom: Advancing and Promoting Anti-Censorship Transport Libraries
This is the announcement of funding opportunity number SFOP0005257
Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance Number: 19.345
Application Deadline: Friday, November 9, 2018 at 11:30pm EST
For new application submission instructions, see Section D below.
A. Project Description
The U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) announces an open competition for organizations interested in submitting applications for long-term development, core support, outreach, and implementation of censorship-defeating pluggable transports (PTs). In support of the U.S. government’s policy to “promote an open, interoperable, reliable, and secure internet that fosters efficiency, innovation, communication, and economic prosperity, while respecting privacy and guarding against disruption, fraud, and theft,” as described in E.O. 13800, DRL supports the development of anti-censorship technologies, including the libraries of interchangeable transport-layer obfuscation protocols known as pluggable transports. DRL invites organizations interested in potential funding to submit proposals outlining program concepts that reflect this goal.
Global, with a focus on Internet repressive environments.
Online censorship has increased dramatically over the last five years. According to Freedom House’s annual Freedom on the Net report, two-thirds of the world’s Internet users now live in a country where the Internet is censored or restricted. As a result, many human rights defenders, civil society actors, and vulnerable and at-risk populations have come to rely on anti-censorship technologies to access the global Internet. These tools have become essential resources for individuals living in repressive environments to exercise their human rights online and access information, associate, and communicate freely.
As more regimes deploy network censorship technology, the arms race of protocol blocking versus new protocol innovation is escalating. Many tools exist to circumvent online censorship, but they must improve and develop more quickly to successfully counter new censorship techniques as well as adapt to the network management policies of large commercial networks on which they depend. Pluggable transports have been created in response to these challenges. These interchangeable components can be used by a variety of communication tools, and can be updated and implemented in response to acute censorship events. They allow anti-censorship platforms to more easily share technical solutions, more quickly respond to censorship events, and reduce overall costs.
In order to ensure that civil society actors and vulnerable and at-risk populations continue to have access to these critical resources, DRL is seeking proposals for a multi-year program to expand the existing open-source pluggable transports library, provide support for emerging and innovative pluggable transports, engage in outreach to support the implementation of open-source transports into a variety of communication tools that are vulnerable to blocking by censorious regimes, and provide ongoing measurement and testing to determine the effectiveness of transports in different censorship environments. Programs should provide civil society actors and vulnerable and at-risk populations around the world with long-term, reliable, uncensored access to the global Internet.
Program proposals should include the following components:
1. A small grants program to support the completion and release of anti-censorship PTs nearing readiness for wider use and seed the development of innovative and experimental PTs at earlier stages of development, with the goal of significantly increasing the library of open-source anti-censorship technologies available. PTs supported should be open source, work in a wide variety of contexts, and conform to existing implementation standards.
2. Maintenance and development of products and resources that promote the use of PTs and lower obstacles to adoption, such as the existing open-source PT specification and reference implementation.
3. A comprehensive outreach program to encourage adoption and integration of PTs into existing tools and platforms, such as commercial VPNs.
4. Ongoing community-building activities for the developers of open-source PTs, including regular convenings and events to promote collaboration, encourage a community-driven approach to goal- and standard-setting, and share innovation.
5. Testing and evaluation processes in order to determine and substantiate the effectiveness of anti-censorship protocols and their technical strategies, evaluating factors such as connection rates, detectability, and speed. This should include integration into existing testing frameworks and initiatives.
6. Continuation of existing work to promote the integration of PTs onto mobile platforms, addressing obstacles such as memory limits on mobile operating systems.
Key Program Considerations:
This list of considerations is provided as a guide to help applicants develop responsive, robust program strategies.
- Preference will be given to open source technologies with practical deployment and sustainability plans. These technologies are inherently more transparent and re-usable.
- Consistent with DRL’s venture-capital style approach to Internet freedom, projects should have a model for long-term sustainability beyond the life of the grant.
- DRL encourages applicants to foster collaborative partnerships, especially with organizations that can best implement key elements of the program plan. Where appropriate, applicants are invited to form consortia for submitting a combined proposal, but the primary organization that will conduct and implement the small grants program must be the lead (“prime”) applicant.
- DRL strives to ensure its programs advance the rights and uphold the dignity of the most at-risk and vulnerable populations.
Projects should aim to have impact that leads to democratic reforms, and should have the potential for sustainability beyond DRL resources. DRL’s preference is to avoid duplicating past efforts by supporting new and creative approaches. This does not exclude from consideration projects that improve upon or expand existing successful projects in a new and complementary way.
To maximize the impact and sustainability of the award(s) that result(s) from this NOFO, DRL reserves the right to execute a non-competitive continuation amendment(s). Any non-competitive continuation is contingent on performance and availability of funds. A non-competitive continuation is not guaranteed; the Department of State reserves the right to exercise or not exercise the option to issue non-competitive continuation amendment(s).
DRL may ask successful applicant(s) to incorporate coordination of an implementer and stakeholder meeting into the Scope of Work of the final project. DRL will discuss this possibility with particular applicant(s) during the proposal negotiation phase.
B. Federal Award Information
DRL anticipates having approximately $2,000,000 of Democracy Fund/Human Rights Democracy Fund (DF/HRDF) funds available to support approximately one successful application submitted in response to this NOFO, subject to the availability of funding. Primary organizations can submit one application in response to the NOFO. The proposed period of performance may span multiple years as appropriate, but should include a start date as soon as possible.
The U.S. government may (a) reject any or all applications, (b) accept other than the lowest cost application, (c) accept more than one application, and (d) waive informalities and minor irregularities in applications received.
The U.S. government may make award(s) on the basis of initial applications received, without discussions or negotiations. Therefore, each initial application should contain the applicant's best terms from a cost and technical standpoint. The U.S. government reserves the right (though it is not under obligation to do so), however, to enter into discussions with one or more applicants in order to obtain clarifications, additional detail, or to suggest refinements in the project description, budget, or other aspects of an application.
DRL anticipates awarding either a grant or cooperative agreement depending on the needs and risk factors of the program. The final determination on mechanism will be made by the Grants Officer. The distinction between grants and cooperative agreements revolves around the existence of “substantial involvement.” Cooperative agreements require greater Federal government participation in the project. If a cooperative agreement is awarded, DRL will undertake reasonable and programmatically necessary substantial involvement. Examples of substantial involvement can include, but are not limited to:
1) Active participation or collaboration with the recipient in the implementation of the award.
2) Review and approval of one stage of work before another can begin.
3) Review and approval of substantive provisions of proposed subawards or contracts.
4) Approval of the recipient’s budget or plan of work prior to the award.
The authority for this funding opportunity is found in the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended (FAA).
C. Eligibility Information
For application information, please see the proposal submission instructions on our website.
C.1 Eligible Applicants
DRL welcomes applications from U.S.-based and foreign-based non-profit organizations/nongovernment organizations (NGO) and public international organizations; private, public, or state institutions of higher education; and for-profit organizations or businesses. DRL’s preference is to work with non-profit entities; however, there may be some occasions when a for-profit entity is best suited.
Applications submitted by for-profit entities may be subject to additional review following the panel selection process. Additionally, the Department of State generally prohibits profit to for-profit or commercial organizations under its assistance awards. Profit is defined as any amount in excess of allowable direct and indirect costs. The allowability of costs incurred by commercial organizations is determined in accordance with the provisions of the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) at 48 CFR 30, Cost Accounting Standards Administration, and 48 CFR 31 Contract Cost Principles and Procedures.
Please see 2 CFR 200.307 for regulations regarding program income.
C.2 Cost Sharing or Matching
Providing cost sharing, matching, or cost participation is not an eligibility factor or requirement for this NOFO, and providing cost share will not result in a more favorable competitive ranking.
Applicants should have existing, or the capacity to develop, active partnerships with thematic or in-country partners, entities and relevant stakeholders, including private sector partners and NGOs, and have demonstrable experience in administering successful and preferably similar projects. DRL encourages applications from foreign-based NGOs headquartered in the geographic regions/countries relevant to this NOFO. Applicants may form consortia and submit a combined application. However, one organization should be designated as the lead applicant with the other members as sub-award partners. DRL reserves the right to request additional background information on applicants that do not have previous experience administering federal grant awards, and these applicants may be subject to limited funding on a pilot basis.
DRL is committed to an anti-discrimination policy in all of its projects and activities. DRL welcomes applications irrespective of race, ethnicity, color, creed, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, or other status.
Any applicant listed on the Excluded Parties List System in the System for Award Management (SAM)(www.sam.gov) is not eligible to apply for an assistance award in accordance with the OMB guidelines at 2 CFR 180 that implement Executive Orders 12549 (3 CFR,1986 Comp., p. 189) and 12689 (3 CFR,1989 Comp., p. 235), “Debarment and Suspension.” Additionally no entity listed on the Excluded Parties List System in SAM.gov can participate in any activities under an award. All applicants are strongly encouraged to review the Excluded Parties List System in SAM.gov to ensure that no ineligible entity is included in their application.
D. Application and Submission Information
D.1 Address to Request Application Package
Applicants can find application forms, kits, or other materials needed to apply on www.grants.gov and SAMS Domestic (https://mygrants.service-now.com) under the announcement title “Internet Freedom: Advancing and Promoting Anti-Censorship Transport Libraries” funding opportunity number “SFOP0005257.” Please contact the DRL point of contact listed in section G if requesting reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities or for security reasons. Please note: reasonable accommodations do not include deadline extensions.
D.2 Content and Form of Application Submission
For all application documents, please ensure:
1) All documents are in English and all costs are in U.S. dollars. If an original document within the application is in another language, an English translation must be provided (please note: the Department of State, as indicated in 2 CFR 200.111, requires that English is the official language of all award documents. If any document is provided in both English and a foreign language, the English language version is the controlling version);
2) All pages are numbered, including budgets and attachments;
3) All documents are formatted to 8 ½ x 11 paper; and,
4) All documents are single-spaced, 12 point Times New Roman font, with 1-inch margins. Captions and footnotes may be 10 point Times New Roman font. Font sizes in charts and tables, including the budget, can be reformatted to fit within 1 page width.
D.2.1 Application Requirements
Complete applications must include the following:
1. Completed and signed SF-424, SF-424A, and SF-424B forms.
2. If your organization engages in lobbying the U.S. government including Congress, or pays for another entity to lobby on your behalf, the SF-LLL “Disclosure of Lobbying Activities” form is also required.
3. Cover Page (not to exceed one  page, preferably in Microsoft Word) that includes a table with the name of the organization, project title, target country/countries, thematic area, project synopsis, and name and contact information for the application’s main point of contact.
4. Executive Summary (not to exceed one  page, preferably in Microsoft Word) that outlines project goals, objectives, and activities.
5. Table of Contents (not to exceed one  page, preferably in Microsoft Word) listing all documents and attachments, with page numbers.
6. Proposal Narrative (not to exceed ten  pages, preferably in Microsoft Word). Please note the ten page limit does not include the Table of Contents, Executive Summary, Cover Page, Attachments, Detailed Budget, Budget Narrative, or Negotiated Indirect Cost Rate Agreement (NICRA). Applicants are encouraged to combine multiple documents in a single Word Document or PDF (i.e., Cover Page, Table of Contents, Executive Summary, and Proposal Narrative in one file).
7. Budget (preferably as an Excel workbook) that includes three  columns containing the request to DRL, any cost sharing contribution, and the total budget. A summary budget should also be included using the OMB-approved budget categories (see SF-424A as a sample) in a separate tab. Costs must be in U.S. dollars. Detailed line-item budgets for subgrantees should be included as additional tabs within the Excel workbook (if available at the time of submission).
8. Budget Narrative (preferably as a Word Document) that includes substantive explanations and justifications for each line-item in the detailed budget spreadsheet, as well as the source and a description of all cost-share offered.
9. Your organization’s most recent A-133 audit (if applicable), F Audit, or standard audit. Please see Audit section 2F below for more information.
10. Logic Model (not to exceed two  pages, preferably in Microsoft Word).
11. Monitoring and Evaluation Narrative (not to exceed two  pages).
12. Monitoring and Evaluation Performance Indicator Table (not to exceed four  pages in Microsoft Word).
13. Risk Analysis (not to exceed one  page, preferably in Microsoft Word).
14. Key Personnel (not to exceed one  page total, preferably as a Word Document): Please include short bios that demonstrate relevant professional experience. Given the limited space, CVs are not recommended for submission.
15. Timeline (not to exceed one  page): The timeline of the overall proposal should include activities, evaluation efforts, and program closeout.
Applications that do not include the elements listed above will be deemed technically ineligible.
D.2.2 Additional Application Documents
Strong applications will also contain the following:
- Individual Letters of Support and/or Memorandum of Understanding. Letters of support and MOUs must be specific to the project implementation (e.g. from proposed partners or sub-award recipients) and will not count towards the page limit.
Please refer to the Proposal Submission Instructions on DRL’s website for detailed guidance on the documents above: http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/275216.pdf. For an application checklist and sample templates please see the Resources page on DRL’s website:http://www.state.gov/j/drl/p/c72333.htm. The sample templates provided on the DRL website are suggested, but not mandatory.
DRL reserves the right to request additional documents not included in this NOFO. Additionally, to ensure that all applications receive a balanced evaluation, the DRL Review Panel will review from the first page of each section up to the page limit and no further.
Note: If ultimately provided with a notification of non-binding intent to make a Federal award, applicants typically have two to three weeks to provide additional information and documents requested in the notification of intent. The deadlines may vary in each notification of intent and applicants must adhere to the stated deadline in the notification of intent.
D.2.3 Additional Information Requested For Those Receiving Notification of Intent
Successful applicants must submit after notification of intent to make a Federal award, but prior to issuance of a Federal award:
- Written responses and revised application documents addressing conditions and recommendations from the DRL Review Panel;
- If your organization has a NICRA and includes NICRA charges in the budget, your latest NICRA as a PDF file.
- Completion of the Department’s Financial Management Survey, if receiving DRL funding for the first time;
- Submission of required documents to register in the Payment Management System managed by the Department of Health and Human Services, if receiving DRL funding for the first time (unless an exemption is provided);
- Other requested information or documents included in the notification of intent to make a Federal award or subsequent communications prior to issuance of a Federal award.
D.3 Unique Entity Identifier and System for Award Management (SAM)
All organizations, whether based in the United States or in another country, must have a Unique Entity Identifier (UEI), formerly referred to as DUNS, and an active registration with the SAM.gov before submitting an application. DRL may not review applications from or make awards to applicants that have not completed all applicable UEI and SAM.gov requirements. A UEI is one of the data elements mandated by Public Law 109-282, the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act (FFATA), for all Federal awards.
Note: The process of obtaining a SAM.gov registration may take anywhere from 4-8 weeks. Please begin your registration as early as possible.
- If you are based in the United States or pay employees within the United States, prior to registering in SAM.gov you will need an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and a Commercial and Government Entity (CAGE) code.
- If you are based outside of the United States and do not pay employees within the United States, you do not need an EIN from the IRS. However, you will need a NATO CAGE (NCAGE) code before you can have an active registration in SAM.gov.
All organizations must also continue to maintain active SAM.gov registration with current information at all times during which they have an active Federal award or application under consideration by a Federal award agency. SAM.gov requires all entities to renew their registration once a year in order to maintain an active registration status in SAM. It is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure it has an active registration in SAM.gov and to maintain that active registration. If an applicant has not fully complied with the requirements at the time of application, the applicant may be deemed unqualified to receive an award and use that determination as a basis for making an award to another applicant.
For further guidance on the registration process, please see the SAM.gov Registration Guide on DRL’s website: http://www.state.gov/j/drl/p/c72333.htm. Please refer to 2 CFR 25.200 for additional information.
Please note the registration process for SAM.gov is free.
In October 2017, new information was added to the www.SAM.gov website to help international registrations, including “Quick Start Guide for International Registrations” and “Helpful Hints”. Navigate to SAM.gov, click HELP in the top navigation bar, then click International Registrants in the left navigation panel.
An exemption from these requirements may be permitted on a case-by-case basis if:
- An applicant’s identity must be protected due to potential endangerment of their mission, their organization’s status, their employees, or individuals being served by the applicant.
* Organizations requesting exemption from SAM.gov, NCAGE, and UEI should email the point of contact in the NOFO. If establishing your SAM.gov account as private rather than public view, please notify DRL at the time of submission.
Note: Foreign organizations will be required to register with the NATO Support Agency (NSPA) to receive a NCAGE code in order to register in SAM.gov. NSPA will forward your registration request to the applicable National Codification Bureau (NCB) if your organization is located in a NATO or Tier 2 Sponsored Non-NATO Nation. As of March 2016, NATO nations included Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom, and the United States of America; and Tier 2 nations included Australia, Austria, Brazil, Finland, Israel, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Morocco, New Zealand, Serbia, and Singapore.
NSPA and/or the appropriate NCB forwards all NCAGE code information to all Allied Committee 135 (AC/135) nations, which as of March 2016 also included Afghanistan, Argentina, Belarus, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Colombia, Egypt, Georgia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Jordan, Montenegro, Oman, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sweden, Thailand, Republic of Macedonia, Ukraine, and the United Arab Emirates. All organizations are strongly advised to take this into consideration when assessing whether registration may result in possible endangerment.
D.4 Submission Dates and Times
Applications are due no later than 11:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST), on Friday, November 9, 2018 on www.grants.gov or SAMS Domestic (https://mygrants.service-now.com) under the announcement title “Internet Freedom: Advancing and Promoting Anti-Censorship Transport Libraries” funding opportunity number “SFOP0005257.”
Grants.gov and SAMS Domestic automatically log the date and time an application submission is made, and the Department of State will use this information to determine whether an application has been submitted on time. Late applications are neither reviewed nor considered unless the DRL point of contact listed in section G is contacted prior to the deadline and is provided with evidence of system errors caused by www.grants.gov or SAMS Domestic (https://mygrants.service-now.com )that is outside of the applicant’s control and is the sole reason for a late submission. Applicants should not expect a notification upon DRL receiving their application.
D.5 Funding Restrictions
DRL will not consider applications that reflect any type of support for any member, affiliate, or representative of a designated terrorist organization.
Project activities whose direct beneficiaries are foreign militaries or paramilitary groups or individuals will not be considered for DRL funding given purpose limitations on funding.
The Leahy Law prohibits Department foreign assistance funds from supporting foreign security force units if the Secretary of State has credible information that the unit has committed a gross violation of human rights. Per 22 USC §2378d(a) (2015), “No assistance shall be furnished under this chapter [FOREIGN ASSISTANCE] or the Arms Export Control Act [22 USC 2751 et seq.] to any unit of the security forces of a foreign country if the Secretary of State has credible information that such unit has committed a gross violation of human rights.” Restrictions may apply to any proposed assistance to police or other law enforcement. Among these, pursuant to section 620M of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended (FAA), no assistance provided through this funding opportunity may be furnished to any unit of the security forces of a foreign country when there is credible information that such unit has committed a gross violation of human rights. In accordance with the requirements of section 620M of the FAA, also known as the Leahy law, project beneficiaries or participants from a foreign government’s security forces may need to be vetted by the Department before the provision of any assistance.
If a proposed grant or cooperative agreement will provide assistance to foreign security forces or personnel, compliance with the Leahy Law is required. Federal awards generally will not allow reimbursement of pre-award costs; however, the Grants Officer may approve pre-award costs on a case-by-case basis. Generally, construction costs are not allowed under DRL awards. For additional information, please see the DRL Proposal Submission Instructions for Applications using SAMS Domestic Updated October 2017: http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/275216.pdf
D.6 Application Submission
All application submissions must be made electronically via www.grants.gov or SAMS Domestic (https://mygrants.service-now.com). Both systems require registration by the applying organization. Please note: the Grants.gov registration process can take 10 business days or longer, even if all registration steps are completed in a timely manner.
It is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure that it has an active registration in SAMS Domestic or Grants.gov. Applicants are required to document that the application has been received by SAMS Domestic or Grants.gov in its entirety. DRL bears no responsibility for disqualification that result from applicants not being registered before the due date, for system errors in either SAMS Domestic or Grants.gov, or other errors in the application process. Additionally you must save a screen shot of the checklist showing all documents submitted in case any document fails to upload successfully.
Faxed, couriered, or emailed documents will not be accepted. Reasonable accommodations may, in appropriate circumstances, be provided to applicants with disabilities or for security reasons. Applicants must follow all formatting instructions in the applicable NOFO and these instructions.
DRL encourages organizations to submit applications during normal business hours (Monday – Friday, 9:00AM - 5:00PM Eastern Time). If an applicant experiences technical difficulties and has contacted the appropriate helpdesk but is not receiving timely assistance (e.g. if you have not received a response within 48 hours of contacting the helpdesk), you may contact the DRL point of contact listed in the NOFO in section G. The point of contact may assist in contacting the appropriate helpdesk, but an applicant should also document their efforts in contacting the helpdesk. Applicants may also contact the DRL point of contact listed in the NOFO if experiencing technical issues with grants.gov or SAMS Domestic that may result in a late submission.
Applicants experiencing technical difficulties should follow these three steps:
1. Contact the helpdesk for either Grants.gov or SAMS Domestic immediately.
2. Document (including screenshots) technical issues AND efforts to contact the helpdesk.
3. Submit all of the required documents to the DRL point of contact listed in the NOFO before the deadline.
Note: The Procurement Office/Grant Office will determine technical eligibility of all applications.
SAMS Domestic Applications:
Applicants using SAMS Domestic for the first time should complete their “New Organization Registration.” To register with SAMS Domestic, click “Login to https://mygrants.service-now.com” and follow the “create an account” link.
Organizations must remember to save a screen shot of the checklist showing all documents submitted in case any document fails to upload successfully.
SAMS Domestic Help Desk:
For assistance with SAMS Domestic accounts and technical issues related to the system, please contact the ILMS help desk by phone at 1-888-313-4567 (toll charges for international callers) or through the Self Service online portal that can be accessed from https://afsitsm.service-now.com/ilms/home. Customer Support is available 24/7/365.
Applicants who do not submit applications via SAMS Domestic may submit via www.grants.gov.
Please be advised that completing all the necessary registration steps for obtaining a username and password from Grants.gov can take more than two weeks.
Please refer to the Grants.gov website for definitions of various "application statuses" and the difference between a submission receipt and a submission validation. Applicants will receive a validation e-mail from Grants.gov upon the successful submission of an application. Validation of an electronic submission via Grants.gov can take up to two business days. Additionally you must remember to save a screenshot of the checklist showing all documents submitted in case any document fails to upload successfully.
For assistance with Grants.gov, please call the Contact Center at 1-800-518-4726 or email email@example.com. The Contact Center is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, except federal holidays.
See https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/snow-dismissal-procedures/federal-holidays/ for a list of federal holidays.
E. Application Review Information
E.1 Proposal Review Criteria
The DRL Review Panel will evaluate each application individually against the following criteria, listed below in order of importance, and not against competing applications. Please use the below criteria as a reference but do not structure your application according to the sub-sections.
Quality of Project Idea
Applications should be responsive to the program framework and policy objectives identified in the NOFO, appropriate in the country/regional context, and should exhibit originality, substance, precision, and relevance to DRL’s mission of promoting human rights and democracy. Projects should have the potential to have an immediate impact leading to long-term sustainable reforms. DRL prefers new approaches that do not duplicate efforts by other entities. This does not exclude from consideration projects that improve upon or expand existing successful projects in a new and complementary way. In countries where similar activities are already taking place, an explanation should be provided as to how new activities will not duplicate or merely add to existing activities and how these efforts will be coordinated. Proposals that promote creative approaches to recognized ongoing challenges are highly encouraged. DRL prioritizes project proposals with inclusive approaches for advancing these rights.
Project Planning/Ability to Achieve Objectives
A strong application will include a clear articulation of how the proposed project activities contribute to the overall project objectives, and each activity will be clearly developed and detailed. A comprehensive monthly work plan should demonstrate substantive undertakings and the logistical capacity of the organization. Objectives should be ambitious yet measurable, results-focused and achievable in a reasonable time frame. A complete application must include a logic model to demonstrate how the project activities will have an impact on its proposed objectives. The logic model should match the objectives, outcomes, key activities and outputs described in the narrative. Applications should address how the project will engage relevant stakeholders and should identify local partners as appropriate.
If local partners have been identified, DRL strongly encourages applicants to submit letters of support from proposed in-country partners. Additionally, applicants should describe the division of labor among the direct applicant and any local partners. If applicable, applications should identify target geographic areas for activities, target participant groups or selection criteria for participants, and the specific roles of sub-awardees, among other pertinent details.
DRL recognizes that all programs have some level of risk due to internal/external variables that have the potential to adversely affect a program. Risk management should address how the program design incorporates the identification, assessment, and management of key risk factors. DRL will review the risk analysis based on the organization’s ability to identify risks that could have an impact on the overall program as well as how the organization will manage these risks.
Institution’s Record and Capacity
DRL will consider the past performance of prior recipients and the demonstrated potential of new applicants. Applications should demonstrate an institutional record of successful democracy and human rights programs, including responsible fiscal management and full compliance with all reporting requirements for past grants. Proposed personnel and institutional resources should be adequate and appropriate to achieve the project's objectives. Projects should have potential for continued funding beyond DRL resources.
Inclusivity of Marginalized Populations
DRL strives to ensure its projects advance the rights and uphold the dignity of all persons. The Bureau requests an inclusive programming approach, which should encompass marginalized populations, especially those facing discrimination and violence that undermines society’s collective security. To the extent possible, applicants should identify and support marginalized populations in all proposed project activities and objectives, and should provide specific analysis, measures, and corresponding targets to include them as appropriate. It assumes that interventions will not affect all segments of society in the same way. It requires stakeholders to identify and address the difference between the opportunities and barriers to equality and to design programs in a way that does not perpetuate inequality.
DRL strongly encourages applicants to clearly demonstrate project cost-effectiveness in their application, including examples of leveraging institutional and other resources. However, cost-sharing or other examples of leveraging other resources are not required. Inclusion of cost-sharing in the budget does not result in additional points awarded during the review process. Budgets should have low and/or reasonable overhead and administration costs, and applicants should provide clear explanations and justifications for these costs in relation to the work involved. All budget items should be clearly explained and justified to demonstrate necessity, appropriateness, and connection to the project objectives.
Please note: If cost-share is included in the budget, the recipient must maintain written records to support all allowable costs that are claimed as its contribution to cost-share, as well as costs to be paid by the Federal government. Such records are subject to audit. In the event the recipient does not meet the minimum amount of cost-sharing as stipulated in the recipient’s budget, DRL’s contribution may be reduced in proportion to the recipient’s contribution.
Applications should clearly delineate how elements of the project will have a multiplier effect and be sustainable beyond the life of the grant. A good multiplier effect will have an impact beyond the direct beneficiaries of the grant (e.g. participants trained under a grant go on to train other people; workshop participants use skills from a workshop to enhance a national level election that affects the entire populace). A strong sustainability plan may include demonstrating continuing impact beyond the life of a project or garnering other donor support after DRL funding ceases.
Project Monitoring and Evaluation
Complete applications will include a detailed M&E Narrative and M&E Plan, which detail how the project’s progress will be monitored and evaluated. Incorporating well-designed monitoring and evaluation processes into a project is an efficient method for documenting the change (intended and unintended) that a project seeks. Applications should demonstrate the capacity to provide objectives with measurable outputs and outcomes.
The quality of the M&E sections will be judged on the narrative explaining how both monitoring and evaluation will be carried out and who will be responsible for those related activities. The M&E Narrative should explain how an external evaluation will be incorporated into the project implementation plan or how the project will be systematically assessed in the absence of one. Please see the section on Monitoring and Evaluation Narrative in the Proposal Submission Instructions (PSI) for more information on what is required in the narrative.
The output and outcome-based performance indicators should not only be separated by project objectives but also should match the objectives, outcomes, and outputs detailed in the logic model and proposal narrative. Performance indicators should be clearly defined (i.e., explained how the indicators will be measured and reported) either within the table or with a separate Performance Indicator Reference Sheet (PIRS). For each performance indicator, the table should also include baselines and quarterly and cumulative targets, data collection tools, data sources, types of data disaggregation, and frequency of monitoring and evaluation. There should also be metrics to capture how project activities target those discriminated against or marginalized populations or addresses their concerns, where applicable. Please see the section on Monitoring and Evaluation Plan in the Proposal Submission Instructions (PSI) for more information on what is required in the plan.
E.2 Review and Selection Process
DRL strives to ensure that each application receives a balanced evaluation by a DRL Review Panel. The Department’s Office of Acquisitions Management (AQM) will determine technical eligibility for all applications. All technically eligible applications for a given NOFO are reviewed against the same seven criteria, which include quality of project idea, project planning/ability to achieve objectives, institutional record and capacity, inclusive programming, cost effectiveness, multiplier effect/sustainability, and project monitoring and evaluation.
Additionally, the DRL Review Panel will evaluate how the application addresses the NOFO request, U.S. foreign policy goals, and the priority needs of DRL overall. DRL may also take into consideration the balance of the current portfolio of active projects, including geographic or thematic diversity, if needed.
In most cases, the DRL Review Panel includes representatives from DRL, the appropriate Department of State regional bureau (to include feedback from U.S. embassies), and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) (to include feedback from USAID missions). In some cases, additional panelists may participate, including from other Department of State bureaus or offices, U.S. government departments, agencies, or boards, representatives from partner governments, or representatives from entities that are in a public-private partnership with DRL. At the end of the panel’s discussion about an application, the Panel votes on recommending the application for approval by the DRL Assistant Secretary. If more applications are ultimately recommended for approval than DRL can fund, the Panel will rank the recommended applications in priority order for consideration by the DRL Assistant Secretary. The Grants Officer Representative (GOR) for the eventual award does not vote on the panel. All Panelists must sign non-disclosure agreements and conflicts of interest agreements.
DRL Review Panels may provide conditions and recommendations on applications to enhance the proposed project, which must be addressed by the applicant before further consideration of the award. To ensure effective use of DRL funds, conditions or recommendations may include requests to increase, decrease, clarify, and/or justify costs and project activities.
F. Federal Award Administration Information
F.1 Federal Award Notices
DRL will provide a separate notification to applicants on the result of their applications. Successful applicants will receive a letter electronically via email requesting that the applicant respond to Panel conditions and recommendations. This notification is not an authorization to begin activities and does not constitute formal approval or a funding commitment.
Final approval is contingent on the applicant successfully responding to the Panel’s conditions and recommendations, being registered in required systems, including the U.S. government’s Payment Management System (PMS), unless an exemption is provided, and completing and providing any additional documentation requested by DRL or AQM. Final approval is also contingent on Congressional notification requirements being met and final review and approval by the Department’s warranted Grants Officer.
The notice of Federal award signed by the Department’s warranted Grants Officers is the sole authorizing document. If awarded, the notice of Federal award will be provided to the applicant’s designated Authorizing Official via SAMS Domestic to be electronically counter-signed in the system.
F.2 Administrative and National Policy Requirements
The Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards set forth in 2 CFR Chapter 200 (Sub-Chapters A through F) shall apply to all non-Federal entities, except for assistance awards to Individuals and Foreign Public Entities. Sub-Chapters A through E shall apply to all foreign organizations, and Sub-Chapters A through D shall apply to all U.S. and foreign for-profit entities.
The applicant/recipient of the award and any sub-recipient under the award must comply with all applicable terms and conditions, in addition to the assurance and certifications made part of the Notice of Award. The Department’s Standard Terms and Conditions can be viewed at https://www.state.gov/m/a/ope/index.htm.
Applicants should be aware that DRL awards will require that all reports (financial and progress) are uploaded to the grant file in SAMS Domestic on a quarterly basis. The Federal Financial Report (FFR or SF-425) is the required form for the financial reports and must be submitted in PMS as well as a copy from PMS then uploaded to the grant file in SAMS Domestic. The progress reports uploaded to the grant file in SAMS Domestic must a narrative as described below; and Project Indicators (or other mutually agreed upon format approved by the Grants Officer) for the F Framework indicators.
Narrative progress reports should reflect the focus on measuring the project’s impact on the overarching objectives and should be compiled according to the objectives, outcomes, and outputs as outlined in the award’s Scope of Work (SOW) and in the Monitoring and Evaluation Narrative. An assessment of the overall project’s impact should be included in each progress report. Where relevant, progress reports should include the following sections:
- Relevant contextual information (limited);
- Explanation and evaluation of significant activities of the reporting period and how the activities reflect progress toward achieving objectives, including meeting benchmarks/targets as set in the M&E plan. In addition, attach the M&E plan, comparing the target and actual numbers for the indicators;
- Any tangible impact or success stories from the project, when possible;
- Copy of mid-term and/or final evaluation report(s) conducted by an external evaluator; if applicable;
- Relevant supporting documentation or products related to the project activities (such as articles, meeting lists and agendas, participant surveys, photos, manuals, etc.) as separate attachments;
- Description of how the Recipient is pursuing sustainability, including looking for sources of follow-on funding;
- Any problems/challenges in implementing the project and a corrective action plan with an updated timeline of activities;
- Reasons why established goals were not met;
- Data for the required F Framework indicator(s) for the quarter as well as aggregate data by fiscal year: Program Indicators or other mutually agreed upon format approved by the Grants Officer.
- Proposed activities for the next quarter;
- Additional pertinent information, including analysis and explanation of cost overruns or high unit costs, if applicable.
A final narrative and financial report must also be submitted within 90 days after the expiration of the award.
Please note: Delays in reporting may result in delays of payment approvals and failure to provide required reports may jeopardize the recipient's’ ability to receive future U.S. government funds.
DRL reserves the right to request any additional programmatic and/or financial project information during the award period.
G. Contact Information
For technical submission questions related to this NOFO, please contact InternetFreedom@state.gov.
For assistance with SAMS Domestic accounts and technical issues related to the system, please contact the ILMS help desk by phone at 1-888-313-4567 (toll charges for international callers) or through the Self Service online portal that can be accessed from https://afsitsm.service-now.com/ilms/home. Customer Support is available 24/7/365.
Please note, establishing an account in SAMS Domestic may require the use of smartphone for multi-factor authentication (MFA). If an applicant does not have accessibility to a smartphone during the time of creating an account, please contact the helpdesk and request and instructions on MFA for Windows PC.
For assistance with Grants.gov accounts and technical issues related to using the system, please call the Contact Center at 1-800-518-4726 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The Contact Center is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, except federal holidays.
For a list of federal holidays visit:
With the exception of technical submission questions, during the NOFO period U.S. Department of State staff in Washington and overseas shall not discuss this competition with applicants until the entire proposal review process has been completed and rejection and approval letters have been transmitted.
H. Other Information
Applicants should be aware that DRL understands that some information contained in applications may be considered sensitive or proprietary and will make appropriate efforts to protect such information. However, applicants are advised that DRL cannot guarantee that such information will not be disclosed, including pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) or other similar statutes.
The information in this NOFO and “DRL’s Proposal Submission Instructions for Applications using SAMS Domestic Updated October 2017” is binding and may not be modified by any DRL representative. Explanatory information provided by DRL that contradicts this language will not be binding. Issuance of the NOFO and negotiation of applications does not constitute an award commitment on the part of the U.S. government. DRL reserves the right to reduce, revise, or increase proposal budgets.
This NOFO will appear on www.grants.gov, SAMS Domestic and DRL’s website http://www.state.gov/j/drl/p/c12302.htm.
Background Information on DRL and General DRL Funding
DRL has the mission of promoting democracy and protecting human rights globally. DRL supports projects that uphold democratic principles, support and strengthen democratic institutions, promote human rights, prevent atrocities, combat and prevent violent extremism, and build civil society around the world. DRL typically focuses its work in countries with egregious human rights violations, where democracy and human rights advocates are under pressure and where governments are undemocratic or in transition.
Additional background information on DRL and its efforts can be found on www.state.gov/j/drl.