Why the focus on "agency"? (Seems a bit idological / abstract.)
The Agency Fund is not an ideologically charged institution. Our team members, advisors, funders, and grantees come with a wide range of world views. What we have in common is that (a) we share a commitment to improving the human condition, especially among the least fortunate; and (b) we believe that empirical evidence can teach us a lot about how to do this as cost-effectively as possible; and (c) in our interpretation of the evidence, many particularly promising instances of development effectiveness provide people with tools, experiences, and insights that expand their capability for self-determination. This pattern motivates us to prospect for philanthropic opportunities in the "agency" space.
Are you a research funder? Is research always a necessary proposal component?
We are generally interested in work that is grounded in an empirical mindset, and we typically prefer projects involving randomized or quasi-experimental impact evaluation. So we do fund research, including academic research. But we ultimately are less interested in one-and-done research projects than in "learning organizations" that are committed to learning and scaling, and that breathe data in the process.
What is the appropriate amount of funding that I should seek for a project?
Hard to say. The ask should be commensurate with the maturity of the project; in the end, we will fund the projects that appear most cost-effective in expectation. Take a look at our investments page.
Who can receive which types of support?
Fellowships are available to individuals with or without institutional affiliation. Project funding is available only to institutions, and most institutions worldwide could be eligible in principle. When they are an option, U.S. 501(c)(3) public charities offer the lowest administrative cost and quickest turn-arounds. Applications from low- and middle-income countries are highly valued and encouraged, and we work actively to promote them. For-profits may be eligible for project funding so long as the outputs of the funded work (research papers, software, etc.) are made public. They are ineligible for unrestricted grants, but may be eligible for seed investments on an invitation-only basis.
What is the application process, and what happens after I submit?
The first step is to submit an application here. More materials might be requested later to complete your application. We review applications on an ongoing basis, but most investment decisions are made quarterly. See calls for applicable dates. Immediately after the call's closing date, each application will be given two independent readings; then, a shortlist will be given to five or more ireviewers who comment on and score applications (round two). We strive to get back to you within three weeks of the closing date with one of the following outcomes: (a) Your application is compelling to us, and now have specific questions for you; or (b) your application will not be funded at this time, but we think that it may be of interest to another specific funder; or (c) we cannot help with the funding of your application.
I have not received a response to my application - why?
The most common reasons are that (a) the call's closing date plus the three week review period have not yet passed; or (b) we tried to send an email but it was not received (e.g., it got caught in a spam filter). If you have not received a response within three weeks, please assume that your application was unsuccessful.
Can I submit multiple applications?
Yes, within reason. But we discourage you from submitting more than one application in any given quarter, and from re-applying for the same project in the event of a decline.
Are there strings attached?
All grants come with some reporting requirements. Most of these will be informal, but some outputs and outcomes may be tracked—potentially in public and beyond the grant period. Key outcomes of interest typically include include evidence of socioeconomic impact and scale. Research projects are required to adhere to openness & transparency standards including pre-registration, open code, and (subject to some privacy limitations) open data. Grant agreement details will be defined at the award stage.
Who reviews ideas and applications, and will my ideas be kept confidential?
Application materials are accessible to our team. Funding decisions are taken by investment committees that usually draw on the Agency Fund's team members, funding partners, and grantees, as well as external reviewers. We strive to respect applicants’ sense of ownership over their ideas to encourage continued innovation and participation. That said, not all ideas are unique, and not all submissions with good ideas are fundable. We therefore require applicants to grant us a license over any intellectual property that may be contained in the application materials they submit to us. This is because we want to receive unsolicited applications without exposing ourselves to intellectual property claims (say, from a disgruntled applicant who notices that we funded somebody else with a similar idea.) It is just a precautionary measure, given that our application portal is open to anybody. The Agency Fund has never been involved in an actual dispute.
How much is being awarded? What are the odds of getting an award?
For past awards we have made, see our investments page. We do get many more applications (~20x). But the concept of "odds" is not useful here because we do not make awards at random. If your application is strong, and a good fit with our theory of change, you should not think of yourself as an "average" applicant.
Where do the resources come from?
The Agency Fund is housed at the Global Development Incubator. It has received funding from Affinity Impact, CRI Foundation, Douglas B. Marshall, Jr. Foundation, Green Nimboli Fund, Huron Philanthropies, Livelihood Impact Fund, South Park Commons, and Wellspring Philanthropic Fund; and pro bono legal support from Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP.
What is the Agency Fund's overhead policy?
See our policies page.
Before applying, can I present my organization or talk to the Agency Fund?
We simply do not have the bandwidth to interact with every potential applicant. The best way to get on our radar is usually to submit an application.
My question is not answered here, what should I do?
If you have reviewed this website and FAQ page thoroughly, and you have a specific question that remains unanswered, you can contact us here. Please understand that we do not have the bandwidth to respond to every question.