What projects will WFN fund?

  • Wildlife conservation projects based in countries that are not defined as a High Income Economy by the World Bank. Exceptions to this criterion include Equatorial Guinea and certain island nations in the Caribbean. If you have any questions about eligible countries, please contact WFN.
  • Nationals with local support – The Whitley Awards support nationals of the country in which they are working (i.e. you were born there or have lived there a long time and achieved national status.) If you are not a national but believe you have an exceptional case based on long term residency (15+ years) and a demonstrable commitment to that country/region, then please contact WFN.
  • Grassroots conservationists who are embedded in and/or from the communities where they work. Applicants should work for or lead locally incorporated NGOs in the Global South, rather than be in-country staff employed by NGOs headquartered in the Global North.
  • Good communicators and keen collaborators – people who will benefit from additional media attention, collaborate with others and share results. Please note applicants must be able to communicate in English.
  • Leadership and teamwork – Whitley Awards are won by inspiring leaders backed by an appropriate team, not individuals working in isolation.
  • Scientific evidence – Projects that are based on scientific evidence and understanding – this can be in the leader, expertise on the team, or via partners/collaboration.
  • Ecosystem / landscape level projects are preferred. Genuine flagships are great, but not if results are purely species-specific.
  • Local stakeholder involvement – Work involving (and benefitting) the local community and stakeholders is essential.
  • Evidence of success – Projects that are able to demonstrate evidence of success. We do not fund pilot projects or work that is at the start-up stage.
  • Pragmatic, replicable and scalable – Grassroots, pragmatic work that is realistic, but ambitious too. We look for applicants on the cusp of ‘something big’ and work that is replicable or scalable.
  • Measurable outcomes – Actions that will have clear, measurable outcomes – we look for applications that have given careful thought to what indicators can be measured to evidence impact.
  • Cost-effective – Projects that demonstrate value for money and ability to manage funding at the Whitley Award level (£40,000). Organisations with Audited Accounts are preferred.
  • Need for support – Projects for which an Award will make a big difference. Priority will be given to those that can demonstrate need.
  • Sustainable projects – we want the work to continue into the future, well past the Whitley Award. Successful proposals will demonstrate long-term planning.
  • Publicity – Work that needs publicity – ones that will do well if ‘doors can be opened’ via the media and enhanced recognition.

What projects will WFN not fund?

  • High Income Economies – Projects based in High Income Economies as defined by the World Bank. If your project is based in a country that has recently been re-classified as having a High Income economy, please contact WFN.
  • Expatriates – such leaders do excellent work around the world but are not the focus of this Awards scheme, which aims to champion local leaders.
  • ‘One-person bands’ – people who operate alone or who are reluctant to collaborate.
  • Pure research / expeditions / conference attendance – winners need to have larger aims than ‘research and publish’. Any research should be applied research. PhD projects, MSc dissertations, undergraduate projects, expeditions and conference attendance are not eligible for the Whitley Award – if PhD/MSc students benefit from a project funded that is great, but we will not fund these alone.
  • ‘Start-up’ or pilot projects. Evidence of prior success is very important.
  • Pure rural development – Pure rural/ economic development where direct conservation benefits are hard to quantify.
  • Land purchase or projects focused on construction of buildings as these activities are rarely feasible with in the one year time frame of our Awards.
  • Animal welfare & rehabilitation of captive animals – Our focus is on nature in the wild.
  • Captive breeding – We recognise it as useful conservation tool, but at the level of funding we have available, we can’t make much impact. Therefore, we would only fund captive breeding where underlying causes of species decline in the wild have been fully addressed prior to breeding species in captivity.
  • Government employees – However, we are aware that grey areas exist where conservationists will often be affiliated with government institutions in order to operate. If this is the case, please contact WFN.
  • While WFN strive to fund projects in every country that meets our eligibility criteria, it is occasionally necessary to restrict support in a particular country. We are regrettably unable to consider ANY applications for projects in Russia. We keep this list under constant review and any changes in policy will be advertised on our website.

Who is eligible to apply?

  • The strategic focus of the Whitley Awards is national conservation leadership in countries that are not defined as a High Income Economy by the World Bank. Whitley Awards focus on individuals working in locations where international funds are hardest to raise, most needed, and will make the largest conservation impact.  Exceptions to this criterion include Equatorial Guinea and certain island nations in the Caribbean. If you have any questions about eligible countries, please contact WFN.
  • Nationals with local support – Whitley Awards winners are nationals of the countries where their conservation activities are focused (i.e. they were born there or have lived there a long time and have achieved national status) or are local to the region in which they work. This is because we have found these people often have the understanding necessary to bring about long term change and build capacity locally.  Expatriates from developed, high-income economy countries are not eligible for Whitley Awards.
  • Grassroots conservationists – Whitley Awards seek applications from grassroots conservationists who are embedded in and/or from the communities in which they work, working for locally incorporated NGOs in the Global South, rather than in-country staff from NGOs headquartered in the Global North who have access to a greater variety of funds – but if you are in doubt please contact us.
  • Good communicators – All applicants must be able to communicate in English, and be capable of compiling a written report to describe and quantify the success of their work with appropriate academic references. To gain the maximum benefit from winning an Award, you need to be able to utilise media opportunities presented as a result – these can often be even more useful to your cause than the financial award involved. Should you win a Whitley Award, professional media training will form part of the Awards week in the U.K.

The Whitley Award is given to an individual. Joint applications and nominations for someone else are not eligible. Government employees are not eligible. However, we are aware that grey areas exist where conservationists will often be affiliated with government institutions in order to operate. If this is the case, please contact WFN.

What does WFN look for in a potential Whitley Award winner?

  • Star quality – Passionate and dynamic individuals who are spearheading successful work, and are in need to publicity and funding to open doors, scale-up their work and realise their project’s goals. Individuals who are able to capitalise on the publicity the Whitley Award brings and use this to communicate their message to wider audiences and deliver conservation results.
  • Leadership and teamwork – Leaders supported by a strong team and/or local NGO/organisation. Whitley Awards recognise the leadership qualities of individuals working with effective teams with strong nature conservation experience. We look for people who are excellent ambassadors for the work that they do. Effective conservation is the result of teamwork but applications must specify a leader of the team who would be the recipient of the Whitley Award, if successful. Teams must include individuals who are local to the country or region where the project is taking place and represent the diversity of that region, and must contain the range of relevant skills and knowledge necessary to ensure successful execution of the proposed activities. It is also understood that in some situations, the inclusion of international team members with specialist skills and knowledge may be required for project success.
  • Scientific founding – It is not a requirement of the team leader to hold professional scientific qualifications. However, projects that aim to address issues on a biological level will need to demonstrate that activities will be informed based on scientific data. The inclusion of appropriate scientists or other expertise (for example livelihoods, education or agricultural experts) on the team will also be expected if this is relevant to the project.
  • Mid-career conservation leaders – Conservationists who would benefit from further funding and a boost in profile. By ‘mid-career’ we mean those with existing experience to draw on, who are already several years into their conservation career and poised to scale up their successful work, rather than being defined by age. Early career conservationists should consider applying to the Rufford Foundation or Conservation Leadership Programme, which support emerging conservation leaders.

What kind of conservation work does WFN fund?

  • Ecosystem landscape level approach – WFN has a broad scope of interest but projects must be focused on nature conservation. Threatened habitat conservation; projects utilising flagship species as a focal point for mobilising local communities; biodiversity conservation and linked livelihood development projects which reduce pressure on wild resources or utilise wild resources sustainably; human-wildlife conflict resolution; anti-poaching; in-situ conservation of endangered species – all would be projects we are interested in. In all cases, measurable biodiversity conservation impact is essential. Projects that take an ecosystem approach are generally favoured over a purely species specific approach. Take a look at our past winners in the Winners’ Projects section of our website to get a better idea of what WFN fund.
  • Local stakeholder involvement – WFN look for projects which actively involve and genuinely engage the local community and build capacity. Community and stakeholder education is considered very important to successful nature conservation projects. But winning projects will have an explicit biodiversity conservation focus. Purely or predominantly rural/development projects will not be eligible.
  • Evidence of prior success of proposed activities is essential, with appropriate metrics.
  • Pragmatic, replicable and scalable – Pragmatic, grassroots initiatives will be given priority over purely scientific or academic activities. WFN is keen to support those who have started on a smaller scale and now want to expand, replicate or scale up their activities. WFN value the experience and strong local knowledge project leaders acquire on a small scale, and their enthusiasm to apply this on a larger scale.  We do not fund pilot or start up projects.
  • Measureable outcomes – We seek projects that deliver real change and include actions that will have clear, measurable outcomes. It is important to demonstrate that careful thought has been given to determine what indicators can be measured to evidence impact.  For example, where training is undertaken – how will you measure actual change in behaviour, what will be the actual change delivered as a result of workshops; how will you know if the anti-poaching patrols have been effective or if the protected area is having the desired results?

WFN cannot provide funding for MSc/ PhD work, expedition or conference attendance, land purchase or building construction and animal welfare projects. Captive breeding projects are only considered if the underlying cause of species decline in the wild has been addressed.

What financial information does WFN look for in an application?

  • Cost-effective projects will succeed over those that are less efficient, do not provide evidence of value for money, or which spend a high percentage of the Award on salaries and international travel. A Whitley Award is worth £40,000 GBP in project funding to be spent over a one year period.
  • Demonstrate need – Funding from WFN should form a significant component of the project’s financial requirement (e.g. at least 30%).  WFN’s funding schemes are not designed to make minor contributions to very large projects better served by other funding agencies.
  • Sustainable – Applications which give evidence that the project can become self-supporting or be able to levy further funds over time will be given priority over projects that are likely to fail once immediate funds have expired. The applicant should intend to devote a considerable period of time to the project, and set the project up in such a way that it can have a sustained future and can carry on functioning usefully should the team leader move on. Projects that aim to create long-term conservation benefits will be given priority over projects whose effects are likely to be short-term.
  • The ability to manage funds appropriately – As demonstrated by historical financial documents and audited accounts.

What are the eligibility requirements for referees?

  • Your referees should not have a financial interest in your project’s success or conflict of interest.
  • Referees need to be able to comment with authority as to the usefulness, scientific validity and practicality of your work. Preferably they will also be able to comment on the level of support given by the country in which you are working to the project, and specifically whether you have the support of local stakeholders, the government and/or non-governmental organisations. In all references, we also place high value on referees’ assessment of the applicant’s personality, dedication and ability to manage and be responsible with funds.
  • In addition to the reference from a local source, at least one reference should be from an international referee (i.e. from someone from a different country to where you are working). This referee should provide you with a reference that puts your work into a global context.
  • All the referees should know about you and your work; references that start ‘I do not know the applicant, but…’ are never highly regarded!
  • These referee statements are critical to your application. Please ensure that all three statements are submitted to us via the portal before the deadline so that they can be considered with your application.

What do I do if I am having trouble filling out the application on the portal?

  • Internet Issues – While working directly on the portal, remember to save your progress regularly using the green ‘Save’ button at the bottom of the screen. If you have poor internet connection and are worried about losing work you can download a Word document of the application form, which can be found in the Guidelines section on the portal. You must have registered to the portal to be able to access this document. You can use this Word document to work offline until you are ready to copy your answers into the portal. We would recommend doing this with plenty of time in advance and when you are somewhere with a more stable internet connection. Note that we do not accept applications via email – you must submit your application via the portal. 

If you are having trouble logging in or accessing the portal – please email us at [email protected].

If my application is not successful, can I appeal?

  • No, appeals are not possible and the Judging Panel’s decision is final.  We carefully assess all applications which are eligible, and where resources allow, will provide constructive feedback on why your application was unsuccessful.  However, we cannot enter into dialogue or correspondence regarding unsuccessful applications.

If my application is not successful can I re-apply at a later date?

  • As long as the application meets the criteria, a re-application can be made at the next deadline after the initial application.  If you choose to re-apply, please note that although you may use the same referees, three new reference statements will be required. Applicants who re-apply and who are rejected for a second time may not apply for a third year consecutively. If you are unsure of your eligibility please contact WFN.

If you have any questions or require further information please email [email protected]