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SOA Grants: Frequently Asked Questions

Pre-application Stage

  1. The project leader who completes the application must be between 18-35 at the time of submitting the application.

  2. The project must have a clear and demonstrable connection to SOA's mission to improve ocean health and sustainability.

  3. The applicant must be proficient in English in order to clearly articulate their project in the application and to understand and complete the reporting requirements.

  4. Sanctioned individuals (by OFAC or similar regulatory bodies) or organizations are not eligible to receive funding.

  5. All laws and regulations, including Covid-19 guidelines, must be followed.


Ocean-focused for-profits seeking investment are encouraged to explore the SOA Ecopreneur Network.

  1. An individual or an organization can receive a grant, but preference is generally given to government-registered nonprofit organizations for reasons related to SOA’s status as a 501(c)3 not-for-profit and U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) requirements.

  2. Individual recipients of a grant are typically students and/or social entrepreneurs (working to start a social enterprise or nonprofit). Individuals receiving a grant may be subject to income tax depending on the regulations in your country. US applicants, especially current students, are encouraged to find more information on the IRS website.

  3. For-profit and nonprofit organizations are eligible to apply, though preference is given to nonprofits. Only for-profits  with a clear environmental/social benefit aligned with SOA’s mission are eligible to receive grant funding (these organizations are often those classified as social enterprises). 

  4. Grants to organizations provide more flexibility and accountability; for example, grants to registered organizations can include expenses related to personnel salaries (see the FAQ: What can I spend grant funds on?)

$15,000 is the current maximum amount for an SOA Grant.

$4,000 is typically the maximum amount awarded to any first-time grantee of SOA applying as an individual.

$3,800 is the average grant amount over the first 3 years of the program.

Grants are almost always disbursed in two installments (see How are Funds Sent and When). The first installment of funding is sent within 2 weeks of the official notice of grant award. The second installment is sent within two weeks of SOA approval of the Interim Report.

For the purposes of your application, you should not expect to receive funding until at least one month after the application deadline. 

SOA reviews applications as they are received (rolling). The date of official notification of award varies depending on the specific call for applications, and is included in the application instructions. 

Grant funds (as listed in your proposed budget) can be used for purposes necessary to the completion of your proposal and aligned with SOA's mission as a nonprofit charitable organization. 

We strive to support people and organizations that need support in building their operational capacity, and acknowledge that the most vital expense is often compensating students and aspiring social entrepreneurs for their time.  

Direct project support in the form of supplementing personnel salary is only permitted for organizational grantees, and should be calculated in accordance with their estimated time spent on the project.

Stipends, honoraria, and other forms of reimbursement for project teams, as well as contractual expenses to service providers should be fully explicated in the description section. 

Review the budget template all applicants are requested to use. 

In general, for individuals:

  • No more than 20% of the amount requested should be used to compensate project leader(s) and participants for their time (including stipends and honoraria) 

  • No indirect (overhead) expenses are permitted but up to 10% of the amount requested can be for miscellaneous expenses (provide ample justification in the budget Description)

  • Exceptions can be made for students or in cases or other exceptional cases*

In general, for organizations:

  • No more than 30% of the amount requested should be used for direct personnel expenses

  • No more than 10% of the amount requested should be for indirect expenses (i.e. overhead) 

  • Exceptions can be made for applications that demonstrate sufficient need

* Some qualifying factors include in-country banking requirements, strength of affiliation with SOA, and other cases in which the need for these expenses is sufficiently justified. 

The most important elements of the application are the Outputs and Activities and Budget.

Other  important question related to demonstrating your understanding of how the proposal is vulnerable to risks, how it is similar/different from other similar projects, and how you experience makes you well-suited to execute the proposed work.

If the applicant has received funding from SOA before it’s critical that they articulate how this grant builds off of what they accomplished with previous support. 

  1. The project team should have relevant experience and demonstrate potential to successfully carry out the project.

  2. Proficiency with Google Docs is crucial to ensure the seamless completion of your reporting requirements.

  3. A sound budget should be provided, showing that the project has been financially planned with realistic and justifiable costs.

  4. The project should demonstrate its potential for impact through clear KPIs while aligning with SOA impact metrics.

  5. A concise explanation of project outputs and activities, a thorough and well-planned methodology, a detailed assessment of risks and understanding of the competitive landscape, and compelling visual media showcasing how the solution effectively addresses the identified problem.

Project timelines vary depending on the solicitation. In general, applicants should request funds for activities that take place within the timeline as stated on the application.  

The vast majority of grant terms (date of official notification of award to date of final report submission) are 15 months or less.

All grantees are required to submit two reports.* See the Ongoing Grant Administration Stage.

* Exceptions are made in rare instances, most often characterized by low grant amounts and/or quick implementation timelines.

Conditional Selection Stage

  1. An email from SOA Grants notifying you that your proposal has been conditionally selected and that you complete and submit the Financial and Legal Information encrypted form

  2. Once SOA has reviewed your form submission, you’ll receive another email from and SOA Grants staff member asking you to review the Workplan we create based on your application, and to schedule a selection meeting with SOA staff using a link provided to you.

  3. In the meeting, you’ll review your Workplan, verbally confirm the financial information provided, and discuss any questions and the next stage (official rejection or selection).

If your proposal is affiliated with a registered organization, and you can receive money that is sent to that organization's bank account, you should provide the banking account information for the organization; otherwise

  1. Required Financial Information: In addition to your full name and address, you are asked to provide and verbally confirm:

    • Bank Name & Address - name & physical address of the recipient bank

    • Name on Account - name on the recipient's bank account

    • Account Number(s) - the account numbers/codes associated with your account.

    • Those within the US will provide an account and routing number

    • For international bank accounts (outside the US): Please provide an IBAN; The IBAN or International Bank Account Number, should be used whenever possible over a regular bank account number. The IBAN offers additional information for the bank to read such as Bank Code, Bank Branch, Bank Location.

    • SWIFT Codes - The SWIFT or (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications), is used to identify which bank a foreign wire should be sent to. This works the same way the ABA or Routing number works with domestic wires but for international wires.

  2. Required Legal Information: Your address is run through a database of sanctions against organizations and individuals. Submitting the form requires you to attest that you have no sanctions or legal action against you or your organization. Failure to disclose this information is a violation of your Grant Agreement. 

You will meet with at least one staff member of the SOA Grants team, who will intro themselves and ask you to briefly introduce yourself and your proposal. You will be asked questions about your Workplan and asked to read aloud the bank account information you provided (name on the account, account numbers) as an error and fraud prevention measure. The end of the meeting is reserved for questions and next steps. After the meeting, you will receive follow up email either informing you of your rejection or asking that you sign a grant agreement. 

You will receive an official selection email from the SOA Grants team asking that you sign the grant agreement. The grant agreement, in essence, asks that you agree to undertake the activities described in your Workplan, use the funds in accordance with your budget, and submit the required reports to SOA by the deadlines. You will receive an official selection email within two weeks of the meeting with SOA staff.

Ongoing Grant Administration Stage

  1. Funds are sent via bank wire transfer. In instances where your bank charges a high fee or can’t receive funds in USD, you might explore setting up a Wise account or similar. When no suitable alternative exists, SOA may be able to transfer money via Paypal.

  2. Funds are typically sent in 80% and 20% installments. The first installment is sent within 2 weeks of when SOA counter-signs the grant agreement. The second installment is sent within 2 weeks of SOA approving the interim report.

Any grant funds (in excess of $50 USD) sent to you that you do not spend must be returned to SOA via wire transfer or Paypal. In the event that you under-budgeted, you will work with your Grant Caretaker to find ways to cover unanticipated expenses, but you should not expect to be able to receive more money if you need it after the grant agreement has been signed.

Each grant is managed by a staff member of the SOA Grants team, who serves as your Grant Caretaker. You will also have the resources of the Grantee Orientation Course and peers in the SOA online community (the Alliance). 

All grantees have the option to engage in 1:1 mentorship with an SOA Mentor.

More details on this and other capacity building opportunities are provided as part of each individual call for proposals. 

Grantees must submit two reports: an interim and final report, which include narrative updates on project activities and outcomes, financial updates on expenditures to date with receipts, and media that documents the project. 

Interim Report deadlines are set based on the time requirements of the solicitation, in consideration of the Outputs and Activities planned. The deadline is no later than 30 days prior to the Project End Date.

Final Reports are due within 30 days after the Project End Date.

No. Cash prizes are not permitted because SOA has no recourse for verifying that cash prizes were actually sent, received, or used in alignment with our charitable purpose.

If you are making a cash payment to an individual for which no receipt is required or possible this is considered an honorarium and you should complete the required form.

You may pay for services in cash (this is a common occurrence when it comes to transportation, for example) but please make every effort to obtain a receipt when possible.