Finding funding for your adventure

Funding your expedition

Possibly one of the biggest questions that comes up time and time again is how do I get funding for my adventure? In this post we will go through the sources of funding available for adventurers and some tips for making the most of them.

”Fill your life with adventures, not things. Have stories to tell not stuff to show.”


By far the most straight forward way to fund and adventure is to cover the cost yourself. This might seem like a big ask but bear in mind that an adventure does not need to be a hugely expensive undertaking to provide genuine rewards. Check out the 10 adventures for under £100 at the end of this post. in a previous post we discussed budget planning, now is a good time to re-visit your budget. Dig out your budget worksheet that you completed during the 'budget' post. The one were you went through the costs in as much detail as you could at the time. You will have found out a lot more about realistic costs and options during the planning that you have undertaken since then. Go through the budget again and update it accordingly. Be as rigorous as you can, including the most realistic ones possible. If you can afford to cover the costs, great, budget issues are not going to stand in the way of achieving your goals.


Help, It is more expensive than I thought!

Hopefully some of the tweaks that you made during the Reality Test have brought the costs down somewhat. But if the thought of committing your hard earned cash is now making the cost look too high then your options look like this, probably in this order:

Go through the budget again, what costs can you reduce without cutting corners with safety? Can you borrow or hire equipment? Can you buy things second hand? Can you wild camp instead of paying for accommodation? Are there any more tweaks that you can make?


Still don’t have enough money to pay for it?

If this is the case then you have some tough decisions to make. You could decide that now is not the right time for this particular adventure. Maybe you should put it on the back burner and turn your attention to something that you can afford and succeed in right now. This can be really tough and it can be hard not to see it as a failure. However instead of a failure, consider it more as a sensible evaluation or a postponement. There is nothing to stop you coming back to have another go at this when you have saved more money or made a name for yourself in your field and have a multitude of commercial backers. Think of it in the same way as making the hard but sensible decision not to push for the summit when bad weather is coming in and altitude sickness is creeping up. As climbers say, the mountain will be there another day.


Sources of extra funding

There is no point sugar coating this, finding extra funding for a challenge or adventure is really hard. There is a reason that it comes after the reducing the costs option for dealing with your budget. If however you are really determined to find extra money for you project then here are your options, starting with those you can directly control:

Start saving - Can you reduce the cost of outgoings in your life? For example, not buying takeaway coffees could save you £1000 in a year. Work out how much you would need to save per month to pay for your trip in 6 months, a year, two years. Try staying away from shops, sounds silly, but it is amazing how much you can spend on things you weren’t planning to buy. You will probably be spending most of your time training which will keep you away from shopping temptation anyway. 

Start selling - Can you sell any of your stuff? I funded a whole summer of traveling by selling some of my kit that I no longer used online. Alternatively could you take on a lodger or advertise a room on Airbnb?

Make more money - Can you take on overtime at work? Overtime is often better paid than your normal hours and might earn you some Brownie points for when you have to ask for time off for your adventure. Alternatively you could take on a second job while you are saving.

That’s the easy options that are under your control exhausted, now it is time to look for external sources of funding. Before you start ask yourself, am I making a financial commitment to this myself? If not why should other people be giving you their hard earned cash? If you are at least making a significant investment yourself then people will be much more likely to support you. I will say here that all of the athletes that I have worked with, the ones with medals at least, put all of the money that they have into their campaigns. Yes some of them have sponsors but it is using their own resources to get the best coaching, the best equipment and travel to events that have got them into this positin. Often with nothing left over to spend on what most of us would consider the normal niceties of life. Back to those elusive sources of extra funding, here are the main categories:

Friends and family - These are the people who really care about you and want to see you succeed.

Direct request - Straight up asking of money this takes a lot of guts but can reap rewards.

Fundraising events - There are loads of types of fundraising events that you could organise to raise money for your trip. Cake sale anyone!? throw a ball or party, a big group dog walk, the list goes on. These can be great fun, give donors something back for their investment, even if it is only a cake, and generate awareness and interest in your project.

Philanthropic/ crowd funding - You may be lucky enough to find an individual donor who likes what you are doing and wants to support it. Crowdfunding is becoming a popular variation on this where lots of donors give small amounts of support. Usually in return for some token from you such as a signed photo of you being awesome. There are lots of crowd funding websites. Most are tailored to a specific niche so look around to find one that fits your needs. You will need to spend some time putting your pitch together, most sites recommend that you make a short video illustrating your cause for the best results. Although the crowdfunding site will host your appeal and deal with collecting the money it is still down to you to drive the traffic to your crowd funding site.


List of Expedition Grants

Grants are another source of potential funding for your expedition. Some will require something from you in return such as a presentation or expedition report. However these requirements can be less onerous than those required by commercial sponsors. Grants vary in size but are often of the order of magnitude of a few hundred or few thousand pounds. They are usually aimed at providing supplementary financial support rather than funding an entire expedition. Some grants are quite open regarding they types of endeavours that they will support whilst others are more specific. It is a good idea to research wether your expedition fits the criteria before spending time crafting your application. Closing dates for grants vary throughout the year it is a good idea to put closing dates for relevant ones into your diary.

New expedition grants are always coming up. Keeping an eye on social media is a good way to be the first to know about new offers. The following is a list of some recurring expedition grants that are up for grabs.


Alpkit Foundation £50 - £500

Captain Scott Society Awards ~£2000

Des Rubens and Bill Wallace Grant £200-£2000

Journey of a Lifetime Award £5000

Neville Shulman Challenge Award £5000-£8000

Scientific Exploration Society’s (SES) Explorer Awards £2000 - £8000

The Adventure Fund £100-300

The Altumate Challenge 2017 £5000

The Gino Watkins Memorial Fund £500 - £5000

The Horizon Lecture Adventure Fund £400-500

The Julie Tullis Memorial Award £200-£800

The Next Challenge Grant £100-200

Timmissartok Foundation Grants £100

Transglobe Expedition Trust £1000 - £2000

Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowships Variable


How to get corporate sponsorship for your adventure


Corporate sponsorship is often seen as the holy grail of expedition funding, however there is a reason that it appears last in the list of options here. That is that securing corporate sponsorship is really hard. I have been fortunate enough to work with high level teams competing on a world stage with huge TV audiences and gained an insight into their corporate sponsorship. The biggest thing that I learnt is that even for these teams it isn’t easy. Looking for sponsorship is effectively a full time job, one where you spend most of your days dealing with rejection. Before committing your valuable time to seeking sponsorship, try filling in the boxes on the right: 

How many people are taking part in your expedition? What are your average annual salaries? If you all saved hard and each committed half of your annual salaries to the expedition, how much would you have? Is it really likely that you will find a sponsor who will donate that much?

For example, six going on the expedition. Your average salaries are £35,000. Each person commits half of their annual salary. That gives you £105,000 to fund your expedition, without a single rejection letter. What’s more your adventure are all your own.

If you are still thinking that corporate sponsorship is the thing for you, particularly if your trip is in the world stage league or will be setting a major record or first, the next section will give tips on gaining that all important deal.


Tips for getting corporate sponsorship

Get an agent - These people are professionals at securing sponsorship. They have their finger on the pulse of which companies are looking to sponsor which kinds of adventures. They know the right people to talk to and will handle all of the rejections for you. Most agents work on commission on the funding that they secure so you should not have to pay an upfront fee.

Have a family member who works in the sponsorship department of a major outdoor brand - Contacts are all important here, think about everyone that you know, who may be able to put you in contact with a key decision maker?

Be a professional, world class athlete or player in your field - Most sponsored athletes have paid their dues, showing their dedication by working their way up through the ranks and performing highly in competition. Can you show your abilities by competing or taking part in other expeditions?

Read up on companies and their marketing strategies and budgets - Red Bull for example focus sponsorship on events rather than individuals. What is it that you are offering? It is also important to tailor the amount that you are asking for to the sponsorship budget of the company. There is no point asking a company for £100,000 sponsorship if their annual turn over is £75,000. 

Look for sponsorship in kind - For example if you need some skis for your expedition, a ski manufacturer or local ski shop might be prepared to provide you with skis at trade price or if you are lucky even for free. Or maybe they can provide you with demo equipment, or agree to buy kit back from you on return from your trip. Again, it is worth thinking about how much you will be saving and if it is worth your time and effort.

Demonstrate what they company will be getting in return - This might be exposure, images for direct advertising or promotion through your social media as a micro-influencer. Equally it could be that someone in the company is inspired by your story and they want to use it as an inspirational journey that their staff can get behind. Showcase what your story has to offer.

Research which companies are looking to move into your market area - For example a hiking brand may be looking to break into the ski touring market and you are about to take on a ski expedition. This could be a good match.

Consider which companies have sponsored your type of adventure previously - These are more likely to understand what you are doing and may be easier to sell your project to.

A final word of warning - Once you go down the external funding route you surrender part of the control for your adventure, it is no longer completely your own. This means that others will be able to place extra demands on you and your time. How will these effect your preparations? Your enjoyment of the trip? Once on your trip your the decisions will not just be your own but will be influenced by your sponsors. Are their visions of success that same as yours? Will you feel obliged to keep going when you know it isn’t really safe to do so? There is also the difficult issue of what happens to the money pledged to you if the adventure doesn’t go ahead, maybe you can’t raise the full amount that you need or you have to pull out due to injury. Most likely that money will have been spent, how are you going to deal with this?

Now could be a good time to have one last look at reducing the budget or tweaking your plan.

Thanks for reading. I hope that you are well on the way to making your adventure a reality. The next post addresses the 'I'd love to but I don't have time' issue. Looking at how you can find time in your life for adventure.

This is part of a new series of blog posts that I am trying out for 2018. They are all about sharing our expedition and adventure planning experience to help you achieve your own goals and dreams. The aim isn't just to talk advice but to give you tools that you can actually use to make success happen. I would really love to hear how you are making use of it, what adventures you are planning and what you would like to learn more about. If you have found this helpful, please click on the share button below and spread the joy of adventuring :)


For lots more information on making your adventure dreams a reality, check out Katherine's book How to have an Adventure.