Expedition Funding – Apply for Grants
By Rebecca Coles // When I began tentatively investigating the options for funding an expedition I was organising independently, I found that there were many more grants offering support than I expected. The expedition comprised a two person team going to eastern Tajikistan and the Wakhan Corridor, Afghanistan. Although the destination was a bit wacky, we only planned non-technical (single ice axe) ascents of mountains. I applied for funding, and was blown away when our expedition was actually given some money.
By applying for grants, combined with keeping costs down, we were able to subsidise the trip by 50%, which made all the difference to the expedition going ahead. The funding we benefited from came from the grant giving bodies; the Mount Everest Foundation, the BMC (including the Julie Tullis Award) and the Jeremy Willson Charitable Trust.
Now, sitting on the Mount Everest Foundation (MEF) screening committee, I realise that I was exactly the sort of applicant that the MEF, and the other grant giving bodies, wanted but sometimes struggle to find. The MEF was set up to support “…predominantly self-funding amateurs” – a category of climbing which most of us can relate to.
Since my first expedition, I’ve got a bit better at applying for funding and have even gained some sponsorship. My last expedition comprised a four person team with the aim of climbing an unclimbed, but not that technical, 6000m peak in Tajikistan. Again, the expedition greatly benefited from keeping costs low, and this time we were awarded a total of 80% of the cost of trip through grant funding, of which the giving bodies included the MEF, BMC, Alpine Club, Austrian Alpine Club and Chris Walker Memorial Trust. In addition, we received financial and equipment support from Lowe Alpine who were able to provide us with clothing and rucksacks.
Having spoken to many people aspiring to organise their own expeditions, I feel that the perception of gaining funding for such trips is quite different from the reality. First of all, people think that only expeditions that are for hard, committing routes will get support – actually, there is plenty of funding for non-technical objectives. You would also be surprised how few expeditions make applications – the odds can be very good! Another misconception can be where to direct your energies when sourcing funding. If your expedition is fairly low budget (grants tend to be between £500-£2000 per team) then I strongly believe that the most efficient way to secure funding is to apply for grants. A common mistake is to spend a lot of time trying to seek corporate sponsorship, which can be a lot tougher especially if you are a small-scale team. Applying for grants can give legitimacy to an expedition, therefore making it easier to gain support from other sources later on.
Expedition grants are often set up with a specific focus in mind. There are grants available for all-female teams, groups with disabilities, and many for young people. Some are given by clubs and you may need to be a member to benefit. Grants also differ as to whether they only give one award a year (e.g. Chris Walker Memorial Trust) or many (the MEF gives up to 40!). If you want to do exploratory mountaineering (remember this doesn’t have to be technical summits), polar exploration, or have an environmental or scientific focus to your expedition, then there are plenty of grants available.
Below is a summarised list of some of the grants out there for particular types of expedition:
Julie Tullis Award
The award is given to British women and/or disabled climbers, either individuals or all-female expeditions with interesting mountaineering goals.
Applications made via the BMC grant form
Deadlines: 1st March and 1st November
Alison Chadwick Memorial Grant
The aim of the award is to further British and Polish women’s mountaineering in the Greater Ranges.
Applications are made together with the Mount Everest Foundation application.
Deadlines: 30th September and 31st January
BMC Expedition Grant
The BMC has funds available to BMC members of all ages and backgrounds on international expeditions. However, one of the criteria states that “expeditions consisting of younger members for whom the trip would represent a significant personal development will also be considered for funding, irrespective of climbing standard.”
Deadlines: 1st March and 1st November
Jeremy Willson Charitable Trust
Applicants must be under 30, and/or involve in summiting unclimbed peaks or attempting new routes up peaks or involve participation of climber/s from a developing country
More Info: http://www.jwct.org.uk/Applying.htm
Deadlines: 30th April, 31st October
Young Explorers Club
Grants for individuals aged 19 and under who are taking part in expeditions or other adventurous activities.
Deadlines: Throughout the year.
Jack Bloor Fund
For people under 26 who live in Yorkshire and are a member of a club such as the BMC. The fund is for those who are wish to develop in their sport and includes going on an expedition.
More Info: http://www.jackbloor.co.uk/index.php/fund
Deadlines: Applications accepted throughout the year
Those with a disability
The Julie Tullis award and the Jeremy Willson Charitable Trust also support adventurers with disabilities, and are worth looking into.
BMC Expedition Grant, whilst encouraging young people to get involved, continues to support a range of ages including those exploring further.
Mount Everest Foundation
For British and New Zealand mountaineering expeditions, particularly teams made up of self-funded amateurs, involving exploration (first ascents and new lines in the Greater Ranges).
Deadlines: 31st January and 30th September
For teams that comprise Alpine Club members and have an exploratory element or are attempting a new or unique project.
Deadlines: 28th February and 31st October
In the spirit of Shipton and Tilman’s trips the award is for small, unencumbered teams of friends with daring and imaginative goals. The expedition team must plan to accomplish their feat in a self-propelled, environmentally sound and cost-effective way.
Deadline 1st March
Chris Walker Memorial Trust
This grant is designed to encourage and support exploration of the Greater Ranges. Applications are welcomed from aspiring Greater Ranges climbers who need help to fund expeditions with the objective of establishing new routes, repeating rarely attempted lines or visiting unexplored areas.
Deadline: 1st December
Nick Estcourt Award
For teams with technical mountaineering objectives. Expeditions attempting an objective of mountaineering significance. This might be a previously unclimbed face, ridge or summit or a repeat of an existing route in more challenging style or conditions.
More Info: http://www.nickestcourtaward.org/
Deadline: 31st December
Welsh Sports Association
For Welsh expedition team members undertaking ground breaking overseas expeditions.
Mountaineering Council of Scotland
Grants support mountaineering expeditions by Scottish-based climbers to all parts of the world. Grants have been awarded for objectives that were at the cutting edge of mountaineering by experienced climbers, exploratory expeditions into un- chartered or little visited mountain areas, and as a means of supporting Scottish climbers gaining experience to tackle objectives in the Greater Ranges. Grants now also support pure rock or ice, and mixed expeditions in less remote places such as Europe and America
Deadline: 28th February
Eagle Ski Club
To assist Eagle Ski Club members (particularly younger members) to take part in ski touring and ski mountaineering expeditions and adventurous trips – particularly to remote and little known locations.
More Info: http://www.eagleskiclub.org.uk/info/grants
Deadline: Applications made at least 2 months before departure.
Alpine Ski Club
Taking part in a ski mountaineering expedition which includes an element of exploration. Grants are also open to ski mountaineers and ski tourers from outside the Alpine Ski Club
More Info: http://www.alpineskiclub.org.uk/grants/
Deadline: Applications accepted throughout the year.
Gino Watkins Memorial Fund
Grants given to expeditions, including mountaineering, that meet its objectives of guiding and inspiring enterprising young people towards scientific research and exploration in the Polar Regions.
Deadline: 31st January
Environmental and Conservation Expeditions
Bill Wallace Grant
Set up by the John Muir Trust in memory of Bill Wallace, the grant is designed to support expeditions that combine adventure and conservation of wild places.
More Info: http://www.jmt.org/bill-wallace-grant.asp
Deadline: 18th January
The Wilderness Award is a cash award made to a UK resident over the age of 18 who intends to travel overseas, returning before 31st January of the following year, to undertake an unusual and adventurous objective in a geographically remote wilderness area.
Deadline: 30th November
Expeditions involving Scientific Research
The Mount Everest Foundation provide support for researchers as well as general expeditions.
Jeremy Willson Charitable Trust have grants for geological expeditions and field research.
Gino Watkins Memorial Fund for research in Polar Regions
The two main places to look for suitable grants are the list published by the Royal Geographical Society, and the British Mountaineering Council. Deadlines for grant applications are generally annual and fall between November to January, but make sure you check the specific grant you’re interested in so you don’t miss out.
The above is not an exhaustive list; sports councils, your own climbing club and your previous school or college may also have funding that you could apply for.
It is important to remember that there might be conditions attached to receiving funding, such as a post expedition report, or giving talks and other such publicity commitments. But it’s a give and take – if they help you reach your goal, you’re going to want to help them with theirs too.
I look forward to seeing your applications at the MEF. Good Luck!
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Thank you to Rebecca Coles for producing this fantastically comprehensive piece of work. Rebecca is an adventure travel expert with substantial experience, skills and knowledge of high altitude mountaineering. She runs expert advice workshops, field trip planning and expedition services. You can find out more on her website all but essential travel.