Fund your fun
5 ways to finance your next expedition
Ken Campbell is the author of several regional kayaking guidebooks and a frequent expedition paddler. Past trips have included a solo circumnavigation of Newfoundland and citizen science expeditions in Washington and Alaska. Click HERE to read more about his expedition last year to the remote reaches of Alaska’s Cook Inlet, and HERE to read more details on the Ikkatsu Project as well as more information about Campbell’s current project: a 150-mile journey through Puget Sound on a boat made from discarded plastic bottles, pictured below.
BY KEN CAMPBELL
Now you’ve done it. You’ve gone and dreamed up a trip that’s bigger than any you’ve done before. Much more involved. In fact, it wouldn’t be fair to call it a trip; it’s an expedition. You quickly find that although some aspects of the planning process are challenging, they can be overcome. In the end, however, it always comes down to the Benjamins. It is an unfortunate fact that big trips can cost big money and a lack of financing is often the fatal flaw in an otherwise brilliant plan.
Still, it doesn’t have to be like that. “Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” is an ancient cliché, but clichés have a tendency toward truth. There are things you can do to make it more likely that your dream will become reality. Plan it well, get your logistical ducks in a row and do as much math as you need to do to come up with two very important numbers. The first is how much cash you want in order to make your trip happen; the second is how much you need. These numbers will be different and it’s important that you know what to leave in and what to leave out as you begin to seek funding. With internet fundraising options gaining visibility in recent years, many adventurers turn there first; crowdfunding is just one link in the money chain, however, and it may not provide everything you’ll need [Click HERE to read Zand Martin's guide to expedition crowdfunding from C&K's March 2014 issue]. There are specific realities you’ll have to know if you want to pay the bills and valuable techniques that may not even have anything to do with the Internet. Here are a few to think about as you move onward.
1. Spend Your Own Money First. I know, this wasn’t the nugget you thought it might be but you have an obligation to get some skin in the game. If people know that you are putting your hard-earned scratch into the effort, they are going to be more likely to provide some of theirs.
2. What Do You Have to Trade? Can you write articles for magazines, newspapers or websites? Can you create high-quality photos and video? If your planned excursion is so amazing, then it follows that the stories and photos that come from it will be interesting as well, and there may well be a market for them. And don’t forget the swag; T-shirts and posters and other expedition-related items have been a steady source of funding for decades.
3. Speak Up! After writing his first commercial success, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, Mark Twain wanted to go to sea. Although his story had been a moneymaker, he still didn’t have the coin he needed to get away. A friend suggested that he tell his tall tales in front of paying audiences to raise the money he needed and he did so, quickly becoming as well known for his appearances as for his writing. He collected the cash, sailed with the tide and went on to write some of America’s finest travel literature.
4. Shake the Virtual Tin Cup. Crowdsourcing, whether it is done through donations made to your own expedition website or through a public funding site like Indiegogo or Kickstarter, is a growing method of putting together the green. If you go the public route, be realistic about your funding target and use this as one of your funding sources, rather than the only one.
5. Look for Deep Pockets. Christopher Columbus had Queen Isabella. Sponsors are wonderful. If you can find someone who’s happy to write you a check and send you on your way, you are a very fortunate soul (and I would greatly appreciate his or her contact information). Even if sponsors don’t actually give you money, any gear they can provide represents money that you didn’t have to spend, which can be used for other expenses.
Perhaps the biggest favor you can do yourself when it comes to raising the money for an expedition is to have a story to tell. Have an objective for the trip, whether it’s environmental, scientific, cultural, whatever. Sharing your goals and excitement with others will reinforce not only your sense of purpose, but your stakeholders as well.