OVERVIEW: Primarily known for its magazines and documentaries, National Geographic is one of the world’s largest scientific and educational organizations and runs several grantmaking programs funded through media income and donations.
IP TAKE: The organization gives generously to wildlife and conservation causes, including those with a focus or sub-focus on ocean conservation and research. Grants are competitive but generally open to applications. It funds both small and large organizations.
PROFILE: Founded in 1888 as a society for explorers, National Geographic has grown to the point that its media holdings reach more than 600 million people annually. The National Geographic Society's programs are far reaching; however, grant seekers must read the site deeply since many programs and geographic regions can be hard to navigate.The society supports education, research, conservation, storytelling and technology.
The foundation's Big Cat Initiative seeks to restore big cat populations around the world in light of a rapid decline in their numbers over the past century. Leading the effort are National Geographic Explorers-in-Residence Dereck and Beverly Joubert, who have both spent more than 25 years in remote parts of Africa as authors, filmmakers, and conservationists. Groups working to save lions and cheetahs with the support of local communities are ideal candidates for Big Cat Initiative grants.
National Geographic Society/Waitt Grants - Tech billionaire Ted Waitt established this grantmaking program, intended to bypass much of the peer review process and shorten the application time for explorers and researchers who need a quick source of funding. Waitt is a serious marine conservation funder, and two of the categories in this program are oceans-related.
It is designed for early career researchers or those looking for “proof of concept” funding for projects and grants are awarded between $5,000 to $15,000. The committee typically responds within 8 to 12 weeks of submission. See more info about applying here.
Committee for Research and Exploration - This grants program goes way back in Society history, and supports scientific field research and exploration. Projects must have a geographical dimension, relevance to an eligible scientific field, and broad scientific interest. Grants range from $15,000 to $20,000, but there is no set amount. The Society makes about 250 grants per year. One of the applicable fields is oceanography, and environmental issues are prioritized.
Conservation Trust - This is grantmaking program was started to support innovative solutions to conservation challenges and problems of global concern. It emphasizes work that seeks an alternative approach to conservation. Grants under this program range from $5,000 to $20,000.
Expeditions Council – The editorial staff manages this program. As a result, it seeks projects that make good stories. They are still required to demonstrate rigor if involving scientific inquiry. These grants range from $15,000 to $35,000.
Global Explorations Fund – The fund comprises multiple programs based on international regions. The most prevalent of these are the research grant for Northern Europe and the National Geographic Foundation for Science and Exploration – Asia established in 2015.
National Geographic/Buffett Awards - Focused on work in Africa and Latin America, these awards were created in 2002 and 2005 to recognize the unsung heroes who work as leaders in conservation. The program is funded by Howard Buffet. Nominations are made to the Committee for Research and Exploration, and selected in a peer review process for one-time awards of $25,000.
Young Explorers Grants - The YEGs support people aged 18 to 25 for work in research, conservation, and exploration. All of these grants must be consistent with the first three grant programs on this list (CRE, CT, and EC), but there’s also a separate fund provided by the Luce Foundation that increases opportunities in 18 Asian countries.
The society accepts unsolicited applications for most of these grants. Each has its own official application forms and paperwork, and the application process for each varies. Consult the website for more about the program of your choosing, and the specific rules for how to apply.
- Gary E. Knell, President and CEO
- Terry D. Garcia, Chief Science and Exploration Officer
- Enric Sala, Explorer in Residence, head of Pristine Seas