Can I Crowdfund for my Adventure?

Emily Woodhouse Big Adventures, Business and Marketing, Practical Advice

So you’re feeling creative about adventure funding? Crowdfunding has proved a really successful way to get new products and businesses off the ground. Perhaps it could work for adventures too…

We’re going to look at the pros and cons of crowdfunding, plus some examples of people who’ve tried it. There are definitely lessons to be learnt.

What is Adventure Crowdfunding?

Basically, you are asking other people to fund your adventure for you. They might make a contribution of £1 to £100, through websites like Kickstarter, Crowdfunder or even the new-ish Just Giving Crowdfunding. But there is a difference between crowdfunding and receiving donations. Crowdfunding pages offer “rewards” in exchange for people’s money. This can be anything from “A Personal Thank You” to “A mini expedition with the team”. We’ll talk about rewards more later.

At the start of this investigation, I was pretty sceptical about crowdfunding for your own adventures. It seemed somehow wrong. But then, if you are giving out rewards in return for donations maybe it’s not so bad. You are at least delivering value instead of just begging someone else to pay for your holiday. The more I’ve researched, the more it’s felt like a legitimate way to raise funds.

Examples of Crowdfunded Adventures

My first step was to take a trawl through Kickstarter, Crowdfunder and similar websites. Could I find any successfully funded expeditions? Did people even attempt to crowdfund? I was pretty sure that a friend of mine had crowdfunded for his British Exploring expedition place. Sadly I couldn’t find it.

Justgiving Crowdfunding is full of people raising money for British Exploring, World Challenge etc and other organised trips with charity element. Oddly for a crowdfunding platform, you can only make donations. There are no rewards. Perhaps this is JustGiving’s way of separating out charity donations and “help a person out” donations. Still, this isn’t really crowdfunding and gets a bit ethically messy when you’re doing it for charity – if you ask me.

Some examples of adventure pages are a Peruvian Amazon Expedition and a World Challenge Expedition.

Crowdfunder had lots of interesting examples. There is an expedition crowdfunder running at the time of writing (Project Alpine Spirit) and lots that have completed their funding. Interestingly, these were almost entirely for self-organised adventures. Some examples include:

Other points to note is that the projects I found on here had a very strong UK bias. Unlike…

Kickstarter didn’t seem to have as many adventures for the sake of it. In fact you were much more likely to be funding an artist in residence, or pre-ordering a book or film. This seems to be the platform for pre-release products. In particular documentary films have raised a lot of money. See this one about Denali that raised $100,000+ and Sarah Outen’s film about her London2London expedition.

Successful Crowdfunding Tactics

It seems then that there are 3 separate strategies. Either you go in with a “help a friend out” or a “make the expedition happen” or “pre-order expedition media”. There seem to be successful examples of each of these. I’d recommend having a scroll down the rewards and see how many were taken up in each category. What was popular with people?

There is a running theme across rewards for crowdfunding. They tend to be personal – something that you can’t buy off the shelf. Examples include signed t-shirts, postcards from the expedition, experiences with the adventure team. Alongside this, there’s a selection of rewards that have been donated by companies supporting the adventure. This is probably easier to do than you think. If you were running a raffle, you’d ask around for prize donations. Do the same here.

Then, of course, for the pre-selling of books and films you have options to buy these items. BUT it doesn’t stop there. Rewards start at the lowest price with a digital copy and go all the way up to being a producer of the film or VIP tickets to the launch party. Be creative and offer a wide selection of prices.

Other Creative Crowdfunding

Whilst writing this, I realised that there is another section we haven’t covered. That’s crowdfunding for an adventure via an online raffle. I did this for an Adventure Grant for Intrepid Magazine. Everyone who donated £1 got 1 ticket into the final draw for a £500 adventure grant. We raised the £1000 total and were then able to give out 2 grants. This is altruistic but can be adapted to pay for your own adventure. For example, I’ve seen the idea copied since to fund a place on an Arctic Sailing Adventure. The stretch target meant spare money went towards funding the expedition.

Another raffle-style idea I’ve seen is a literal raffle but run through crowdfunding. Jenny Graham was fundraising for her record attempt at cycling round the world. She set up a crowdfunding page here where she had a £4000 bike as a raffle prize (I assume it was donated). Ticket prices were £10 to enter and she raised over double her £2000 target. Definitely worth thinking about.

The Cons

There are a few cons to this. The biggest one I’ve noticed is mixing up donating towards the expedition or to charity. It can be confusing for people. Are they donating towards the charity you’re supporting with your expedition? Or are they paying for the trip. Make it really clear where the money goes.

It takes a huge number of people to reach your target. The average number of supporters was around 100 – that’s 100 people giving you some money. So consider: do you know that many people? Do you have access to a large network of people, friends, social media followers? Not everyone will donate.

There is nothing quite so sad as putting up a page and then no one donating. Make sure that people can find it. Tell everyone about it. They have time limits, so you really have to push to meet the target.

Would you consider crowdfunding an adventure? If you are running one, drop the link in the comments!