The National Geographic Society has been financing explorers for more than a century. But these days, you don’t need to be Jacques Cousteau or Jane Goodall to get grants and get your dream adventure funded. In the age of social media, more organizations than ever are getting behind so-called ordinary people doing creative trips and challenging adventures. Besides providing exposure for the company (and the potential to go viral), ponying up cash in support of adventure has another benefit. “We started the Polartec Challenge grant when we were just emerging as a brand and wanted a stronger connection with the people who were using our fabric,” says Ruthann Brown, Polartec’s marketing manager. Interested? Here are three grants, and three connections, worth pursuing:

Polartec Challenge

Polartec invented modern synthetic fleece in 1981 and continues to pump out a wide range of fabric innovations, including its waterproof/breathable NeoShell. The company launched this grant in 1991, and has expanded it in recent years to support four individuals (or teams) with $5,000 each. The grant is available to all residents of planet Earth, and encourages the pursuit of outdoor adventure.
Application: polartec.com/polartec-challenge
Deadline: December 2014
Beta: Members of Polartec’s worldwide marketing team decide the grant winners. The company tends to favor the most athletically inclined applicants, and those planning low-impact trips. The 2013 winners include a 2,000-km bike traverse in Australia, a sail and ski expedition from Iceland to Greenland, a 4,400-km source-to-sea paddling expedition on the Amur River in southern Siberia and a biking and paddling trip across Asia.

Millet Expedition Project

Based in Annecy, France, Millet has been making technical, clumbing-based apparel and equipment for mountaineers in Europe since 1950. The Millet Expedition Project grant started six years ago, and has since supported 69 expeditions and 300 individual prizewinners. New for 2014, the grant will expand beyond Europe, putting money up for grabs here in the U.S., too.
Applicationmillet.fr/other/mxp/dossier_mxp_14_en.pdf
Deadline: March 13, 2014 (the grant will be available in 2015 as well)
Beta: Millet doesn’t set a number or a dollar amount on grants. According to marketing manager Maro LaBlance, it’s totally dependent on the number and quality of applications received. The company also does not set parameters on what defines “expedition.” Previous grant winners have engaged in everything from human aid missions, to extreme outdoor adventures, to exploration in remote areas of the world.

American Alpine Club Grants

Founded in 1902, the American Alpine Club promotes and preserves the climbing way of life through knowledge and inspiration, conservation and advocacy and logistical support for the climbing community. For 2014, the American Alpine Club is offering a dozen different grants—its most ever—for a total payout of $100,000.
Application: americanalpineclub.org/grants
Deadline: Varies by grant
Beta: The Live Your Dreams Grant is a joint offering with The North Face and specifically targets everyday adventurers, across all ages and skill levels. Last year, the American Alpine Club doled out 42 of these grants across the nation, ranging from $200 to $1,200. Those under 25 years of age can apply for the Mountaineering Fellowship, which pays $300–$800, and was awarded to 18 recipients last year. For practical tips on applying for grants from the American Alpine Club, see: inclined.americanalpineclub.org/2013/01/aac-grant-writing-tips