Fundraising for small scale projects

How to successfully do fundraising to travel abroad during a Master’s, undergraduate or gap year activity!

By Traveling female ornithologist

One happy biologist collecting and sampling invertebrates in the Kenyan Mountains!

Fundraising is hard work! It is heartbreaking, when you get decline email after decline. If you put a serious effort into it, you can and will succeed, and get to do your dream 🙂

I have repeatedly been asked about the process of my fundraising experience.

During my Master’s studies I decided that I wanted to go abroad and do my own fieldwork for my Master’s Thesis in Biology. I did’nt go on exchange abroad to my biggest regret.

My last chance was to find an international project where I could gain valuable skills in planning and conducting tropical and scientific fieldwork.

At the time I was working at BirdLife Denmark, and asked my international co-worker, if he knew about any projects at the time. Long story short, I received an affiliation from the National Museums of Kenya to conduct fieldwork in the Taita Hills in Kenya. In the Taita Hills, a rare and elusive songbird, a member of the Cisticolidae family, was disappearing from several forest fragments, and one of the ideas were to study the foraging behavior and ecology of the Taita apalis. How exhilarating was this, my very own expedition to Kenya! I was to be supervised by an Italian scientist, affiliated in Kenya, and my former Undergraduate’s supervisor.

The view from Vuria, Taita Hills

Then I spent four months researching, writing applications and preparing myself for the fieldwork. I ended up sending 20 applications to different Danish and international grants and foundations.

I admit, it was a tremendously long process, but extremely rewarding. I received only three out of the 20 grants, and they were extremely helpful and covered 70 % of my budget towards the fieldwork. Note that most foundations never reply back, and some applications (maybe two) got lost in the mail.


Start early. When you start on your Masters, you should already have a clear idea of what organism and what eco region that brings you joy. For me it was birds and Africa. I had good contacts, but every one can send an email and reach out. If you are passionate, you will find a good supervisor and you will be successful in your grant application for your project.

Here are some of my advice to you

  1. Find out what project you want to work on. Do you have your own idea? Great! Find someone who will work with you. This I have no experience with. I found an existing project in a place I’d never been and just went for it.
  2. Research the internet and in the library for a book on grants. Some grants are for people in need. For Danish readers I have added a section below describing the proces in Denmark, including how to deal with taxes (SKAT) 🙂
  3. Apply on time!
  4. Send every single document they ask for. If they ask for your Tax paper, send it.
  5. Write that motivation letter like there is nothing else in this World!! You are passionate, this opportunity to go abroad is possibly the best thing that has ever happened to you and your career. If you have spelling problems, ask a friend or a relative to check the spelling.
  6. Make a standard CV. Works with most grant applications.
  7. Again: Apply on time! Some grants are only open for applications for a certain time of the year!
  8. After you return from your adventures, some foundations asks you to write a report or an article. Respectfully do so 🙂

Links to existing funds (September 2020)


Write a comment below if you have found an amazing database for small project grant applications, and I will add it to the list! From time to time, websites change, and the link does not work anymore. This sucks obviously, but you may just search for the foundation name or browse their website on the internet.

Fondssøgning til rejser, speciale, bachelor og sabbatår

For Danes only

Lad dig ikke slå ud af navnet på fonden. Du behøver som udgangspunkt ikke have spillet tennis for at søge penge fra Dansk Tennis Fond. Nogle fonde kræver du er medlem af foreningen, andre kræver ikke. Undersøg selv på deres hjemmeside.

Tillykke! Du er blandt nogle allermest priviligerede mennesker i verden. Vi har en høj levestandard, og vi har endda mange muligheder for at få hjælp fra det offentlige.

Vi er også så heldige der findes bøger som Legathåndbogen, hvor du kan søge et legat, med den ene grund, at du har gået på en specifik privatskole i Roskilde. Verden er uretfærdig! Men du skal udnytte, at der ligger penge I forskellige fonde og venter på at ildsjæle som dig, søger deres legat.

Hvordan finder man legater: På biblioteket og internettet. Der findes nogle goder databaser derude, og det kan godt betale sig at betale for adgang (jeg gjorde dog ikke!). Søgeord som legat og fond bruges på ligefod.


Legater du modtager, som skal bruges i Danmark skal indberettes til SKAT. Men tager du pengene til udlandet, skal de ikke indberettes 🙂 Kæmpe win for os, der laver feltarbejde I udlandet!

Jeg hjælper ikke med at læse ansøgninger eller links, men smid en kommentar og jeg skal se om jeg kan hjælpe 🙂

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