Donor travel grants are not widely available and difficult to identify. There are some tips, tricks, and resources that can help. Very few donors will advertise travel grants outright because it would attract a deluge of applications that they don’t have the time or inclination to review. So what can an NGO do?
A range of options
Most donors prefer to fund travel of NGOs they are already supporting – so consider your existing donors first. When applying for funding it is always a smart idea to include travel to conferences, for training, or international meetings into your budget. Add a budget line called “conference participation”, “study travel”, or “network meetings” that covers travel costs. Explain in the proposal what this budget line is for: e.g. to attend a specific conference or more generically to strengthen networking. Most donors are flexible how the travel budget is used, as long as it is in support of the programs they support. It is also worth asking whether you can reallocate some of your budget for specific unforeseen travel.
Don’t forget to ask current donors (and their office in the country where you work – e.g. an embassy) if you require support for a one-off event. As long as it supports your program and is cost effective there is no shame in asking. Many donors have budget available for this – e.g. a small grants program or president’s fund that can be used flexibly.
Asking new donors with whom you have no prior relationship is less likely to succeed. Still, a well targeted email might do the trick. Look for donors that are not approached very often – the Gates and Ford foundations get thousands of solicitations so your chances are often better if you focus on less well-known donors that are interested in your subject matter.