Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Exploration Funding: Strategies for Recessionary Times

Someone once wrote "Adventure is the result of poor planning."

The economy is in turmoil. Foundations have lost 1/3rd or more of their financial assets. Large foundations that were focused upon the stock of their founders have foundered. Expeditions are preparing to go into the field with empty promises and sponsors teetering on the brink. What's an expedition leader to do?

1. Be proactive. Contact sponsors and determine what additional value you can bring to the table--more interactivity with core constituencies; more free public lectures upon expedition return; on-line budget monitoring and accountability. Listen more. Say less. Come up with a plan that benefits the sponsor/donor.


2. Examine gear and supply stocks. Borrow as much gear as possible. Scrounge for film and videotape that may be out-of-date, but still fine. It's the new year, but last year's GPS or cellular phone are sitting in someone's distribution center and won't likely be sold. Foodstuffs can often last a year in a can; look at the dates, then deal. Check out sale items in catalogues, then contact the owners and make an offer. Airline tickets are tough with fewer, sold-out flights, but be creative--airlines often own hotels and you can use a clear room and hot shower going into and out of the "heart of darkness."

3. Cash--The Final Frontier. Every team member should be expected to bring either a sponsor/donor or cash to the table. No exceptions. They have to have skin in the game other than the one they are risking ;) Moreover, this cash can be used as leverage as a match for a foundation grant or donor challenge.

4. Look in-country for help. Energy exploration companies in the bush hold several possibilities for your expedition: vehicles and petrol, emergency medical, and a communications link to civilization. Plus, in a pinch they may be able to cash that emergency credit card check or a personal check or act as your "cambio" for exchanging money at a decent rate.

5. Get decent stationery and business cards. Carry them everywhere. Don't be afraid to strike up conversation, just in case some billionaire computer mogul is mysteriously sitting next to you on the airplane. You might be able to land some support in the strangest of places.

6. Practice your "elevator pitch." In the film industry, every producer is looking for investment cash. Ask her or him what they are excited about and you'll get 60 seconds of well-rehearsed, evocative summary. Create the same for your expedition. Put it to memory. "Uhh" is not a reasonable response.

7. Know what your expedition is "worth." We're talking about value here, not dollars and cents. You have to know, at all times, where you are, where you are going, why, and how you can bring damn near instant value to a sponsor/invest.

Finally, remember this gem from the marketing world: "It's not about the principle of the thing. It's the money." None of us are this ruthless, but you get my point.

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