Level I and Level II grants are funded twice a year, with proposal deadlines in April and October.

Our Strategy

Invest in bold Explorers

We have awarded more than 15,000 grants since our founding in 1888. 

The recipients of these grants, who we call National Geographic Explorers, are a diverse community of changemakers from around the world working to support our mission to illuminate and protect the wonder of our world. 

Our Explorers are people of all walks of life from all over the world. They don’t just venture to the tops of mountains or the bottom of the ocean.  They’re also in the lab diving deep into the microscopic world, in their local communities capturing the stories of a fishing village, or in the classroom sharing their discoveries with the next generation.

Robbie Shone NationalGeographic_2745724_M4
Our community

The Explorer Mindset

A grant from the National Geographic Society means more than just funding! Learn what it really means to be a National Geographic Explorer and get to know our community.

Become an Explorer

Current grant opportunities

Grant proposal submissions are due by 11:59pm EDT on October 12, 2022. Applicants will be notified of funding decisions in March 2023.

We offer grant opportunities at various entry points to provide a dynamic pathway to join our community and engage with us.

Whether you are an aspiring Explorer or already a luminary in the field, each opportunity has unique criteria and benefits to ensure that our Explorers receive support and funding aligned to their specific needs and goals. Each year, a small number of grants are awarded to individuals who are just beginning their National Geographic journey, as well as those who are working on more advanced projects.

The National Geographic Society warmly welcomes and encourages applicants from historically and currently underrepresented and underserved populations to apply. National Geographic is committed to funding a diverse and globally representative cohort of Explorers. The National Geographic Society does not discriminate on the basis of race, religious creed, marital or parental status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, ancestry, age, or handicap.

level I Funding

Who should apply

If you are working to establish yourself in your field, hope to gain experience leading projects, are interested in joining the National Geographic Explorer community, and have not yet received a grant from the National Geographic Society*, you may apply for a Level I Grant. Funding requests at this level can be up to USD $20,000. Projects can be up to one year in length, although projects with “Technology” as the primary focus can be up to two years. These grants are highly competitive and priority will be given to applicants who thoughtfully demonstrate how joining the Explorer Community will help to establish their career.

* Individuals who are already National Geographic Explorers (i.e., those who have already received a grant from the National Geographic Society) are NOT eligible to apply for Level I Grants. Level I Grants are only available to individuals who are entirely new to the National Geographic network, as well as individuals already in the network who are not yet Explorers, including team members on previous grants, National Geographic Young Explorers awarded in 2019 or later, recipients of discretionary funding opportunities such as the COVID-19 Emergency Fund for Journalists and the COVID-19 Remote Learning Emergency Fund, and recipients of grants from the China Air & Water Fund.


Level I Grants receive funding up to $20,000 and offer unique opportunities for training, networking, coaching, mentorship, and more from fellow National Geographic Explorers, experts, staff, partners, and forums. We are looking for individuals who are interested in becoming an active part of the Explorer Community.

We only accept applications that are submitted through our online portal. Please do not mail or email your application.

Beginning in late October 2022, the process for applying for a Level I Grant will change to a two stage approval process. Applications submitted by the Oct. 12, 2022 deadline will not require any adjustments and will be evaluated in the single stage process.

To ensure that you maintain access to your In Progress application, please submit by the Oct. 12th application deadline or save your work to your personal files.

level II Funding

Who should apply

If you are more established in your field, have previously received a National Geographic Society grant, or are seeking a higher level of funding, you may apply for a Level II Grant. You are not required to have previously received a National Geographic Society grant to apply for this opportunity. These grants are highly competitive and reserved for select projects that push boundaries to achieve significant and tangible impact in your field. Projects can be up to two years long.


Level II Grant recipients receive funding up to $100,000. Smaller requests will be accommodated and will not be more or less competitive. At this funding level, grantees will provide mentorship to others within the Explorer community, contribute their expertise, and may participate in relevant speaking engagements upon request.

We only accept applications that are submitted through our online portal. Please do not mail or email your application.

Request for Proposals: Freshwater

Freshwater is vital for life on Earth, for people, species and places across the natural world. Yet, in many places around the globe, our management of freshwater resources is becoming unsustainable. Understanding the interconnectedness and complexity of local and regional freshwater issues is critical to living sustainably on Earth and is an integral part of the National Geographic Society’s mission to illuminate and protect the wonder of our world.

National Geographic Society seeks innovative photography, short film, writing, data visualization and other storytelling proposals to help water users understand the issues around global water sustainability. This work will be supported by data, science and cartography provided by the National Geographic-supported World Water Map developed by Utrecht University.

We seek projects that center around the following themes related to water:

  1. Interconnectedness: Water is the great connector. Rivers span political boundaries, flowing from one community to the next. Moreover, nothing breaks down silos like water. It is bound up in cultural and religious practices, gender, geology, geography, public health, nature, geopolitics and the production and movement of food and other products. We seek stories that build nuance around  standard and didactic narratives, helping audiences to understand how these topics are all connected, just as we are. 
  2. Justice: The story of water is also fundamentally the story of power. Who controls access, where it flows, what this precious resource is used for–all boils down to privilege. How are issues of race and inequality refracted through the lens of access to water?
  3. Change and Adaptation: Changes on earth due to global warming, human population growth and technology all result in changes to water supply and demand; water is an indicator of these changes to life on earth. Moreover, water and climate change are more closely linked than most people realize. We seek stories of solutions and resilience, in particular how people are adapting to these changes.

Projects that benefit local audiences or incorporate local voices are strongly encouraged. Water issues span nearly every aspect of the human and natural world; we’re seeking projects with a scientific underpinning and will be looking for these to be well-researched and grounded by science. Storytellers may choose to have a scientist on their team as an advisor to their work. Some journalists feel less comfortable or that they lack the right credentials or education to cover science stories. But journalists and storytellers who have less experience in scientific research may find that they have actually covered issues of social science extensively. If your work is related to inequities around access to resources like freshwater, you’ve covered a social-science story. We seek applications that show the spirit of scientific inquiry.

Applicants may request up to $20,000. Budgets of successful proposals will include reasonable, well justified costs directly required to complete the project. Successful applicants may use awarded funds over the course of one year. Some projects may be selected for additional funds after proof of concept is demonstrated.  All applications should explicitly state the plan for evaluating the impact of the proposed work. Applicants may use a portion of the budget for HEFAT or other security training, if applicable.

for grant-seekers

More information

We recommend reviewing the following information before applying for funding. 
If after reviewing information and materials you have additional questions, please email funding@ngs.org.

  • You must be 18 or older to apply for a National Geographic Society grant.
  • Project start dates should be a minimum of six months after the submission deadline to ensure any awarded funds are received in time.
  • If you are working on a project outside your home country or community, you must include at least one local collaborator on your team who is significantly involved in the project.
  • You may submit a proposal as the project leader for only one project at a time.
  • You must submit a final report and media from any previous National Geographic Society grants for which you were the leader before applying to lead a new project.
  • The individual responsible for carrying out the project should write the application and be listed as the project leader.

The National Geographic Society has zero tolerance for bribery and corruption, and complies with all applicable laws prohibiting such conduct including the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and the U.K. Bribery Act. Grantees may not: offer or give anything of value to a government official or any other person as an incentive to, or in exchange or as a reward for, obtaining an improper advantage for National Geographic; or give, offer, solicit or accept anything of value that is intended to induce the recipient to violate his/her duty of loyalty to his/her employer. All licenses, permits and other government permissions or approvals required to carry out a grant must be obtained through the lawful, legitimate process of the country where the grant activity occurs.

The National Geographic Society complies with all embargoes and sanctions established by the U.S. Department of Treasury Office of Foreign Asset Controls (OFAC). If any work under the proposed grant will be performed in countries including but not limited to Cuba, Iran, Syria, North Korea, and Crimea, you must consult your legal counsel to ensure that an appropriate general license is available, or a specific license has been obtained, allowing the grant activity to take place. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Commerce must be notified when certain items are exported (including encryption software standard on all computers). You must consult with your legal counsel and comply with all export requirements applicable to the grant work.

Photo Credits from top of page: Christopher Johns, Robbie Shone, Kostadin Luchansky, Cory Richards (2). Below: Michael Nichols, Andy Mann, Paul Nicklen, Ami Vitale, Christian Tryon, Kenneth Garrett, Mark Thiessen.

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