Illuminate and protect the wonder of our world
For more than 130 years, the National Geographic Society has funded the best and brightest individuals dedicated to scientific discovery and understanding of our world.
Our historic commitment to dauntless exploration dates back to our founding in 1888 when 33 prominent scholars and scientists established an organization dedicated to the “increase and diffusion of knowledge.”
Today, National Geographic Explorers are continuing to push the boundaries of knowledge, uncovering new insights about the natural and cultural worlds, and strengthening our connection to them and one another.
Through the years
01. Where we started
The Society embarked on its first scientific expedition in 1890, led by Explorer Israel Russell, to survey and map the Mount St. Elias region in North America. That marked the beginning of thousands of Explorer-led National Geographic expeditions.
02. Funding exploration
Since our first expedition in 1890, we have provided more than 15,000 grants to Explorers for work across all seven continents. Today, our Explorers safeguard fragile ecosystems for future generations. Investigate our ancient past and the roots of humanity. Document and share the great mysteries and complexities of our world. Equip young people with the knowledge and critical-thinking skills to analyze real-world challenges. Embark on historic expeditions to the world’s most extreme environments.
03. Reckoning with the past
National Geographic has long told the story of our human journey, and that must include shining a light on our own past. This means facing up to our history of colonialism, racism, and sexism — including who was allowed to be an Explorer, who was able to tell stories, and whose stories were told. For much of our past, we primarily funded white American men who set out to “discover” the world. These parts of our own history are incredibly painful, but it’s critical that we reckon with our past to more effectively and equitably launch into the future.
04. Committing to DEI
We took it upon ourselves to look inwardly and intentionally improve how we live our core values to ensure diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is woven into everything we do. Today, nearly half of our Explorers are women and 65 percent have conducted fieldwork in their home countries. We’ve also accelerated our efforts to identify, support, and elevate the work and voices of Explorers who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPoC). We will continue to learn from our past, examine our present, and build a better, more inclusive future in support of our mission.
05. Where we are today
Today, we are advancing new knowledge, protecting the planet, telling stories that build awareness and spur action, and educating a new generation to pursue positive change. Grounded in the best science, exploration, education, and storytelling, and fueled by an enduring spirit of innovation, we are poised to build a boundless future.
Legendary legacy, boundless future
Well over a century after our founding, National Geographic continues to reach and resonate with millions of people worldwide. How has our organization stood the test of time? We’ve stayed true to our original mission to pursue and celebrate exploration, scientific excellence, education, and unforgettable storytelling while simultaneously evolving with nimbleness and fortitude in a rapidly changing world. We embraced innovation and intentionally adapted, thoughtfully expanding our business model, global reach, and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts. In doing so, we have remained a vibrant, relevant, world-class brand at the forefront of exploration and knowledge.
NG Next celebrates our legendary legacy and takes the next step forward by charting a dynamic, five-year plan that strengthens our foundation, builds on our momentum, embeds diversity, equity, and inclusion into every aspect of our work, and sets a clear vision for the future to drive significant impact.
The National Geographic Society and
The Walt Disney Company
Our joint-venture partnership enables us to invest every philanthropic dollar — 100 percent of donations — directly to our Explorers and mission programs.
One of the powerful ways we build on our legacy and accelerate our impact work is through an innovative, sustainable business model. This joint-venture enterprise combines National Geographic’s global television channels, publications, media, and products and allows us to return a portion of the proceeds from these assets to fund our non-profit work.
Disney is one of the most recognized brands in the world and shares our legacy of innovation, inspiration, and storytelling. With its business expertise, brand power, and global footprint, Disney has the unique ability to broadcast the Society’s mission to millions more people who are endlessly curious and share our passion for exploration.
Photo Credits from top of page: Jim Richardson, Barry Brown, U.S. Geological Survey, Andy Mann, Paul Hagelbarger, Ana Elisa Sotelo, Lynn Johnson. Below: Michael Nichols, Andy Mann, Paul Nicklen, Ami Vitale, Christian Tryon, Kenneth Garrett, Mark Thiessen.