Volunteer Abroad Grants & Gap Year Funding List 2019

Getting the money together for your trip is either hard or tedious. What if there was another way in addition to working and fundraising?

With some forward planning and a solid belief in your trip, there are some great scholarships and travel grants out there to help top up your funds.

We’ve rounded up 37 award bodies for travellers who are based in the UK and grouped them together in the following categories:

  • General gap year/volunteering
  • Health care students and professionals
  • Universities
  • Animal/conservation
  • Adventurous expeditions
  • Awards for disabled travellers (we tried to find those which support foreign travel as opposed to traditional UK based holidays)

When you apply you will be competing with everyone else so apply early and demonstrate that you are the best person to be trusted with the organisation’s money which is being kindly donated to you.

In addition to the usual application process, try to stand out from the crowd.

We’ve also included some advice on what to do when you receive your grant and an ingenious idea of how you can return the favour later.


Gap Year and Volunteer Abroad Funding

Young and volunteering abroad?
The Lions Club provide small grants to young people living in their area (look up your local branch) to volunteer abroad on community service projects usually using an organisation.
Minimum trip length should be 3 weeks. Report and presentation required after trip to share experiences. Awards vary from £50 – £250.

Other similar national organisations with local branches include The Rotary Club and Roundtable organisation.

Gap Year Funding?
The Ferguson Trust awards grants of £300 available for students embarking on a gap year alone, with friends or with an organisation.


16 years old + planning independent adventurous trip?
The Timissartok Foundation have partially funded individuals who have kayaked, cycled and rode over challenging terrain on a trip of their own creation. Apply at any time. Award up to £500. They like passionate applicants who have been inspired by famous adventurers who have gone before them.

Under 19 and joining adventurous organised trip?
Grants available from the Young Explorers Trust towards trekking and community projects.

17 – 24 and live in London?
The Lord Mayor’s 800th Anniversary Trust offers awards to young people of between £50 and £1000 for a variety of personal development experiences. Winners have taken part in adventurous travel overseas and helped the poorest at charities abroad. Applicants are expected to demonstrate they can also fundraise through their own efforts.

Do you live in Northumberland or East Scottish Borders?

The Joicey Trust offers a small number of grants to volunteers heading abroad for community development who are residents of their defined area. Apply at any time. Priority may be given to sending organisations or overseas projects which are registered in the UK. Individuals should email directly describing in full the organisation charity you will be working with, your role, your aims and dates.

Private school student?
Gap year funding is offered each year between £400 and £600 for trips lasting minimum of 3 months. 20 – 25 awards available. One hardship award of £1000 is awarded whose financial needs prevent a gap year being possible.

Under 19 and planning high adrenalin or unusual trip?
Awards between £500 and £3000 by the Captain Scott Society. Trip must be character building or out of the ordinary. Apply by end of March. You will be expected to prepare a report back on your trip.

16 – 25 and live in London or Essex?
Up to £300 available from the Jack Petchey Foundation for individuals who want to volunteer abroad. Must be travelling through a UK based sending organisation. Priority may be given to applicants experiencing financial hardship.

Under 25 and travelling in Asia or Middle East?
The Sir Peter Holmes Memorial Award may be able to help. Apply by November.

Live in Norfolk or Yorkshire?
The Sir Philip Reckitt Educational Trust offers grants to help young individuals make a difference through education on and overseas projects.

16 – 25 and live in London or Essex?
Up to £300 available from the Jack Petchey Foundation for individuals who want to volunteer abroad. Must be travelling through a UK based sending organisation. Priority may be given to applicants experiencing financial hardship.

Under 25 and travelling in Asia or Middle East?
The Sir Peter Holmes Memorial Award may be able to help. Apply by November.

Live in Norfolk or Yorkshire?
The Sir Philip Reckitt Educational Trust offers grants to help young individuals make a difference through education on and overseas projects.

Long stay in Europe?
10 Awards are allocated by the Peter Kirk European Travel Scholarships Foundation each year of £2000 for young people spending between 6 weeks and 3 months in Europe in a country of their choice. Ideally two countries will be visited. Apply by November.

Sixth Form Student in UK?
Ask your head of year or deputy head about any travel grant that may be available. If there is not one already in place, why not suggest one is started. That will look good on your CV. Alternatively why not ask your sixth form to match what you can raise. They may prefer to pay a UK organisation directly so offer this an option if they prefer not to handle over cash.

Travel grants for health electives

Funding for electives for student nurses and student midwives?
The Cavell Nurses Trust offer partial awards to observe the difference in practice in developing countries. Available to both student nurses and student midwives. A student midwife visited a hospital in Ghana.

Help towards midwifery elective?
Iolanthe Midwifery Trust offer awards of up to £1000 for pre-registration student midwives. Application needs to be started in November. All destinations considered although Africa seems to dominate the winners destinations. 6 – 12 awards granted annually.

Medical or dental student needing help to travel?
Grants awarded between £500 – £1000 for any destination for anyone in need of a bursary for elective research. Apply by July. Contact the British Medical and Dental Students Trust.

Registered nurse with 2 years’ experience?
Travel scholarships are available from Florence Nightingale Foundation. Apply September for travel following year. Awards available up to £4000. Expected length of trip should be 3-4 weeks. You will be expected to submit a full report and publish an article in a professional journal within 12 months of trip. Some years priority is given to particular areas of interest.

Qualified doctor?
The British Medical Association offers humanitarian grants of up to £3000 per project.

Universities offering funding towards volunteering abroad

University anywhere in world?
Many individual departments have a travel award scheme. This could be between £250 and £500 on average. Ask a tutor or course leader. Universities may prefer to pay the organisation directly although it may be worth asking if smaller grants (for local daily expenses overseas) can be reclaimed after travel in return for receipts.

University Student in UK or overseas?

Santander Bank have been making travel grants available to students at many Universities around the world where they have branches. Find out if your University is part of the scheme. Funding is on a first-come-first –serve basis and awards of between £250 and £1000 for students are up for grabs if your degree relates to your chosen volunteer project. A case study is required at the end of your project. Your chosen destination needs to be from the following list: Argentina, Brazil, Belgium, Chile, Colombia, Germany, Ghana, Mexico, USA, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, UAE, Uruguay,

University of Southampton
Up to £1000 AMECA bursary grant to Southampton students in health-related disciplines to explore health systems in Africa with one of their partners.

University College London
Expedition and travel grants available to UCL students between £500 – £3000. Does not need to be related to your degree but needs to be one which provides opportunity to demonstrate organisation skills and team work. Apply by February.

St Annes Oxford student?
70 grants are offered each year for Easter and Summer holidays for any destination although needs to be related to degree.

St Johns Cambridge student?
Travel grants available. Apply by end of February with a long description of your planned trip.

Funding and grants for adventurers and expeditions

Young, no money, want to explore?
The Alpkit foundation offers equipment and grants to individuals and groups of between £50 and £500 where it is clear that the activity would not take place without support. They particularly like to hear from people and small groups that will be experiencing the outdoors for the first time and where the trip will not be part of an organised commercial package, Previous awards have been given for a wild camp out in the UK and a self-organised trip to Iceland.

Under 26 and taking on climbing or other outdoor pursuit?
The Andy Fanshawe memorial trust offers grants of up to £500. Focus is for personal rather than professional development.

Crazy but pioneering trip with a purpose?
The Trans Globe Expedition Trust might be able to help if your trip includes an element of educational, humanitarian or scientific purpose. The trust was set up after Sir Ranulph Fiennes’ Trans Globe Trip. Apply any time.

Scaling mountains or crossing oceans and continents?
Planning something on the wild side off your own back? The Adventure Fund might be interested in hearing from you.

Cycling solo across continents or the world?
The Janapar Grant is unusual in that it offers top of the range equipment (rather than cash) and mentorship from cyclists who have gone before you. 18 – 25s only.

Grants for travellers working with animals and ecology

Do you have a Scottish connection?
And will be taking on an adventurous conservation trip? Then the John Muir Trust may be able to help you. Grants available from £200 to £2000.

Geographical fieldwork trip?
The Royal Geographical Society offers up to 20 team awards of £3000 each year. Team size should usually be 3. At least one member should be University registered and member of RGS. Must be independently organised trip, not pre-paid or organised charity or volunteering. Preference to teams with one member having connection to country to be visited.

Keen Biologist?
Five grants are awarded each year of £500 by the Royal Society of Biology. Apply between November and February with written 500 word statement describing your planned biology related trip. Basic summary and report required at end of trip.

Veterinary student?
Are you planning an independent research project abroad? Perhaps helping at an under resourced project or helping animals directly. Four awards are available annually for up to £500 from The British Veterinary Association.

Funding for disabled travellers to travel abroad

Wheelchair user seeking adventurous trip?
Grants are available from Wicked World Tours of up to £1000 towards the extra costs associated to make it possible to travel, for example accompanying carer, transport or accommodation.

British Disabled climber or mountaineer?
The BMC administrates the grants available from the Julie Tullis Memorial Award. Apply by October for expedition taking place before March, apply by February for expedition departing later.

Do you have or someone you know has Ataxia?
The Jerry Farr travel fellowship awards one winner each year up to £3500 to cover agreed costs of adventurous overseas travel. Carers costs can also be covered. Apply in February.
The Mark Dower Trust with The Ataxia website offers an annual grant of up to £3000 to support young people with Ataxia aged between 16 and 30 to pursue skills, hobbies or educational opportunities.

After you obtain your grant

Don’t forget to email or call to say thank you! These things do not go unnoticed.

Make sure you know what is expected of you in terms of reporting back after your trip. If there is no obvious instruction, call and ask if they need anything and if they can give you any examples.

You may need to keep a formal journal, collect data or provide a presentation when you return. Make sure you take plenty of photos and videos, you may need more than you think later and you won’t be able to pop back.

Make sure you include a mention of your grant on your CV even if it was only for a small amount.

Everyone knows you don’t get given money from a professional organisation or charity for nothing. Your next employer will be intrigued that you were selected. This will show organisation, determination and commitment.

When you get back

Even if your awarding organisation does not require it, let them know about your trip and ask if it is possible for a mention on their website or blog. This will add credibility to your CV and job applications if future employers can see your name and good work mentioned.

If they don’t have a section of their website with award winners listed, why not suggest one or help them to create one either on or off their site? Another great experience to add to your CV and personal development.

Advice on starting your own trust

You may have noticed doing your research there are not many organisations and individuals offering money for free, certainly not many online which is where most people start their search.

If you are in a financial position in the future to help others with a thirst for gap year adventure and expeditions abroad, why not return the favour and offer some cash for other young adventurers?

It needn’t be expensive, some of the existing trusts are offer one-off awards of £500 – £1000. If you can gather the interest of 10 friends, colleagues and an employer that would be only £83 each a year to create an award of £1000 which may help two or more individuals.

Your old school or a local charity may be able to help you source suitable candidates or you could set up a website/blog of your own.

Now, that would look impressive on your CV. How many people can add genuine philanthropy* on their CV? It would also give you and your friends a charitable excuse to meet up every once in a while to go through the applications you have received.

Feel free to tweet us with how you get on, your own ideas or any other organisations we can add here.

The desire to promote the welfare of others, expressed by the generous donation of money to good causes.