Things We Don't Fund: Individuals

Every once in a while we’ll get an email or application from someone seeking a scholarship or funds to travel or subsistence costs for volunteering. In an ideal world with unlimited resources, we’d like to help, but the reality is that we simply can’t support individuals seeking this kind of support. For one thing, it’s often expensive. A bursary or scholarship could easily equal the size of one of our grants, yet the immediate benefit of a grant to an individual is to that individual alone (or, at most, to them and their family). Another project that we might support for a similar amount of money might be of benefit to tens, hundreds, or even thousands of people. To borrow a phrase from our more commercial brethren, the return on investment (ROI) is often significantly greater for, say, an agriculture project than it is for an individual scholarship. In the long term, the ROI from supporting an individual could be huge. It may be that that individual goes on to make a brilliant scientific discovery or they may become a world-class doctor or a brilliant novelist. But you have no way of knowing that, so it’s a considerable gamble (and an expensive one).

There are organisations and funders that do specialise in supporting individuals and provide bursaries for study, travel grants and the like. A diverse philanthropic sector needs such organisations, of course, but it also needs others – like Indigo – who support grassroots charities, start-ups and other organisations often overlooked by others.