DX University™

  A Guide for DXers and DXpeditioners

DXpedition Funding

DXpedition Funding

by Wayne Mills, N7NG 

DXpedition funding is “Back in the News.” As lonely weather station tenders no longer man distant spots, and far-off military bases no longer host ham radio operators, many of these places have become very rare DXCC entities. In lieu of these convenient operating arrangements, places like Amsterdam Island and Crozet, have become destinations requiring mega-dollars and euros to activate. Even places like Malpelo have required large and expensive efforts. 


The Antarctic venues require expensive logistics and reliable transportation. This has always been the case. Now, with fewer cooperative opportunities available, extensive private funding is necessary if these entities are to be activated. Locations such as Malpelo, Wake Island, Navassa, Desecheo and other similar places, while having less demanding logistics, also require extensive efforts in obtaining landing permission. These difficulties, in turn require larger individual operations because of the longer cycle time between operations.


Costs are rising and the investments by the operators are reaching a limit. The traditional sources of funding -- contributions by the DXing community – are imbalanced at best. The most generous groups of contributors are those in North America. The contributions from North America are not only the largest, but also more importantly, the largest per QSO. Why is this so? These relationships have existed for decades – they are not a result of the recent economic turmoil.


In a recent QST article (April, 2012 How’s DX), Don Greenbaum, N1DG listed sources of DXpedition funding. In addition to the operators, Don listed foundations, clubs and individuals as sources of funding. Since these fell short of the goal, “significant QSL income was needed to fill the gap.”


This so-called “QSL income” is perhaps a last-ditch effort to “convince” the DX community to help fund an expedition. Euphemistically: “Pay up or you won’t get a card for that new one.” Some consider this approach a form of coercion and a commercialization of DXing.


All of these efforts are based on the expectations of DXers around the world. DXers not only expect to be able to work these expeditions, they also expect to log them in all possible ways -- to work them on all bands and all necessary modes. In reality, as long as the money is available to do these expeditions, they will happen as they are happening. If DXpeditions are squeezed too tightly, they might try to find less expensive alternatives, including smaller operations. At the end of the day, the DX community will get what it pays for. It will “pay up,” or these expeditions simply won’t happen.


Recently, the emergence of LoTW and OQRS on the QSLing scene has altered the traditional balance. The current discussion centers on these changes. These methods of confirming QSOs don’t offer the same opportunity to include a contribution with the QSL request, and for some, they reek of buying/selling QSLs, a long disdained scenario.


QSLing isn’t the only issue. During the DX Forum at the IDXC in Visalia, California, when discussing DXpedition funding, one DXer arose to suggest that DXpeditions should be more forthcoming in explaining their expenses to DXers. “How much does an expedition cost?” He felt that with such knowledge, DXers would be more likely to contribute more. Precisely audited accounting wasn’t the point in this person’s view. Rather, he was interested in reasonably accurate information concerning transportation, housing, operating equipment along with the nature of the operators’ contributions. Of course, when dealing with the various entities around the world, there are likely to be expenses that cannot always be revealed – license fees, for example.

 As funding for the modern DXpedition evolves, the funding organizations such as NCDXF, GDXF, INDEXA, RSGB, CDXC and others must take a leading role in the relationships between DXers and DXpedition groups. These organizations should make the DXpeditions’ cases to their benefactors for increased pre-expedition funding. Pre-DXpedition funding tends to alleviate the QSLing problem. At the same time, these organizations must advocate fortheir benefactors more DXer friendly QSLing and operating practices on the part of DXpeditions. DXers should expect no less from these organizations.

(c) 2012, Wayne Mills, N7NG