REI just wrapped up its community-based grants program for 2010—distributing more than $2.4 million through grants to 281 local non-profit organizations in communities where REI stores are located. REI is dedicating the majority of its annual $3.7 million grant budget to this program.
Making so many local grants takes a lot of work and requires loads of involvement by our employees. What are we hoping to achieve with such a hands-on effort?
For starters, outdoor stewardship is part of REI's core purpose. We want to expand the community of people who both enjoy and care for the outdoors.
Have you ever paused on a set of switchbacks and wondered, “Who takes care of this trail?” Or listened to bird songs at a local green space and wondered who restored the habitat to attract the birds? In most circumstances, it's volunteers who take the lead in building, maintaining and enhancing the places where we enjoy the outdoors.
Accordingly, we love volunteers. At REI we support volunteerism by taking part in it ourselves, assist others who do it and reach out to get new people involved. Yet even with so many people already participating in this vital activity, there’s no shortage of work to be done.
That’s why REI targets grants to promote volunteerism in the outdoors. Funding goes to support local partnerships between our stores and nonprofit groups that care for parks and natural areas. Together they convene volunteers and coordinate such essential tasks as hands-in-the-dirt habitat restoration and trail maintenance.
In these partnerships, grant money is just part of the story. REI stores and their nonprofit partners work together to bring awareness and involvement to local volunteer events. They advertise volunteer parties, promote events and share the successes and recognition of local organizations that are making a difference.
Bottom line: We project our 2010 grants to all 281 nonprofit partners, in tandem with their local REI store supporters, will make possible more than 130,000 volunteers contributing more than 1,200,000 hours of service. That, we think, is a major accomplishment and a sign that these partnerships enable our grant dollars to achieve some serious bang for the buck.
We’re very proud of our local nonprofit partners and their accomplishments. They do great work and they make our communities better places to spend time outdoors. In the months to come we’ll highlight many of these extraordinary partners in The REI Blog and share their messages directly with you. You'll read stewardship tips, profiles of volunteer, restoration success stories and the pleasures of fresh air along with suggestions for how you can get involved in your own local outdoor community.
Can’t wait to get started? Check out your local REI store page events calendar for volunteer opportunities, or take a look at VolunteerMatch, where you can find upcoming events planned by many of our partners.