The REI Foundation primariliy focuses on getting more young people into nature, with an emphasis on youth and families of color. Through this work, The REI Foundation’s goal is to help inspire the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts and environmental stewards.
Historically, The Foundation has concentrated on grant making. However, The Foundation is evolving to become a funder, convener and thought leader in the movement to connect youth to the outdoors. To that end, in 2010 the co-op partnered with a contractor with philanthropy expertise to help guide this transition.
The REI Foundation researches and invites grant proposals connected to its mission; it does not accept unsolicited proposals.
The REI Foundation is funded primarily by REI donations. In 2010, the co-op’s performance allowed the company to make a year-end contribution of $2.5 million, bringing its corpus to nearly $9.5 million. The Foundation’s corpus has been built in the years since its founding in 1993. A very small number of donations have been accepted in recent years through outside contributions and by member donations of dividends.
In 2010, The REI Foundation’s support was directed to the following programs:
NatureBridge – $50,000. The REI Foundation established the Mary Anderson Legacy Grant on December 7, 2009 in celebration of the 100th birthday of REI's co-founder. The $50,000 grant is awarded in support of efforts that actively engage young people in learning about nature through hands-on engagement and exploration of the outdoors. The grant is made in recognition of the contributions that Mary Anderson made in the lives of young people during her years as a teacher and through her life-long love of the outdoors. NatureBridge is the inaugural grant recipient for 2010.
The mission of NatureBridge is to inspire personal connections to the natural world and responsible actions to sustain it. Serving over 40,000 participants annually, NatureBridge is the largest nonprofit residential environmental education partner of the National Park Service. Since 1971, they have introduced almost one million students to national parks through field science education programs for schools and youth leadership programs. They have environmental education campuses in Yosemite National Park, Olympic National Park, Golden Gate National Recreation Area and Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.
National Audubon Society – $100,000. Engaging diverse communities in exploring the outdoors is at the core of the work of the National Audubon Society.
Focusing on three urban communities in which both Audubon and REI have a strong presence, this grant engages 10,000 youth and 500 adults. Each site will be selected through an application process from their national network of nature centers. Funding from REI will directly support projects that emphasize engaging culturally diverse youth and/or families in dynamic outdoor conservation and educational activities, providing urban youth with direct, meaningful opportunities to learn from and contribute to the natural world.
Success will be measured and based on program participation, interviews with partners, and interviews with staff, showing enhanced cultural competency and an understanding of how to work more effectively in communities of color. This work will be done with the help of an external evaluator.
The Foundation funded the following organizations in Atlanta, Georgia:
National Wildlife Federation – $25,000. The mission of National Wildlife Federation (NWF) is to inspire Americans to protect wildlife for our children's future. A critical component of NWF’s efforts in Atlanta involves working with youth to build a better understanding of the connections between communities and wildlife and to help them connect to the natural world in meaningful ways while developing the leadership skills necessary for personal environmental stewardship.
Support for NWF includes their Earth Tomorrow Program (including the 10th Annual Earth Tomorrow Summer Institute) and their youth and family-focused outdoor recreation and hands-on environmental steward activities leading up to and following the institute. NWF will advance new and established partnerships with organizations including Keeping It Wild, the West Atlanta Watershed Alliance, the Georgia Conservancy, Park Pride, and the Friends of GA State Parks to expand its reach to over 700 youth of color and their families and over 150 adult volunteers.
East Atlanta Kids Club – $15,850. The East Atlanta Kids Club’s Cycling and Triathlon program engages youth in year-round fitness activities, including running, biking and swimming, and competing in single- and multi-sport events. REI's support will allow them to both continue and expand their cycling and triathlon training programs. In 2011, they plan to engage 60 youth in cycling and triathlon activities and also to engage 20 adults from the community.
BRAG Dream Team – $10,000. After 16 years of working exclusively with middle school students to prepare them for the week-long Bicycle Ride Across Georgia (BRAG), the BRAG Dream Team will expand their reach and impact by offering year-round cycling experiences. A cohort of Dream Team coaches and alumni will provide guidance to 250 teenagers from the city of Atlanta.
Greening Youth Foundation Inc. – $15,000. Greening Youth Foundation (GYF) coordinates and implements programs to reduce the environmental footprint of public schools and promotes wellness awareness by utilizing its 12-week hands-on C.L.E.A.N. curriculum, Eco-Force environmental club and school-wide recycling programs.
The Foundation provided support to the following San Diego-based organizations:
Ocean Discovery Institute – $20,000. The Foundation’s funds will support the Ocean Leaders Initiative, a series of interconnected after-school and summer programs and support services for 100 urban and diverse middle school, high school, and college age young people. This initiative offers a pathway to progress from secondary school through university to science and conservation careers, building students’ knowledge of ocean science, developing their capacity for stewardship, and preparing them to be tomorrow's science and conservation leaders.
Outdoor Outreach – $20,000. Since its founding in 1999, Outdoor Outreach has taken more than 5,000 young people on over 1,500 trips, including rock climbing, surfing, snowboarding, hiking, backpacking, mountain biking and marine science education trips, giving youth an opportunity to teach others, learn new skills and obtain relevant experience for the job market. REI’s funds will support the paid internships of nine youth leaders serving as assistant instructors helping to run 250 trips for 700 youth. Each youth leader is a past program participant who has completed a year-long intensive training giving them the necessary skills to become a teacher, mentor and instructor on all Outdoor Outreach outings.
WiLDCOAST – $20,000. This organization works to protect and preserve coastal ecosystems and wildlife in California and Latin America. The goal of WiLDCOAST’s 2011 South Bay Environmental Stewardship Campaign is to build the capacity of south San Diego County residents to preserve and restore the Tijuana and Otay River Valleys in south San Diego County. Through presentations, tours, social media campaigns, trainings, environmental education, and stewardship opportunities, WiLDCOAST will work to increase the knowledge, skills, and opportunities of local stakeholders to conserve two of south San Diego County’s watersheds involving more than 1,000 volunteers in conservation and restoration efforts.
YMCA Camp Surf – $20,000. This program received support for its Friends/Family Adventures in Nature (FAN) Clubs to accomplish two distinct goals in 2011. The first goal is to bring outdoor experiences to 4th-6th graders at after-school programs in the South Bay and Southeast region of San Diego County. Enrichment activities will involve 600 youth and focus on conservation, skill development, environmental stewardship, and human powered activities in the outdoors.
The second goal is to provide outdoor experiences for all students and their families that attend participating after-school programs. At least 13 weekend family events will take place monthly at YMCA Camp Surf and other sites in the greater San Diego region with a goal of at least 800 attendees. They will build on concepts taught at school sites and allow students to teach family members and other participants the skills they have learned.
American Red Cross – While focused on getting more young people into nature, The Foundation made two grants totaling $40,000 to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund to support recovery efforts in Haiti.
Early in 2011, The REI Foundation awarded $275,000 in grants.
The first grant for $125,000 was given to The Futuro Media Group in support of a special segment of the radio program, Latino USA, and is designed to highlight the connection between Latinos and the outdoors. These stories will be told in first-person accounts across a spectrum of individuals and points of view. These grants continue The Foundation’s effort at considering a broad range of approaches in support of achieving its goals.
The second grant is for $150,000 to the Outdoor Foundation in support of extending youth summits in five regions following the Outdoor Nation model that was introduced in New York City in 2010. The five summits will be held in New York, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Denver and San Francisco.
The Foundation will continue to expand its efforts as a funder, supporter and convener of activities that provide programs, awareness and increased public engagement in the outdoors. In 2010 and years’ past, The REI Foundation provided assistance for disaster relief. However, these efforts will become part of REI’s larger corporate giving program, beginning in 2011. This will allow The Foundation to keep its focus on helping more youth become involved with outdoor recreation and stewardship.
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