REI Cooperative Action Fund invests over $3.8 million in initiatives to advance equity in the outdoors and research nature’s impact on health

Sixty grants awarded as REI Fund surpasses 2 million individual donations from REI community

May 6, 2024

SEATTLE – The REI Cooperative Action Fund is investing over $3.8 million in 60 organizations that are strengthening the health and well-being of communities through time outside. Funding will support nonprofits that are led by and serve historically excluded communities, as well as researchers who are studying the connection between time outside and human health. With this latest investment, the REI Fund expanded its community-centered approach, partnering with community leaders and scientists to advise on grant recipients. This investment was made possible by more than 2 million individual donations and ongoing support from the REI Fund’s corporate partners.

“The REI Fund is about bringing together the collective strength of the greater REI community—which includes honoring the perspectives of leaders from the communities we serve,” said Kristen Ragain, managing director of the REI Cooperative Action Fund. “We’re taking a community-centered approach, working with advisors across our entire portfolio. This helps put outdoor equity leaders and nature and health scientists at the center, as we follow their lead to address funding gaps and critical needs in their respective fields.” 

Each spring and fall, the REI Fund announces new investments to provide unrestricted funding to nonprofits across three specific priorities: connecting people outside, creating space outside, and centering health outside. In addition to working with advisors, the REI Fund also awarded funding to 13 local organizations based on input and recommendations from REI employees, individual donors, and other funders. For a full list of the newest grantees, visit  

Connecting People and Creating Space Outside 

Collectively, advisors worked to identify 25 emerging organizations led by and serving historically excluded communities. Examples include:  

  • Brown Girls Climb, a national nonprofit with chapters in New York, Maryland, North Carolina, Colorado, Nevada, California, and Massachusetts, that strives to facilitate mentorship, provide access, uplift leadership, and celebrate representation in the outdoors and climbing for People of the Global Majority. ($40,000) 

  • Piikani Lodge Health Institute in Browning, Montana, an Indigenous-founded and led nonprofit organization focused on promoting the health and well-being of Blackfeet (properly known as ‘Amskapi Piikani’) people and lands. ($40,000)  

  • Great Plains Restoration Council in Fort Worth, Texas, an award-winning non-profit ecological health organization that helps people take care of their own health through restoring and protecting native ecosystems, particularly prairies, plains, and waters. ($40,000) 

  • Backyard Basecamp in Baltimore, Maryland, an organization that reconnects Black, Indigenous, and people of color to land and nature by consistently offering programs and events that highlight the natural world right outside our doors. ($40,000) 

Centering Health Outside 

This cycle marked the REI Fund’s first open call for grant proposals. Established researchers and graduate students submitted proposals to better understand the impacts of nature on human health.  

“We consider nature and health to be one of the next frontiers in wellness—as a growing body of research points to the positive impact of nature on our physical and mental health,” said Janelle Choi Hillhouse, program officer of the REI Cooperative Action Fund and lead of the Nature and Health advisory panel. “We want to better understand and expand its use in both preventative care and clinical settings. Moving that research forward takes empowering established leaders in the field and the next generation of researchers.” 

Advisors reviewed the proposals and selected 22 grantees, including: 

  • Matthew Davis at Clemson University, who is developing a new tool that captures a detailed portrait of nature visitation disparities across U.S. sociodemographic groups that includes qualitative explorations of the reasons behind the disparities. ($200,000) 

  • Nancy Wells at Cornell University, who is leading a study focused on nature’s healing benefits for youth with profound autism. ($33,176) 

  • Amber Pearson at Michigan State University, who is leading the first-ever randomized control trial of nature-based interventions amongst BIPOC university students, with a focus on understanding their belonging needs in the outdoors. ($196,985)   

  • The Learning Network, a new, national learning network focused on practitioners and case studies of applied research that will merge with the Nature and Health Alliance (NHA). The NHA was launched in December 2023 through partnership and support from REI Fund. ($200,000) 

As a 501(c)(3) organization, the REI Fund is led by its own board of directors with the support of a dedicated staff and compensated community advisors, who are respected leaders focused on access and equity in the outdoors. REI Co-op continues to provide ongoing support for the REI Fund’s operations and grantmaking. Anyone can participate in the REI Fund’s mission from direct donations to recommending a grantee.  

About the REI Cooperative Action Fund

The REI Cooperative Action Fund is a 501(c)(3) public charity launched in 2021 by REI Co-op to create a more equitable outdoors by bringing together the collective strength of the co-op community. The REI Fund aims to inspire millions of REI members, thousands of REI employees, and hundreds of nonprofit partners and community leaders to support organizations that are improving the well-being of all people through time outside. With ongoing support from REI Co-op, 100% of donations from the general public to the REI Fund go to the people and organizations leading this work in communities across the country.