As part of its commitment “to create access to the outdoors for all,” REI has invested $1 million in organizations across the country creating opportunities to connect women and girls to nature. To build on the infrastructure that makes life outside possible, REI invests millions annually in hundreds of local and national nonprofits that create access to—and steward—the outdoor places that inspire us all.
In May, REI launched an expansive, consumer-facing effort called Force of Nature to advance gender equity in the outdoors and encourage millions of its members to embrace the outdoors as “the world’s largest level playing field.”
The nation’s largest consumer co-op headquartered near Seattle, REI is a growing community of more than 16 million members who “expect and love the best quality gear, inspiring expert classes and trips, and outstanding customer service.” REI has 150 stores in 36 states. REI Adventures is a global leader in active adventure travel that runs more than 170 custom-designed itineraries worldwide. The REI Outdoor School is run by expert-instructors who teach beginner- to advanced-level courses about a wide range of activities.
As part of the effort, REI committed $500,000 to three national, women-focused nonprofits with whom it already had a relationship, including Camber Outdoors ($400,000), GirlTrek ($50,000) and the YMCA’s GOLD initiative ($50K). Grants range from $5,000 to $25,000.
It also launched the $500,000 Force of Nature Fund, which extends the co-op’s existing work with women-focused nonprofits into new territory. Twenty-six nonprofits were selected from over 500 organizations that responded to REI’s open call for submissions. Those 26 investments will help address obstacles the co-op found in a national study it commissioned on women and the outdoors.
“We believe a life outdoors is a life well lived for all. That means we support equality from the backcountry to the boardroom,” says Jerry Stritzke, REI president and CEO. “REI works with hundreds of nonprofits annually to help communities connect with the outdoors, and protect the places we love. A core part of our business model links the co-op’s health to investments in the outdoor community. As we thrive, we share this success. This year, with Force of Nature, we added a specific focus on groups that are creating new and inspiring ways to advance gender equity and inclusion using the outdoors as a platform. The Force of Nature Fund helped us identify hundreds of organizations doing incredible work, and we’re proud to partner with our new grantees to learn and be inspired.”
This investment is part of REI’s broader community investment strategy, which contributed more than $9M in 2017 to nonprofits at the heart of the outdoor community. Since 1976, REI has invested more than $80 million to steward our nation’s public lands, trails, and waterways, and to promote youth development, health and wellness in the outdoors. REI continues to support these efforts through invitation-only grants. For more information, visit https://www.rei.com/stewardship/creating-access.