The outdoor industry needs two things to succeed. And Chris Fanning, executive director for the Outdoor Foundation, knows what they are.
“First, we need a new generation of outdoor enthusiasts,” she said. “Second, we need a strong background of community, and specialty retailers across the country are really those anchors that provide not only services and products, but they’re on the ground” creating and fostering that community.
So the Outdoor Foundation, and its youth leadership initiative Outdoor Nation, has added a focus on retailers as part of its broader strategy to get more people involved in outdoor activities. This year, the foundation will offer $1,000-plus grants to more than 50 projects nominated by specialty retailers — money that comes from funds raised by the inaugural Outsider’s Ball, set to take place this upcoming Outdoor Retailer Summer Market.
Last year the foundation started by offering four, $2,500 grants to specialty outdoor retailers. To qualify, an employee under the age of 27 had to apply to fund a project that would increase outdoor participation.
The focus on specialty outdoor retailers is important Fanning said, because “who better than local retailers to know what projects are taking place in local communities." This time around, the foundation partnered with the Grassroots Outdoor Alliance to distribute the first round of grant applications, which can be filled out by people of any age, not just those younger than 27. All applications are due May 1. They can be for any youth-led or nonprofit project that encourages people to get outdoors.
Roanne Miller, president of the Grassroots Outdoor Alliance, said a good experience with last year’s grant program left her group desiring another partnership with Outdoor Nation.
“Outdoor Nation was really psyched by how good a job our membership did and how the grants were used,” Miller said. “This is a spectacular platform to get our message across and we’d like to expand it.”
Currently, the grant applications are only accessible to Grassroots Outdoor Alliance Members via a special members-only website, but next month retailers all across the nation will be able to apply for funding for youth-led projects or nonprofit projects that seek to get youth involved in outdoor recreation.
SNEWS will keep you up-to-date on how to apply as information becomes available.
“One thing that differentiates a specialty retailer is that they are part of their community and they know the folks that live around them they know what kind of environmental and social causes that really need help and really need support,” Miller said.
The Outdoor Foundation has a fundraising goal of $300,000 for the upcoming Outsider’s Ball, and is almost there, Fanning said. It’s raised approximately $235,000 so far.
“Thanks to the generosity of a very diverse range of partners, we’ve been able to get more than two-thirds of our $300,000 goal,” Fanning said. “I’m optimistic that we’ll surpass that.”
Anyone interested in participating can visit the Outsider’s Ball website and click to buy a ticket or to become a sponsor. There are three levels of sponsorship; Platinum ($15,000), Gold ($10,000) and Silver ($5,000).
“It’s going to be the industry event of the year,” Fanning said. “There will be great music, great food and drinks, and interactive experiences that hopefully will encourage our industry’s leaders as to how they as executives can get on the issue beyond the checkbook.”