The Youth Outdoors Legacy Fund (YOLF), a brainchild of former REI CEO Dennis Madsen, has distributed $70,000 to five outdoor programs that engage youth, and is looking to expand as it enters its second year of existence.
When YOLF launched (click here to read the SNEWS® story, "Engaging the imagination of youth is what Madsen envisions"), Madsen leveraged his relationship with REI and VF Corp., plus stepped up with $250,000 of his own, to seed the fund. Since that early 2005 start, Madsen has been focused on growing the fund and increasing grants.
"We are soon to pass the million and a half dollar mark thanks to a lot of generous support from the industry," Madsen told SNEWS®. "While it is not a lot in the scope of things, it is significant."
In February, YOLF's board of seven issued five grants, representing 10 percent of the fund at that time, according to Madsen. The grants were awarded as follows:
- Appalachian Mountain Club Youth Opportunities Program -- $15,000
- Bay Area Wilderness Training Wilderness Leadership Program -- $15,000
- Colorado Mountain Club Youth Education Program -- $10,000
- Outward Bound Adventures Get Out And Learn Program -- $15,000
- Passages Northwest Girls Wilderness and Girls Rock! Programs -- $15,000
While the fund is only required by law to bequeath 5 percent of the foundation total, Madsen is in the mood to be more generous.
"We are going for 10 percent of our fund total, which we expect to allow us to grant $150,000 in the next annual cycle, because we know we can get out there and make a difference and believe we can achieve that while we are in an aggressive fund-raising mode," said Madsen.
He also told us that the grants from YOLF are not one-time events. The goal is to provide regular grants to the same organizations to help sustain them, while expanding the number of organizations the fund supports.
"We are creating a foundation that will provide funding for organizations to maintain consistency in good years and bad years," said Madsen. "Our board, which has seven members, had twelve great grant proposals the first time around and we only had funds for five.
"Our commitment to each organization we fund is much along the lines of a venture capitalist. We looked at the five and believe in their programs. (We) will access each in the early fall to determine that they have been able to do what they wanted and hoped with the money we provided," Madsen told us. "As long as they do that, we will stay with them, so we are not just moving from organization to organization each week. They need to know they have that revenue stream. Just as a venture capitalist would with any business proposition that is the kind of rigor that needs to be distilled into the non-profit community of passionate volunteers."
YOLF's board will meet during the next round of funding to discuss the level of ongoing support for the five original grantees. Then, the board will look at what other programs it believes the fund ought to be targeting in geographic areas.
"We will be looking to make grants up to a total of 10 organizations and this needs some vetting with my board, and we will need our member directors to provide some thought and direction to this," Madsen said.
For more information, go to www.youthoutdoorslegacyfund.com. Madsen will be at the Prana booth during Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, talking about YOLF and seeking additional funds to meet the growing need.