REI On Investing in Outdoor Colorado Nonprofits

Have you ever wondered how a large company makes investment decisions – especially those that surround philanthropy? REI gave 303 Magazine a taste at what that process looks like and how it tries to make a difference in Colorado outdoor communities.

Every year REI invests a portion of their profits into nonprofit organizations that support the outdoors as part of their REI Stewardship Report program. That number reaches above $7.7 million annually being allocated into outdoor nonprofit organizations across the nation.

Just this year REI was able to invest $160,000 into 11 Colorado nonprofits including, Colorado Wetland Trust, Boulder Climbing Community and Colorado Canyons Association. These nonprofit organizations all help increase Coloradan’s access to the outdoors – making REI’s mission of getting people outside even bigger.

Photo Courtesy of REI

How are these nonprofit organizations chosen? Jon Frankel the marketing manager for REI gave some insight into the process of the funds are allocated and how the nonprofit organizations come into play.

“We have a funding and endorsement process [where] we get together locally as a market and as a community within REI and we look to see what kind of work needs to be done. [We see] what organizations are doing that work and see where our money and our funding can be best spent, in that year to support the organizations that are doing all this amazing work. It’s just really sitting around and figuring out what’s gonna be best for the community. And then we meet with all of these different organizations, talk to them about what they need and what support might be best for them and really create a partnership with each of these organizations. Locally, we look to create relationships and longterm partnerships with these organizations, not just act as a funder and that really helps push their work further and help the community out,” stated Frankel.

Photo Courtesy of REI

On top of the normal Stewardship program, REI also had its co-op members in Colorado choose from different local nonprofit organizations to donate to during it’s Loving Our Local Outdoors initiative. During the initiative, members chose three from nonprofits to allocate $55,000 to – Volunteers for Outdoors Colorado, Colorado Youth Corps and Colorado Fourteeners Initiative. If you are a member, you probably took part in that process after checking out at the register a couple of months ago.

“As an outdoor co-op, our members are at the heart of what we do, and we are always looking for ways to get them more involved in our philanthropy,” said Kristen Ragain, REI philanthropy and community partnerships manager. “Through Loving Our Local Outdoors, our members acted as local experts by directing a portion of our investment to places that are important to Colorado.”

These investments in nonprofit organizations allow Coloradans to continue to enjoy the amazing trails, recreation areas and more that we all are able to partake in. With each investment, the nonprofit organizations are able to continue to support the outdoor communities, keep trails clean, protect environments that need to be protected and obtain funds that might be decreasing due to changing political climates.

Our purpose, since 1938, has been to inspire, educate and outfit for a lifetime of outdoor adventure and stewardship. So our core purpose is really just that – to get people engaged and involved so that they can love the outdoors and be lifelong stewards and not only enjoy the places that we have to enjoy here in Colorado outdoors but also hopefully help protect them and steward them,” said Frankel