January 12, 2021 THE NORTH FACE: Outdoor participation must survive COVID-19
The North Face’s Explore Fund pivots to meet the new challenges brought to the outdoor community by the pandemic. Discover the inspiring stories of the organisations supported by its new COVID-19 fund.
In October 2020, TNF’s Explore Fund celebrated 10 years of supporting the bedrock the outdoor industry’s very existence rests upon: conservation and participation. During this time, it has donated 2.5 million USD to thousands of organisations in North America and Europe.
But last year, as the next round of funding plans were being drawn up, it became clear that the landscape had tilted with COVID-19. They decided to respond in kind:
“We saw that our industry was experiencing an immense challenge due to the pandemic,” recalls Julian Lings, Senior Manager of Brand Sustainability with The North Face Europe.
“So we asked ourselves how we could really support the organizations most impacted by this.”
This discussion lead to the earmarking of 1 million EUR and 1 mill USD to act as life-support for organizations hit hard by the pandemic. The response was immediate, with thousands of applications within just weeks.
“It was a humbling experience. It really brought home that there’s a lot of pain in the outdoor industry – both for brands, NGOs and small businesses,” reflects Julian Lings.
Sharing the struggles – and silver linings
From NGOs dependent on physical meet-ups to promote outdoor participation but restricted due to lockdowns, to brands and retailers whose customers had been laid off and left strapped for cash, to an uncertain business climate that was unwilling to make investments – the industry was undoubtedly bleeding from multiple wounds.
But through this unprecedented adversity and with the support of the Explore Fund, Julian Lings believes there are some silver linings to be found:
“The work these organisations is doing is inspiring. That’s why we’re trying to not just fund them, but to also tell their stories.”
Meet three European Covid-19 Explore Fund recipients, and click to discover their stories:
Wild in the City – UK
Wild in the City is a London-based charity that supports and enhances the wellbeing of urban-dwelling people of colour through developing relationships with nature.
Ich Will Da Rauf – Germany
Ich Will Da Rauf is a Munich-based team of volunteers and coaches that enables and supports the creation of joint climbing groups for people with and without disabilities.
Women’s Mountain Club – France
Women’s Mountain Club is a French Alps-based charity that supports and enables women to spend more time in the mountains.
About the Explore Fund
Founded by The North Face in 2010, the Explore Fund has created access and driven equity in the outdoors by funding hundreds of organizations around two themes—Enabling Exploration and Loving Wild Places.
In October 2020, Explore Fund announced the 2021 launch of the Explore Fund Council, consisting of outdoor, culture and academic leaders. The Council will focus on accelerating culturally relevant exploration opportunities and connecting diverse communities to the benefits of exploration. Their recommendations will guide $7 million in initial funding, globally, to continue building equity in the outdoors and create opportunities for all.
To learn more and apply for grants, click here.
Photos: The North Face