Nonprofit Spotlight: The Conservation Alliance
Outdoor Prolink partners with nonprofits every year to give back to organizations we align with. To honor these amazing nonprofits, we’re spotlighting each one and sharing why you should care about their missions too.
The Conservation Alliance is on a mission to engage businesses to fund and partner with organizations to protect wild places for their habitat and recreation values. We had a chance to get the full scoop on the organization and we’re spilling the beans on what makes The Conservation Alliance so amazing:
What’s the story behind The Conservation Alliance?
The Conservation Alliance represents a coalition of more than 250 businesses who pool resources to fund and advocate for the protection of North America’s wild places and open spaces. We were created in 1989 by Patagonia, The North Face, REI, and Kelty who came together with the shared recognition that the business community needed to do more to support the protection of wild places. As a group of outdoor brands, they recognized that they not only had a responsibility to make sure that these outdoor landscapes were protected, but that their businesses were built around their customers having places to explore and use their products. They made a commitment to set aside a portion of revenue that would have a 100% passthrough into a grant fund that would be used to support grassroots conservation organizations all across North America, then took that model to the Outdoor Retailer trade show, pitched the industry on joining, and from there the Alliance was off and running.
The Conservation Alliance now has a two-pronged approach to our model:
Members pay annual dues that are tiered based on revenue, with 100% passthrough to our grant fund. We then engage members in helping us decide how those funds are used through a nomination and voting process. Every member of The Conservation Alliance has the ability to nominate organizations to receive funding and then leverage their entire employee base to vote on the projects that make it through our vetting process and onto our ballot of finalists. Our member driven grant program awards just shy of $2.5 million per year distributed across more than 50 different grassroots conservation organizations throughout North America.
It was a little over a decade ago when we realized that what made the Alliance truly unique within the conservation landscape was that we were (and still are) the largest coalition of businesses solely focused on land and water conservation throughout North America. With that, we recognized that we had a massive opportunity to leverage the voices of business leaders that could speak to the fact that their business, and therefore the jobs they create and their contributions to the economy, depend on intact landscapes where people recreate. We’ve now expanded beyond the core outdoor industry and represent a wide range of industries who can come together around the shared understanding that protecting land and water is good for business and can tell that story to elected officials on both sides of the aisle and help move conservation legislation forward.
What sets The Conservation Alliance apart?
The Alliance represents the largest coalition of businesses working to both fund and advocate for the protection of wild places throughout North America. We have maintained our laser focus on our support coming from the business community with the emphasis on using our funding to support the grassroots conservation community. We also provide our members with full transparency on how their money is being used and a guarantee that 100% of the dues they pay to the Alliance go back out the door to support our grantees, meaning we don’t take a single dollar from membership dues to support the operations of the organization. And last, our grant program gives members the ability to support more than 50 partners and landscapes through one partnership.
What are some upcoming initiatives The Conservation Alliance is working on?
Our current grant-making priorities include:
- Bristol Bay in Alaska: Protecting the world’s largest salmon run
- Boundary Waters in Minnesota: America’s most-visited wilderness area is dealing with a threat of a copper mine on the edge of the watershed
- Dolores River in Colorado: The largest unprotected river in the lower 48 states
- Castner Range in Texas: Proving equitable outdoor access to the community of El Paso, Texas.
Tell us about the new event The Conservation Alliance recently announced.
We just announced our inaugural summit. Historically our “state of the union” has taken place at Outdoor Retailer when we used to host a breakfast on day two. This is where we announced the birth of The Conservation Alliance in 1989 and we held that place all the way through the start of the pandemic. With all of the issues with Bears Ears and the tradeshow returning back to Utah despite Utah’s elected officials actively suing the Biden Administration to roll back those protections, we decided we won’t be attending Outdoor Retailer anymore. On top of that, we have greatly diversified our membership in recent years and there isn’t a show or event that exists that will give us the opportunity to gather everyone in one place.
Our summit will bring together leaders from the business community and give them the tools they need to be more effective advocates and supporters for pressing conservation opportunities. Attendees will include business leaders, priority campaign grantees, elected officials, and peers from other industries.
The event is happening May 2023 in Winter Park, CO and will take place in an immersive outdoor setting. The agenda will include a mix of speakers, break out sessions, activations, and outdoor activities. At the end of the day we want to get away from the convention center and immerse ourselves in the outdoor places we’re fighting so hard to protect.
How can the people of the outdoor industry support the work The Conservation Alliance is doing?
Regardless of your affiliation to the outdoor industry, we want you involved in the movement that we’re trying to create. We want more people to be a part of this business-led conservation movement because we have such an incredible and unique opportunity for bipartisan support when we lead with economic interests. We want as many businesses as we can get to be a part of this movement because the more diversified voices we have, the more impact we can have.
If you think of it at a macro scale, how could we become the chamber of commerce for land and water conservation? Instead of talking about a few hundred brands, we want to talk about ourselves representing a few thousand brands. As we grow our membership, our ability to have a meaningful impact grows along with it.
If The Conservation Alliance was an ice cream flavor, which flavor would it be and why?
Rocky Road – Our road to success can be bumpy and difficult to navigate at times, yet when it all comes together it can yield some incredible results.
About the Gear Tester
Kelly Knauf leads the marketing team at Outdoor Prolink. She is a mountain lover, outdoor enthusiast, and professional snack packer. By day she answers emails and writes content, by night she's plotting her next camping trip or snowboarding adventure.