Lesford Duncan The North Face Ambassador
Photo credit: The North Face.

The North Face Commits $7M to Diversify the Outdoors

This week, The North Face celebrated the 10-year anniversary of its Explore Fund initiative. And to celebrate further, it’s starting another one.

It’s hard to believe The North Face’s Explore Fund launched a decade ago. The brand’s major advocacy arm, the Explore Fund, has fueled everything from Paradox Sports’ adaptive climbing initiatives to the first AMGA women’s guide course. Over the years, it has provided grant funding to hundreds of nonprofit organizations.

But the new initiative is the Explore Fund Council, which has an even greater purpose. The Council will be a “global fellowship” with the goal of bringing together passionate experts across culture, entertainment, and the outdoors to develop ideas and solutions surrounding access to exploration. (You can watch a short campaign video on the topic below.)

For 2021, The North Face just pledged $7 million in funding for this project. The new Council will focus on solving common barriers to entry and diversifying the outdoors. Specifically, they’ll focus on connecting communities of color to the benefits of exploration in the first year.

And in the context of funding, $7 million is a lot. Divide the $7 million by the maximum Explore Fund grant amount of $25,000, and that’s funding for up to 280 grants. Of course, the $7 million is initial funding, so it won’t all go to grants. But the hope is that the majority of these funds will go to multiyear grants to nonprofit organizations, The North Face said.

The Explore Fund Council: What to Watch For

The Council’s main job is to decide on how best to use the $7 million, keeping diversity, equity, and inclusion in mind. The Council will also provide input on which organizations The North Face should select to work with.

“The learnings, findings and recommendations from this expert group will be used to help guide how The North Face directs [its] financial commitment to organizations,” The North Face press release reads. Right now, filmmaker Jimmy Chin and actor and producer Lena Waithe are leading the charge.

the north face explore fund logo with Jimmy Chin

“Throughout my life, exploration has been a constant source of positivity,” said Chin, The North Face Global athlete. “Not everyone has the same access to or opportunity for outdoor adventure. This is an issue I’m excited to take on alongside the other Explore Fund Council members.”

The North Face will announce the full group of Explore Fund Council fellows in spring 2021. Because it’s an annual program, The North Face will bring in different experts with new perspectives each year. And who knows, one of those experts could be your favorite athlete or outdoor advocate.

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Mary Murphy

Mary Murphy is the Managing Editor of GearJunkie and serves as the leader of Lola Digital Media’s DEI Committee.

She has been writing about hiking, running, climbing, camping, skiing, and more for seven years, and has been on staff at GearJunkie since 2019. Prior to that, Mary wrote for 5280 Magazine in Denver while working as an outdoor instructor teaching climbing, kayaking, paddleboarding, and mountain biking at Avid4Adventure. Based in Denver, Colorado, Murphy is an avid hiker, runner, backpacker, skier, yogi, and pack-paddleboarder.