The Conservation Alliance announced a major new initiative to secure permanence for the organization, and to grow its annual grant budget. Launch of the initiative took place today at the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market in Salt Lake City.

The four founding members of the Alliance – The North Face, Patagonia, REI, and Kelty – have come together around an effort to build $3.5-million endowment to cover the annual operating expenses of the organization, and to significantly increase its annual budget to fund conservation projects. The founder commitments are joined by additional pledges from CamelBak, Merrell, Dansko, KEEN, Inc., The Forest Group, and a personal donation from former board president Menno van Wyk. The heads of each founding member – Steve Rendle (The North Face), Sally Jewell (REI), Casey Sheahan (Patagonia, Inc.), and Kenny Ballard (Kelty) – participated in the announcement.

“The Conservation Alliance faces two main challenges: to increase our annual grant budget, and to secure a reliable source of funding for our operational expenses,” said John Sterling, Conservation Alliance Executive Director. “This initiative will accomplish both.” As a rule, the Alliance places 100 percent of each member’s dues into its grant budget, so the organization must raise operational funds separate from dues.

The endowment – The Conservation Alliance Legacy Fund – is underway with a $1 million commitment from The North Face, a $250,000 commitment from REI, a $500,000 commitment from Merrell, a $10,000 commitment from CamelBak, and a $100,000 contribution from Montrail founder Menno van Wyk. The Alliance will build on these early commitments by seeking contributions from member companies.

Because 100 percent of membership dues go into the Alliance’s grant fund, the organization must look elsewhere to cover operational expenses. These expenses are currently supported by additional contributions from member companies, foundation grants, and fundraising events. Once fully funded, the Legacy Fund will permanently cover the current operating expenses for the Alliance.

“The Legacy Fund will ensure that The Conservation Alliance outlives us all,” said Sterling. “As long as there is an outdoor industry, we will be here ensuring that the industry is active in the effort to protect wild places for their habitat and recreational values.”

In addition to building the Legacy Fund, Patagonia, Inc. has committed to increasing their membership dues to $100,000 annually. As with all dues, the Alliance will direct these funds into its grant budget, and use Patagonia’s commitment to launch a review of the organization’s dues structure.

“Our membership dues have not changed since 1989,” said Sterling. “With Patagonia’s commitment, we have the opportunity to update our dues structure in a way that challenges our larger members to make a greater annual contribution to our grant fund.”

A full review of the dues structure will be part of the Alliance’s 2008 strategic planning process. The Legacy Fund Campaign and the revised dues structure are slated to conclude in August, 2009, the Alliance’s 20th anniversary.

“I can think of no better way to celebrate our 20th Anniversary than to secure permanent funding for our operational expenses, and to implement a new dues structure that will enable us to fund a greater number of conservation projects,” said Sterling.

For complete information about The Conservation Alliance Legacy Fund, see