OVERVIEW: Patagonia is best known for its hugely popular backpacks, coats, and other outdoor gear. But environmental philanthropy is one of its goods, too. The company donates one percent of sales revenue to nonprofits making efforts to conserve and protect natural landscapes and wildlife. Small, grassroots, activist organizations that mobilize average citizens and press for public-policy change are what it likes best.
IP TAKE: If you’re organizing community-level action to protect natural habitats, Patagonia is worth looking up.
PROFILE: Patagonia gear doesn’t just help you enjoy scenic forests and streams—it supports the protection of such landscapes, as well. The clothing and sporting-goods retailer grants one percent of its sales profits to environmental organizations.
The grants are small, ranging from a few hundred dollars to around $14,000 each; $7,000 seems to be the average and most grants are capped at $12,000. But the company doles out hundreds of them every year. And if your organization is on the small side, you may be in luck. The company’s mission statement specifically pledges to support "small, grassroots activist organizations with provocative, direct-action agendas.”
Take note of the “provocative direct-action agenda” part. Patagonia looks for nonprofits that are taking bold, original actions to restore ecosystems, halt pollution, or protect threatened plant or animal species. It also looks for programs that draw regular citizens into active participation in conservation efforts.
For example, Patagonia gave a grant to the Allegheny Defense Project, a nonprofit that engages northwestern Pennsylvania’s communities in protecting their region’s forest areas; and it gave one to the Klamath Forest Alliance, which works with northern California’s communities to preserve the region’s old-growth forests. Also, the company awarded a grant to the Colorado nonprofit Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont for its mobilization of local opposition to proposals for hydraulic-fracturing operations near Longmont, Colorado.
And geography is no boundary for getting one of Patagonia’s grants. Grants go to organizations throughout North America and Europe, as well as Chile, Argentina and Japan.
Patagonia does not fund green-building projects, environmental conferences, or public education initiatives. Land acquisition and conservation easements likewise get no funding. Patagonia does not fund environmental research endeavors, unless, as in the case of the Miistakis Institute, that research is a component of an effort to motivate communities and government leaders to action. Patagonia puts its money into spurring action, and not merely disseminating information.
If in doubt as to whether your project is eligible, you can take Patagonia’s online quiz, which will analyze your answers to questions about your program. If you pass the quiz, you’ll be directed to an online application form. You can then complete the grant form and submit it electronically.
Alternatively, if your project is located somewhere near a Patagonia retail store, you can drop off an application in-person at that store. Store employees will gladly review it and get back to you.
Stores accept in-person applications on a rolling basis throughout the year. An electronically submitted application, on the other hand, must meet one of two deadlines: April 30, if you want a response by the end of August; or August 31, if you want a response by the end of the following January.
- Hans Cole, Director of Environmental Campaigns and Advocacy
- Lisa Meyers, Environmental Grants Manager