Grants that enable outdoor exploration and protect the environment.

Explore Fund

Grants that enable outdoor exploration and protect the environment.

Photo credit: Kate Webber
taken of City Kids Wilderness Project

We love exploring the outdoors and our desire to share this passion drives The North Face® Explore Fund™.

One of the major ways the Explore Fund supports outdoor exploration is through a $500,000 annual open-grants cycle. We’re looking for innovative ideas, both large and small in scale, that are changing the way we think about outdoor participation, accessibility, and protection of the environment. Since 2010, this program has given $2.75 million to more than 500 nonprofits.


We’re excited to receive applications from passionate groups looking to increase participation in the outdoors and work in innovative ways to protect our environment. Before applying, organizations must meet these initial criterial:

  • Have 501(c)(3) nonprofit status or be in a formal relationship with a qualified fiscal sponsor.
  • Be based and operate in the U.S. Projects outside the U.S. do not qualify.
  • Visit here to learn about the Explore Fund Canada.
Explore Fund
Photo Credit: Nicole Schmiedle, taken of OUT There Adventures

Program Categories

The Explore Fund grants are offered in two main categories. We ask that you complete the application that most aligns with your project.

Enabling New Explorers

Introducing underrepresented communities to outdoor adventures, in potentially new and interesting ways, is core to this program category. We want to work with nonprofits that are helping change the narrative of outdoor exploration. Ideal programs are working towards that goal in ways that could include teaching independence and self-awareness through outdoor adventures, demonstrating partnership and trust through outdoor activities, and developing outdoor leaders through innovative programing and trips to public lands. If your program seeks to develop new outdoor adventurers, this category is for you.

Explore Fund
Photo Credit: Yosemite Conservancy

Protecting Our Environment

Projects large and small in scale are vital for protecting our ecosystems and our ability to continue to enjoy them. Ideal programs think creatively about engaging new and diverse communities in environmental work and can share tangible outcomes. Potential projects might address needs for new trails or forests, or larger topics such as climate change on public lands or in cities. Organizations that work with new technologies and programmatic approaches to protecting our environment are encouraged to apply. If your program focuses more on environmental education in the outdoors, please complete the Enabling New Explorers application.

Click HERE to apply.

For additional information on what we do and do not accept with our grant program, please visit the FAQ.


A total of $500,000 is available for funding. Applicants may apply for up to $25,000 in grant funding and a minimum of $5,000. In rare cases, The North Face may award more than $25,000 to specific projects. Whether grants are awarded and the amounts of any such awarded grants are within the sole discretion of The North Face.

For budget questions, please visit the FAQ.

Explore Fund
Photo credit: Kate Webber, taken of Big City Mountaineers

2019 timeline*

The 2019 Explore Fund application is open from February 25th through April 2nd at 11:59 p.m. PT.

Explore Fund Explore Fund

*The timeline is subject to change.


There is no one size fits all approach to increasing outdoor participation and protection of the outdoors which is why we encourage a diversity of projects. When evaluating proposals, our committee looks at the following three guidelines:


How well does the program:

  • Create new and innovative approaches to participation, access, and/or environmental protection.
  • Work toward inviting new, diverse, and/or underserved communities to participate in the outdoors.
  • Show a positive benefit to participants and/or the environment in tangible, measurable ways.
  • Provide opportunities for future or reoccurring outdoor and/or environmental stewardship opportunities.
  • Demonstrate a history of working with their target audience.


How clearly does the program:

  • Welcome new and diverse groups to the outdoors.
  • Encourage responsible participation the outdoors.
  • Focus on providing the community being served with opportunities for reflection and deeper connection with outdoor activity and/or environmental work.
  • Show authenticity in executing their work.
  • Align with the spirit of exploration and activities supported by The North Face.


How well does the application and proposed project:

  • Clearly define its plan and goals.
  • Differentiate itself from other programs or programs in its geographic region.
  • Have a plan for outreach to their target community.
  • Staff their program appropriately.
  • Provide a detailed and appropriate budget.

Factors such as geographic diversity of applicants are taken into consideration when making funding decisions. See the FAQ for additional details.

Explore Fund
Photo Credit: Outdoor Outreach


Eligibility Questions

  • What types of projects are prohibited from applying for an Explore Fund grant?
      • Organizations without 501(c)(3) status or without a qualified 501(c)(3) fiscal sponsor.
      • Programs without a significant outdoor component or activities that are not aligned with the activities and interests of The North Face.
      • General outdoor day camps or summer camps unless outdoor recreation activities or skill building are core and significant to the overall purpose/mission. Outdoor camps serving under-resourced and/or under-represented population may apply.
      • Projects focused on research, white papers, and conferences
      • Endowment or capital fund campaigns
      • Ropes courses, museum and aquarium trips
      • Dancing and art classes
      • Advocacy or political campaigns
      • Sustainability, green building projects, or landscape projects
      • Expeditions
      • Land acquisitions or conservation easements
      • Most salaries. See overhead restrictions
      • Wildlife and ocean conservation focused projects
      • Agricultural and food waste focused projects
      • Most summer camps scholarships
      • Film, video, book or movie projects
      • Marketing or awareness raising projects
      • Festivals
      • Projects outside the U.S.
  • My organization is not a 501(c)3. What is a qualified fiscal sponsor?
    • A qualified fiscal sponsor has 501(c)3 status and would be responsible for applying for the grant, managing funding, and reporting.

  • Can schools apply?
    • All applicants must have 501(c)3 status to apply. If your school does not have 501(c) status, connect with a qualified fiscal sponsor to apply and execute your program activities.

  • What types of outdoor activities does The North Face prefer to see in an application?
    • Projects with strong outdoor engagement in activities such as skiing, snowboard, snowshoeing, climbing (indoor or outdoor), kayaking, white water rafting, camping, backpacking, and hiking among other outdoor sports that align with The North Face are preferred.

      Summer camp scholarships, ropes courses and projects that are primarily in-class room with outdoor aspects are generally not funded.

  • What types of environmental activities does The North Face prefer to see in an application?
    • We’re looking for projects both large and small in scale. Projects with innovative approaches to inspiring community engagement and tangible outcomes in protecting the environment are encouraged. Land based projects are preferred. These projects include but are not limited to trail building and restoration, forestry, shoreline clean-up, invasive species and trash removal. Additionally, projects may address larger goals such as technologies that impact climate change and ecological diversity.

      Ph.D. projects, community gardens, corporate volunteer opportunities, school service projects and field trips are generally not funded in this category.

  • How does the Explore Fund define underserved and underrepresented populations?
    • Applicants will have the opportunity to define and describe how they are serving an underrepresented or under-resourced population. This description may vary from one community to another.

  • Can land trusts apply?
    • Yes, but funding cannot be used to purchase land. Land trust that have applied in the past use the funding for environmental stewardship programs.

  • Do you provide grants for international programs or organizations?
    • Explore Fund grants exist in the U.S. and Canada. To apply for an Explore Fund grant in Canada, click here.

  • Am I required to purchase The North Face equipment for my program?
    • No, you are not required purchase The North Face equipment.

  • Can I submit more than one application?
  • My organization has multiple chapters. Is it better to apply at a national level or a local level?
    • We do not have a preference. Before applying at the local/chapter level, discuss your application plans with your national team lead. Within some organizations, it makes more sense to apply for a grant at a national level and for others it does not.

  • When evaluating applications, what other factors does the review committee consider?
    • Applications are evaluated generally against annually updated funding priorities, and specifically as to program impact, values, design, as well as the alignment to the mission and funding goals of The North Face. Should questions arise through the review process, applicants may be contacted to provide clarification or resubmit an application.

      Explore Fund grants support nonprofits in partnership with The North Face; groups that are nominated by The North Face vendor partners and select internal business units; and through an annual open grant application cycle. Factors such as geographic diversity of applicants are taken into consideration too when making funding decisions.

Budget Questions


Application Help and Guidance