Explore Fund

Explore Fund Grants

Explore Fund Grants

Explore Fund Grants

Our Explore Fund Grant Program has evolved.

March 2020 marked the 10th year of our annual open grant cycle (and what a year it was). The Explore Fund began as a way to support the next generation of explorers, and since launching, we distributed over 500+ grants and millions of dollars to nonprofit partners around the country.

As the world and the need for exploration have evolved, so has our approach to this work. As of 2021, the Explore Fund will continue in a new way, with a sharp focus on equity and access to exploration through The Explore Fund Council. We will continue to partner with the nonprofit community. However, our grantmaking will now be directed and in collaboration with each year's Explore Fund Council members.

About The Explore Fund

Exploration can be a powerful force for good in the world, with benefits that extend far beyond a specific activity. Curiosity, courage, and connection don't just propel us in our outdoor pursuits—they inspire us to do more for communities everywhere.

From 2010-2020, the Explore Fund Grant program helped create access and drive equity in the outdoors by funding hundreds of nonprofit organizations around two themes: Enabling Exploration and Loving Wild Places.

We also partnered with The National Park Foundation, the official charity of America's national parks and a nonprofit partner to the National Park Service, to fund programs in national parks and on federally managed lands. Our shared goal is to encourage and enable people from all walks of life and abilities to get outside and explore.

Eligibility & Funding

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

  • 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.
  • The Canadian Explore Fund Grant applications will be closed for 2020. Please check back April 2021.

A total of $500,000 is available for funding through our open grant process. 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

The National Park Trust
Photo credit: Nicole Schmiedl, taken of OUT There Adventures

Program Categories

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

Creating a Community of New Explorers

Supporting underrepresented communities in outdoor adventures, through 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 and are addressing issues of representation and access. Ideal programs engage or support communities in ways that might include developing inclusivity and self-awareness, healing and trust through outdoor activities, or 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
Explore Fund
Photo Credit: RIOS TO RIVERS

Protecting Wild Places

Projects large and small in scale are vital for protecting our natural ecosystems and our ability to continue to enjoy them. Ideal programs think creatively about engaging communities in environmental work and creating connections between people and the land. Potential projects might address needs for new trails or forests, elevating indigenous knowledge of land management or other 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 on environmental education, please complete the application under this category.

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

Move mountains Grant

The Move Mountains Grant was created in memory of Ann Krcik, a long-time leader at The North Face, to elevate women leaders. The grants are allocated through a closed grant process separate from the annual open cycle. This $250,000 Move Mountains grant program will allow our Explore Fund to bring more female outdoor explorers into positions of power by providing funding and a storytelling platform to advance their work and inspire others. The 2020 grants will open this spring.

Explore Fund
Photo Credit: Rock Creek Conservancy


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.
  • Invite underrepresented 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 underrepresented communities 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

2020 Timeline

The 2020 Explore Fund Grant cycle was open from March 4 - April 8 and is now closed.

Application Tips

  • Be clear and concise. State your program’s objectives and activities at the beginning of your application. Please be clear about the activities your participants are involved with.
  • Describe your participants. Demonstrate that you have a clear understanding of the needs of your participants.
  • Avoid generalities. In the limited space for your project descriptions, please be careful to not make general statements as to why getting outdoors or protecting the environment is important. Successful applicants use descriptive writing that tells a clear story. Additionally, including quotes from participants and news articles do not necessarily make for a better application.
  • Show impact. Share how your program has affected participants in the short and long term. When possible, use quantitative data to show impact.
  • Share how your program is unique. The Explore Fund is very competitive and receives hundreds of applications. The more you can differentiate and show successful outcomes, the better.
Explore Fund Kupu Foundation
Photo Credit: Kupu


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 & Races

    • Land acquisitions or conservation easements

    • Most salaries. See overhead restrictions

    • Wildlife and ocean conservation focused projects

    • Agricultural and food waste focused projects

    • 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