Episode 43: Leverage Your Most Powerful Asset, Your Mailing List, With Sarah Murray From Women’s Wilderness

RTNP 43 | Mailing List


Your email list is a powerful asset. But if you’re like many organizations, you’re not making the most of it. After all—what’s better than an engaged audience, all of whom have raised their hands to be part of your program?

Today’s guest is Sarah Murray, Executive Director of Women’s Wilderness. WW is an amazing organization that helps women and girls become their strongest, best selves by teaching and immersing them in the great outdoors.

Sarah and I talked a lot about the opportunities in their list, and how they could gain valuable insights from the people on it by sending surveys, testing messaging and program details, and even asking them to increase your reach by sharing your emails with others.

This was a really great episode. I hope you enjoy it!




Consider how interactions with the outdoors can inspire a shift in the injustices we see.


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Leverage Your Most Powerful Asset, Your Mailing List, With Sarah Murray From Women’s Wilderness

My guest in this episode is Sarah Murray. She is the Executive Director at Women’s Wilderness. They have a mission to support girls, women and the LGBTQ+ people in accessing their power and improving their health through outdoor community and the connections that you can build in outdoor spaces. We talked a lot about how to leverage their list to get more information and to get a good understanding and buy-in to what Women’s Wilderness is trying to accomplish in this crazy world in which we live. You are going to enjoy the show. It has a lot of good ideas that any organization can hop into to create relationships and build on those relationships that you already have. Here we go.

Sarah, how are you?

I am well. Thank you. How are you doing?

I am hanging in there. Tell us about Women’s Wilderness. It is a cool organization that you have going on down there in Boulder.

We have been around since 1998 and we are a nonprofit organization. Our mission is to support girls, women and LGBTQ+ people in accessing their power and improving their health through connections to the outdoors and community. What that means is we take a lot of folks outdoors, especially folks that are queer or girls and women to rock climb, backpack, canoe and do all kinds of different activities. Some of them are much more technical, longer, more intense, and a little more extreme and others that are afterschool programs that are a low barrier to entry like slacklining, exploring city parks and trying to get folks in the outdoors.

We do this work with the lens of social justice and looking at intersectionality. We are thinking about who is not in the outdoors and who has the worst social determinants of health, mental health and physical health and could use this experience. When we look through this lens of intersectionality, we see that race, socioeconomics, immigration status and gender all come into play and weave together to keep people out of doing some of these things that create a lot of healing, physical health, joy and transformative experiences in all kinds of ways in our leadership that lasts in our lives.

We do our best to try to make those experiences bespoke and designed for and available to folks that might not be outdoors otherwise. We have programs. We do some afterschool programs in Boulder, Jeffco and Denver. For those of you reading outside of Colorado, those are all areas in the greater Denver Metro area. We also have a huge summer course series where girls and women alike and some queer folks do summer camps with us. Everything from a 5-day, 3rd and 4th grader with one overnight day camp type experience to 21-day expeditions in Pecos Wilderness in New Mexico or in Utah, that is the work that we do and we love doing it.

Are most of the people who participate in your programs from the Denver area or do you get groups coming in from outside of this area as well?

It is a bit of a mix. Because of COVID, we ended up having a local crew in 2021 in our programs, but the year before, we served people from eighteen states. Our afterschool programs, because of their nature of them are much more local, but 70% of our participants are participating in a course or expedition or retreat or event. Those folks tend to come from different places. A lot from Colorado and the Front Range, but other places in Colorado, other surroundings like Intermountain West, the Rocky Mountain States and some folks take planes to get to us as well. It is at the heart of some of our marketing challenges right now. We are in this growth trajectory. When COVID came, there was a physical and mental health crisis and a lot of recreation and outdoor-oriented groups had to go dormant or had to shut their operations.

We have been trying to do the opposite. We have been trying to lean into what folks need and the trauma they have experienced. The healing that they need, connection, joy and the safeties that the outdoors provides that a lot of indoor activities do not, we have had this aspiration to grow nationally where we will still do our programs here in the Rockies.

We run programs in four states in New Mexico, Utah, Colorado and Wyoming, but hopefully, draw a more national crowd of folks who are interested in doing that work, especially work around affinity spaces. Queer groups, only women’s groups and groups for BIPOC or Black, Indigenous and People of Color as well.

It’s hard to justify big marketing dollars to attract a national audience.

You mentioned that you are having some challenges with that. Is it mostly just the expansion of the mission that has become a hurdle in getting the word out to people in other states? What are some of the challenges that you are facing?

At the end of the day, it is about resources. As a small nonprofit that has worked in a bootstrappy way for a long time, it is hard to justify big marketing dollars to attract a national audience. Part of that is a strategy coming up with like, “Who is it exactly that we want to reach, where are they and how will we reach them?” It also goes to resources. The bigger issue is like, “How do we fund the advertising dollars or social media marketing budget that is for in low thousands or high hundreds? How do we find those resources to do that outreach to grow in that way?”

Because of the nature of the work we do, we get funded. Talking about our funding sources, some of our funding is an earned income stream for participation in some of these programs. About 30% of people pay full price. Also, about 70% of folks are getting a free or scholarship experience because we are trying to make this accessible to people from low socioeconomic backgrounds. We do have some earned income streams, but it is hard to get those fees increased when we do not have the big advertising dollars to spend to put an ad on Backpacker or Parenting magazine or something like that.

It is always a challenge of that, “What do I do first?” You need the money to get the reach, but you need the reach to get the money, so you are always ooching each of those up.

Also, how big of a risk do we want to take and what will the return be? For the past number of years, we had a part-time marketing person that was doing both marketing and community outreach. They are going to schools and the ground game is associated with getting folks to participate in a program like this. We invested in a full-time marketing and outreach person and that has been great.

Their name is Anna Ghublikian. They came from the private sector and worked at Craftsy. They understand some of the strategies behind what we are trying to do and this blended approach of a very community-oriented, go to PTA meetings, meet up at REI to more digital and macro look at how to attract a more national audience. Think about our user segments, look at our database and be able to segment and message in very specific ways to specific people.

It sounds like you are doing a lot of the right things in terms of that investment and hopefully, you are seeing a return on that. Investing in people is an investment as well. It sounds like that is the first big step. I am glad to hear that you are on that path.

That has been important to us. At this point, we are trying to basic assets for the organization. We had a pro bono by a group in Portland called Struck. It was great and they created amazing branding materials for us, but now it is taking that brand and putting it into regular posts on social media and a website that is super compelling and easy to navigate. That has been the work that we have been doing to try to set foundations. We can then get into the more specific campaigns around certain days or certain groups or ways in which we slice and dice our offerings to make them more attractive to people.

I heard a couple of things earlier where you were talking about who, where and how of the people that you are hoping to engage with. Have you done that research? Do you know who those people are that will feed both the 30% who are paying clients as well as the 70% that get some scholarship?

We have done some rudimentary work around that. It is so diverse. When you talk about girls, women and queer folks in the US, you talk about 55% of the population or somewhere between 53% and 55%. Each of our courses has a different segment. For instance, one of our courses of the afterschool program is called Outdoor G.I.R.L.S..

RTNP 43 | Mailing List
Mailing List: Our mission is to support girls, women, and LGBTQ+ people in accessing their power and improving their health through connections to the outdoors and community.


It stands for Girl Immigrant and Refugee Leadership Series. It is specifically designed for girls who are immigrants, refugees or asylees. They are newcomers to the US who are living in Denver. How we attract those girls to this program is very different. Our materials have to be available in Swahili, Karen, Spanish and in all kinds of different languages.

We are often talking to their parents, who are gatekeepers to their participation. That is a very different conversation. One of our courses is an intro to trad climbing. This is for women or non-binary folks who are looking to transition from gym climbing or top roping to trad climbing. They want to learn the basics. That demographic is typically middle to upper-class white woman who often does not have a climbing community to teach her that thing so she wants to get some support and get some lessons in that. It is different.

On the other hand, we have like our Trailblazers Program, which is for Black Indigenous and People of Color, women, specifically, who are interested in learning basic outdoor skills, backpacking, lighting a stove and navigation. How we are reaching women that are BIPOC nationally that do not have a socioeconomic designation, it is not a specific age designation. We are broad in what we do. We have done some of it, but we are in the very early stages of getting smart about how we identify, articulate, target and go after specific folks.

It is a real challenge. You have a really diverse set of audiences that you are trying to reach as well as it sounds like a fairly wide range of services that you provide in terms of skill level, perhaps. That further complicates things when you start looking at that matrix of all those people with all those different levels of activity. It can get daunting. Have you done much segmentation either with your lists or tried to get people to self-select on-site in any fashion?

We have not on the website. To a certain degree, when someone signs up for a course, we know that if you sign up for a queer course, you identify as queer or BIPOC or a certain nature. There is some segmentation that we have for participants, but that is the burden at hand. What we have not done much of and we use Salesforce as our database and we do keep that information. For instance, repeat participants are a big pool for us. If we have someone participate in a summer course in middle school in 2020, we are going to share with them the middle school and high school offerings for 2021. We know quite a bit about that person.

That one for us is easy because there is an inner circle of folks that we have already met and we know how they have interacted with the service that we offer. For us, what we have not done much is the segmentation of our broader audience. We have 15,000 people in our database. Some have donated over the years. We have been around for a long time, but we do not know who all these people are necessary. Our email list is almost the same size and our social following as well. It is in the 16,000 or 17,000 across our channels. We have not looked deeply into who those folks are and how we want to present what to them.

We know that there is not a very high conversion rate between our social media and our registration, which is fascinating to us. We make sure we put all of our newest offerings. We were going to try to do a new adult women’s expedition in Utah. It does not seem to have much of a conversion for us, which is fascinating. Folks are hearing from word of mouth or through outreach or historically knew about us. Attracting new people to our offering is where we have not done too much workaround.

Is it that you have not done too much work or is it that the work you have done has not proven out yet?

We have done a bit of a spray and pray where we message across all channels and hope that it will land in the right people. That is not true for the Outdoor GIRLS Program and this afterschool program that we have had to recruit participants with such intentionality. It is three cups of tea approach to getting people to come and participate. That is a different beast and there are also some of our BIPOC programs that come through a networking experience but are open enrollment, like girls’ summer camp or girls’ afterschool programs that are open enrollment or women’s programs.

We have a retreat called Summit Sisters, which usually attracts between 100 and 200 women. It is a three-day up in Rocky Mountain National Park. We have all these amazing presenters that do spiritual and physical sessions. They do things that are very technical sometimes. It is an amazing experience, but we have not been very specific about who we have targeted to come to do that. For instance, using Google AdWords, we do not know how to use Google AdWords. We probably could and it could be helpful for us.

There are plenty of opportunities for all nonprofits to do harm as well, even with the best intentions.

It is interesting that you mentioned Google AdWords because they do have a program for nonprofits where they will donate or grant $10,000 per month for that targeted outreach. It is called Google Grants. There is money available to play. You have to apply for the grant, but my understanding is that it is relatively straightforward in terms of the application process. As long as you are a 501(c)(3) and in good standing, they will usually get you signed on for that.

That gives you some money to start to experiment. That is what is interesting, particularly if you can do some testing. You can leverage that grant to drive some traffic and then do testing on that traffic to get a good understanding of what works. That is a cool program that you might want to take advantage of or look into, at least.

We have not received the grant and gotten it, but we have set ourselves up for it. You had to do quite a robust sign-up. We have not been able to access it. We almost hired a consultant to help us access those grants and then could not afford the consultant to help access those grants. It is something that we will look into. Do you have much experience with the actual application process or understanding of how to access that?

Sadly, I do not have a ton of expertise there, but I wrote myself a note to try and figure that out because it sounds like something that I could help you or other people with if I knew more about what was going on there. Fortunately, I am on the board of a nonprofit called Nederland Area Trails Organization, so there might be some opportunity for me to run a couple of experiments.

That would be great. We would super appreciate it. It feels like a mirage.

You keep walking towards it and it never gets any closer. That is an interesting conundrum. I have not heard that before, but certainly, I will look into it because it feels like there is some opportunity there to at least bring some knowledge to the table for groups like yours that are looking for some opportunities there. In terms of your outreach, have you identified which groups respond most successfully to things? Are you doing any testing that can give you a little insight as to what messages are working and how to supercharge that stuff?

We did a survey amongst people that were already in our database and asked them about their preferences and a whole score of things that related to our business and our marketing and how they like to be spoken to. We have not done any testing for folks that are outside of that already captured place. I am curious. For other nonprofits, is that a strategy that they have been able to execute when you do not have folks close to you to get them to give you information about their preferences?

It leads to an observation that we have made where people do like to help provide information to nonprofits and other organizations that they feel are giving a little bit of help. People like to help out. That can lead to a lot of great strides in relationship-building. Simply by reaching out and asking someone their opinion and providing a three-question survey or something that the bar is pretty low on, it cements you in their mind as someone that they can help. It also starts to spawn this question about whether or not you can help them because most relationships are give and take. Most relationships are two-way. Whenever you have had a one-way away relationship, I am sure it has not felt very good, even if you were on either side of that.

You are like, “Why isn’t this person giving back? Why am I always taking?” Leveraging those opportunities and it sounds like you have a fairly decent-sized contact group in terms of your social media. It sounded like you had about 16,000 or 15,000 people that are following you. It would be worth reaching out if only to start that conversation and start that back and forth.

Trying to create those opportunities for dialogue is a great way to get this conversation started. You would be surprised at how many people will give you an answer to some survey questions. When you follow up, thank them and give them another question, “What are the programs that you might be interested in?” All of a sudden, you start a conversation which leads to a strong relationship.

RTNP 43 | Mailing List
Mailing List: Look in the context of this country at this moment. We really need to look at folks who are experiencing this complex discrimination and marginalization.


How are folks doing that? Are they doing them very tactically? Is that happening on Instagram or is that happening on Facebook and what tools are they using?

It depends on the audience. You can run polls on certain platforms. You can put links out, change your bio link or run a story on Instagram. If you have an Instagram following, it might be worth running a story with an either/or type of question. You could run a series of those and maybe that becomes some content for either the course of a couple of weeks or you could start asking questions on a given day. It could be a special day that your post on Tuesday is always asking people to engage via question and start doing it. You can commit to doing it for a couple of months, once a week and see what happens.

With social media, you can post as much or as little as you would like to. Certainly, there are some suggestions in terms of how often one should post, but if you got into a cadence and started leveraging some of the built-in tools or even something like Google forms would allow you to create surveys or you could go to SurveyMonkey or something like that. Give people the opportunity to feel like they are in a conversation. I would be interested to see if that spawned additional inquiries or questions coming back to you in terms of interesting things that people could try either on their own or how to engage with your programs.

We will definitely do that. Thanks. I made a note of it and it would be a good thing to chat with Anna about.

I would be interested to see what would happen with that. It sounds like you have a pretty good mailing list. Sixteen thousand people or 15,000 is nothing to scoff at in terms of your email. We always say that it is easier to get someone to come back and buy from you again than it is to get a new customer. That holds true in the nonprofit space as well.

It would be interesting to see if you could hypercharge your mailing list and get that a little more active and try to go back to that well. Particularly, your donor list to see how many of those people you could get to donate again or if they are not able to donate right now, share your mission and share materials with their networks.

People like to feel like they are part of something. That group that has already raised its hand and is active in terms of they have taken an action with you before and you got their email address somehow. Those are the kinds of people who you can typically get to take additional actions with your organization, even just sharing information.

Our experience with our survey that we sent out to understand people’s preferences is one, we send into our email list of folks. The response rate was high. I was thinking it would be in the single digits. It was somewhere in the 20% or 30%. It was way high. Our open rates are above that, but it felt like a lot of people that opened that email actually wanted to do something to help and that echoes what you are saying.

How long ago did you send that survey out?

I want to say that it was in October or November of 2021.

Sometimes, you get this sense that you are operating with blinders on. You do not know how what you are throwing out is being received.

It might be worth going back to that list and sending it out again, particularly if you have the ability to segment the list based on people who either did not open it the first time or did open it and did not take action and say, “We would like to give you another shot. We got a great response.” Tee it up from the perspective of this is a winning group of people that you want to be involved with or a part of or feel like you are connected to. Give them the opportunity a second time to engage with that survey and then it might be time to create another survey for all of those people who did respond.

One of the things that I am curious about is the organization has been, over the years, a gender-informed organization. We have worked to try to create opportunities for folks that are not just girls and women but are girls and women that have some other non-dominant identity in a way which is not exclusively the work we do, but that is a piece of it.

We, from very early on, understood that Latina girls in our community are not going to be out climbing unless there is some special provision that is made because of the racism and misogyny in rock climbing and the outdoor industry in our town in general or this area but also having to do the cultural expression of outdoors. Folks that are Latinx often and how you access the outdoors looks different and rock climbing might not be part of that experience.

With that being said, we have this history of doing social justice work. We have this large base of people that have participated with us that have donated and have worked for us that is probably at least 70% white. In the past years, we have doubled down on our social justice work and been like, “Look in the context of this country at this moment.” What we need to do is we need to look at folks who are experiencing this complex discrimination and marginalization. We intensified our focus on folks with these complex discriminations. We still do lots of open enrollment programming, but we have been doing things like issuing statements in our anti-racism work.

We issued the statement about violence and violence against women in response to the shootings in both Atlanta and the shootings in Boulder that happened. We are showing our support for our community here in Boulder and talking about justice and our ability to live free from violence as people, and also recognizing the Asian-American and Pacific Islander violence and the violence against women specifically that happened in Atlanta that being gender-motivated and racially motivated. They are also being a class dimension to that.

I am curious about how these statements feel very one-directional. I’m curious am about how they attract new folks into our work or how they repel people. We had a conversation with someone who called our phone number after our first statement and questioned it. She was an older white woman who had been part of the organization many years ago who did not see herself in it anymore because we were specifically calling out our interest in working with girls of color and folks of color and queer folks.

It felt like her organization had changed. I am curious if there are other things that you have seen where folks have taken this moment of racial reckoning and social justice. Also, their reactions as nonprofits to that and the role they play and being able to have the conversation that you are mentioning as a back and forth with their stakeholders.

There are particular challenges that we have to face in that space as we are making statements with the understanding that we are not going to appeal to 100% of the people 100% of the time. There is usually a vocal minority on either end of that bell curve that feels compelled to reach out. Unfortunately, what we tend to hear are either the people who are on the “hated it” side of the bell curve or the people who are on the “loved it” side of the bell curve and do not get a great finger on the pulse of that beefiness of the bell curve, which represents the vast majority of our stakeholders or constituents.

It is always a challenge. The first piece is to have good, solid values, vision and mission in what you are hoping to accomplish with the understanding that the people who are running the organization and who are part of the organization are all on board with that North Star of where you are hoping to go. We tend to get swayed particularly by the negatives, but we are not going to hit it out of the park 100% of the time.

Frankly, if we are not upsetting someone or making someone joyous every once in a while, then we are being too middle of the ground. The first thing I would recommend is to not get too roughed up internally about the fact that someone did not like that particular approach. It gives you the opportunity to have a back and forth and to get their thoughts on what they would recommend. Have a dialogue with them. It also gives you the chance to learn or take that experience and perhaps make it into a bigger learning experience and put it out there to some portion of your list to get a feel and get an understanding of where people sit.

RTNP 43 | Mailing List
Mailing List: People like to be a part of a movement in a lot of ways. If your heart is in the right place and you are driving toward those ideals as part of your organization, you are going to win.


If you come at it from the perspective of, “This is what we are trying to do and these are the reasons we are trying to do it,” and put it out there as a question that you are seeking people’s opinions on is a good way to start a dialogue and to demonstrate that you are listening. There are a lot of organizations that come at this from the perspective of a soap box. That is not how relationships work. They need to be two-way. It is hard. We all tend to react to negative comments and also get very sensitive to those that we do not want to have to happen. Sometimes if we are doing big things that are hard, there are going to be times that we are going to ruffle some feathers.

It is not that having a couple of folks who are detracting from that or are vocally disapproving. That is much of a problem. What I am curious about in your bell curve example is, “What is the middle of the bell? How are they perceiving this? How is our constituency or our stakeholders, people that we are working within all the ways shifting by this orientation of ours that is very mission-driven?”

Maybe it is not shifting at all or maybe it is growing or maybe we are having a more diverse group of people that are caring about what we do because we are more visible in the space related to diversity, equity and inclusion in the outdoors. Those insights would be super valuable to know how we do outreach and marketing and the impact of what we are doing. Sometimes you get the sense that you are operating with blinders on. You do not know what you are throwing out is being received unless there are massive unsubscribes on your email. There are some things that you can see, like fluctuations in open rates, but a lot of them, not. A lot of it is opaque.

There are a few things that you can try. The first is holding things a little closer to the vest in terms of who you are reaching out to with bold statements before you have tested them. That is where you could leverage that email list as opposed to putting stuff out on social because you do have the ability to frame that in this perspective of, “This is the direction we think we are wanting to go here because we feel that it is important to be inclusive and to take a stand on violence against women and violence against people in general. This is a direction where we are planning to go.”

Ask the question and say, “How do you feel? How should we tackle this?” It gets that relationship going. It gets that dialogue, that back and forth going. It does it in a less public scenario. People can feel like they have the opportunity to weigh in on it, but at the end of the day, you are still pushing that agenda.

By asking that question, you are putting that out there as something that you feel is important and is nudging that list toward that ultimate goal that you are hoping to achieve. That is interesting stuff and it is so challenging. The other thing to consider is the big chunk of that bell curve could be moving one way or the other, and hopefully, it is moving in the direction that you want to take the organization. Another thing to consider is the meat of that bell curve is very fluid as well.

You look at examples from the private sector. You look at Nike and when they put out the ad about Colin Kaepernick, they showed support and put out a big ad campaign behind it. He was a polarizing figure at that time. Nike does a great job. There are a ton of criticism that you can make around Nike and their supply chain in the ‘90s and sexual harassment claims during #MeToo and them being a male dominant and white dominant organization. They push the needle on a lot of social justice issues in ways that a lot of sports organizations, especially big sports organizations, do not do.

When that Colin Kaepernick ad campaign came out, the NFL and a lot of the owners were under attack for his treatment of him and looking at race and blackness in their sports. Nike stock’s skyrocketed after that. For them, their bell curve grew. It was great for their business. Although we are nonprofit, there is something interesting to learn from that. Following your gut or your market, maybe that is your marketing genius or maybe that is knowing that you stand for something and you are going to stand behind it is going to be a risk. Sometimes those risks are going to pay off in dividends and either way, it is your DNA you decided to be, so you have got to see convicted and how you speak about the issues that you care about.

More companies have had success when they have taken stands than when they have not. One needs to have a good understanding of the target audience before you take a stand. Nike could have taken a completely opposite stand and it would have been interesting to see what would have happened there. As long as you are coming at things from an authenticity standpoint or a position of authenticity, a position of passion and that you have done that work that identifies what your values are and your long-term vision of how your organization fits into the world. How it is going to be a better place due to all of the great activities that you are up to on a daily basis and then the mission, which are those day-to-day activities that drive toward that vision?

As long as you are solid on that, have communicated that and are taking steps that are aligned with those guiding principles, in the end, you are going to come out ahead. People tend to get in trouble when they get wishy-washy about it. When they either take a big stand or then back off from that or they fail to take any stand at all, so they feel very center of the road. People like to be a part of a movement in a lot of ways. If your heart is in the right place and you are in your driving toward those ideals that you have defined as part of your organization, you are going to win.

Sometimes, those risks are going to pay off in dividends.

For you, leaning into that list, particularly the email list and figuring out how to segment that in ways that enable you to tell different stories to different parts of that list. That may be going back to the list and asking them what they are interested in and giving them several things that they can choose from. Figuring out how to get this diverse audience into slightly smaller buckets to which you can start to have conversations is going to benefit you on a whole host of levels. You are going to see more people sharing that content. More people are standing up and saying, “I want to be a part of this,” and also, people engaging in the services you provide.

What is the quintessential example you have seen of that or the most successful anecdote you can share? I am curious because you probably talked to a lot of people about concepts like this.

One that I have talked about in the past and I hate to use the same example all the time, but they stand out to me for a lot of reasons and that is Patagonia. I remember back in the day, Patagonia got derided as Patagucci and people said, “This is expensive. It is for a yuppie user.” Maybe it is still going on. Maybe I am hanging with the wrong group. Patagonia still gets derided in that way, but it feels like that attitude and that assessment of that business tapered off pretty heavily when Patagonia leaned into its environmental stance.

As soon as they started taking big risks in terms of taking a solid stand on their position in terms of the environment, I am not going to suggest that Patagonia is the perfect company out there or anything, I have not worked for them. I imagine that they have problems like any large organization, but as soon as they started leaning into that idea, I feel like the attitude around that Patagucci label fell off.

People started saying, “These guys are willing to put their money where their mouth is or where their badge of environmentalism in such a way that I am willing to support them with my dollars, understanding that it may cost more, but I want to be part of that movement.” I do feel like that transition happened when they finally went for it in terms of their stewardship.

Patagonia is a great example. REI on Black Friday and closing doors on Black Friday is another one of those examples that is almost counterintuitive but would drive more sales because they took an intense stand. I respect those plays for sure.

When you take stands that feel like they are against where you should be in terms of Patagonia’s ad that everyone mentions, they certainly did some big things on Black Friday as well in terms of shutting down and then donating all of their revenue. They did some cool things to bolster this idea of community and environmental stewardship, but when they took out the “Do not buy this jacket” ad, it was a big shift as well.

That was a little more recent than them jumping on the environmental wagon. You think, “Patagonian is out here to sell me more jackets. Why are they advertising to repair the one that I have?” They have seemed to have stood by that ethos. People like to be buddied up with organizations that are willing to take big stands.

Especially when it is in an authentic way. You hear Yvon Chouinard and he says like, “We are in business to save the planet.” That is literally how they define an organization. There is certain authenticity, but there is a conflict in a multinational market-driven company that is selling clothing and also, at the same time, is trying to do this deep environmental work. At the end of the day, it is to do no harm.

It is to get to a place of zero where we are not negatively impacting. That is a bit of a different proposition than nonprofits, who come out with the idea that there is a net social or environmental benefit to them being there, not just to do no harm. It is not to say that they cannot do harm. There are plenty of opportunities for all nonprofits to do harm as well, even with the best intentions.

RTNP 43 | Mailing List
Mailing List: Consider how your own interactions with the outdoors might be able to inspire some change and some shift in the injustices that we see.


The nonprofits have some additional challenges that they need to continue to try to overcome. At the end of the day, if I am going out and I have decided I need a new jacket and I am going to make that purchase, the reward that I get comes after the sale. “I feel good about this because I got a thing in return for that value exchange of money.” With a nonprofit, the reward happens before that sale. You have an immediate fall off as soon as you have made that decision. The hard part comes because you have to actually part with your money.

Talking about donations, for example. There is this additional friction that nonprofits have to overcome to keep people motivated after they have reached the point of enthusiasm about an organization and then they want to participate in some fashion. It is an added level of friction that nonprofits have to overcome that for-profit industry leaders or businesses do not have to have to contend with as much. I have enjoyed our conversation. I know you need to get going. I want to thank you for being on the show. How can people find out more about Women’s Wilderness?

They can do that by following us on Instagram or Facebook, Women’s Wilderness. We are pretty easy to find. Go to our website. We have a new website and it is WomensWilderness.org. There, you can figure out how to donate to us. You can figure out more about what we are doing and why we are doing it or sign up for courses. We have got expeditions and afterschool courses and programs going year-round. We would love to have any of your readers join us. Stu, thank you very much for the work that you are doing to try to support nonprofits in this area of marketing and for specifically shining a light on Women’s Wilderness and the work that we are trying to do. I appreciate it.

It has been my pleasure. I like to end all of my shows with an ask and that is some way for people to take action. I love having these conversations, but I also like to leave people with something to do at the end of our conversations. If you were to ask our audience to take any action after reading this, what would that action be?

I am tempted to say donate or sign up for a course on our website, but it is actually more than that for me, in the climate that we are operating in, where there is so much violence and such inequity from an economic standpoint and a racial standpoint, I ask folks to consider how their own interactions with the outdoors might be able to inspire some change and some shift in the injustices that we see. They are unlikely bedfellows for a lot of people, but if you take a look at our work or follow what we do, it might prompt some ideas about how your own activism and ability to create some change might be able to be connected to your outdoor or your play life.

I am looking forward to going outside and playing here since we have longer days now. I appreciate you being on the show. I had a great time talking with you and learning more about your organization and all the great work you are doing over there at Women’s Wilderness.

Thanks so much, Stu. I appreciate it.

Talk to you soon.

There you have it. It’s another great episode. Thanks for reading. If you would like to learn more about how to apply the audience engagement cycle to expand your organization’s mission, there are two things you can do. Right now, you can go to MissionUncomfortableBook.com to download a copy of my book. While you are there, you can get your purpose-driven marketing score to see where you can unearth some gold for your organization. If you would like to tune in to back episodes of the show or sign up to be a guest, go to RelishStudio.com/podcast. That is it for this week. I will be back next week for another great episode.


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About Sarah Murray

RTNP 43 | Mailing ListSarah has spent her career making the world a more just and equitable place, using sport and play as her unlikely tool of choice. In reality, sport is often the last frontier of unapologetic discrimination. In her work, she has proven that if you can achieve inclusion and advancement in sporting environments, you can transform communities and societies more broadly. Over the past 25 years, she has worked in over 65 countries on strategies that leverage the power of play for social justice.

Sarah is currently the Principal at Grow the Game – a global consultancy. She is also the Executive Director at Women’s Wilderness, a nonprofit organization based in Colorado (USA) aiming to transform outdoor culture so it’s a place where girls,’ women and non-gender conforming people can build their confidence, courage and connectedness in the same way that men with dominant identities have always done. She was previously the Executive Director of Women Win Foundation USA, a global NGO dedicated to equipping adolescent girls to achieve their rights using sport and play based strategies. In this role, she spent 10 years supporting the work of grassroots practitioners and activists from Bolivia to Bangladesh and impacting the lives of over 3 million girls.

Sarah spent a decade with the Women’s Sports Foundation, working on issues of health, access and equity from a U.S. perspective. She is a Master trainer with the THNK School of Innovation and provides cross-sector consultancy to influential organizations globally to employ systems thinking, human-centered design, gender analysis and play-based methodologies to address the most pressing social issues of our time. In these capacities, she led projects across sectors with Nike, FIFA, Gap, Vital Voices, the U.S. Department of State and DFID.

A mountain woman at heart, Sarah spends her free time riding, sliding and running on trails and enjoying the outdoors with her wife, Signe and their fierce young daughter Tallulah.