Episode 51: Tackling Diversity and Inclusion In Your Nonprofit with Mitsu Iwasaki from The American Alpine Club

RTNP 51 | Diversity And Inclusion


On this week’s episode we talk to Mitsu Iwasaki, the Executive Director of the American Alpine Club. This organization spent more than 100 years promoting and celebrating mountain climbing and alpine adventure communities and their achievements. Mitsu and I share a passion for the outdoors—for climbing, skilling, and the thrill of reaching any pinnacle. So as you might imagine I had a great time chatting with him about some of our favorite outdoor experiences. We also explored the benefits of marketing in the nonprofit space, and dove into developing content roadmaps and diversifying revenue streams. Our conversation focused primarily on diversity and inclusion in the climbing community and how the American Alpine Club is tackling this issue—not only within their organization, but in the climbing community at large. There is a long history of bigotry in climbing (which is, sadly, comingled with historical prejudice) and the AAC is meeting these challenges head-on in its efforts to help improve inclusion and diversity. From mindset shifts to understanding your stakeholders’ perspectives on inclusion, we learned a lot of how to engage and communicate.

This is a great topic to explore for any nonprofit leader who’s interested in addressing some of the obstacles to creating an open community for everyone.

You’ll get a lot out of this episode. Enjoy!




Become a member of American Alpine Club, local climbing organization, The Access Fund, or other organization and get involved!

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Tackling Diversity and Inclusion In Your Nonprofit with Mitsu Iwasaki from The American Alpine Club

My guest is Mitsu Iwasaki and he is the CEO of the American Alpine Club. This is an organization that has stood the test of time. They have been around for over 100 years. He and I had a fun conversation. We share a lot of common interests in that. We are both outdoor people, climbers, etc. One of the things that we talked about was diversity and inclusion in the climbing community and how the American Alpine Club is trying to tackle this problem. It’s a great episode for any nonprofit leader to read because they are hitting this head-on. I know that this is something that everyone is thinking about now. I encourage you to read and have a great time. I know I did with Mitsu and here we go.

Mitsu, how are you doing?

I’m doing well. Thank you, Stu.

I’m happy to have you on the show. I have been a big fan of the American Alpine Club for many years and all the good work that you are doing. I must admit, I have been remiss at getting a membership. I was checking out some of the fantastic benefits that come with membership. It’s not only supporting climbers, alpinists, and that whole community but there are some fantastic membership benefits. For all those people out there who like climbing mountains, I would recommend going and checking out AmericanAlpineClub.org.

Thank you, Stu. I’m excited to have you back as a member or first-time member.

I may have been a member back when I climbed a ton back in the ‘90s. It has been a little while since I have been as aggressive about getting out on the rock on a regular basis.

This is a great time to talk about membership because we rolled out a new membership. I’m getting a little bit ahead of myself here but there’s a new level in our membership for those who don’t necessarily climb outdoors, which we are calling the supporter level. Those are for the folks who want to support the good works of the organization, the community building, the policy advocacy, education, the library, and archives versus what used to be. Our membership almost requires you to be a full member and that includes the rescue insurance.

There’s a new membership level that does not require it to be a full number with a rescue benefit but rather a person who supports the good works. It’s also part of recognizing that not all climbers are climbing big mountains across the Rockies or the Northwester, all across the globe. If you are a gym climber or bouldering, you don’t need a helicopter rescue but you might still want to support the advocacy work that we do.

Free speech isn’t just about the rights of the speaker. It’s also about the rights of the compelled listener.

The library there in Golden is great, too.

Have you been here?

I have. It has been a while but I have been to the library before. It’s neat to have that as a resource here in the area. I feel very privileged that I live close by.

It has been closed during COVID-19 but we are looking forward to reopening it now the vaccines are coming out. For those readers that don’t know about our library, we have about 180,000 volumes of climbing-specific books. Everything from historical books to personal journals to guide books that help you still get out there nowadays.

It’s cool that you and your organization have so many ways to participate. You can donate, become a member and visit the library as a resource. There’s a whole host of ways to get involved that do help support the movement and all the great work that you do. How did you evolve that? I know that you have not been CEO for a super long time because we met in Portland a few years ago when you were with the Association for Experiential Education. Can you give us a little bit of history in terms of how your model evolved?

We are over 100 years old. We have been serving the climbing community through inspiration. I think of us as an organization that inspires or helps climbers dream of big goals or big dreams. We help to resource and support those dreams so that we can actualize them. We are in the business of pulling us further towards the edge of what is possible both in climbing and maybe a human capacity.

We were a small organization that was founded in New York, of all places, and moved out to Colorado back in the ‘80s. Even then, we were relatively small and exclusive. At that point, you needed a climbing resume and two references to get in. I joined in the early ‘90s. I remember sending my climbing resume and hoping that I was, “Cool enough,” to be a member of The American Alpine Club.

We’ve got away with that a long time ago and wanted to become an organization that welcomes everyone. From the ‘90s to 2020, we grew our membership through what I would call a transactional relationship. The drivers of the membership were the rescued benefit, the publications, and the gear discounts, along with the fact that you were a part of this exclusive and inspirational organization. We know through surveys that rescue benefits, publications and discounts were the primary drivers. We went from a few thousand members to 25,000 members across the country.

RTNP 51 | Diversity And Inclusion
Diversity And Inclusion: There’s always a challenge when competing for memberships or donors for nonprofits and they feel like they have to go against one another, but there are so many examples of divergent, non-profits who have the same end goal in mind coming together and being able to amplify certain issues.


We have a large presence and some gravitas within the outdoor industry at this point. I’m brand new here. I started last August 2020. The board, I, and the leadership team have had a conversation about what can we do with this large membership base and how might we transition from a transactional relationship to a values-based relationship? We have the financial capacity of our membership base and the gravitas in the industry to do something more.

As part of the transactional relationship, I would say that we did not have strong opinions because we were driving it through the transaction. Now we want to be a more values-based organization and maintain those transactions but AAC is based to continue to drive membership but also having a vision about what climbing culture could look like in the future. That’s exciting for me, the board, and our entire team.

Back to your question about, “What do we do?” I would say that we could probably bucket those in a few buckets, maybe more than I can count on my fingers right away but a community to building policy, advocacy, education, and historians as libraries and archives. As part of our community building, these buckets have always been here but I would say that in the past, we have done a great job of reflecting what the climbing community looks like and continue to inspire. We want to envision a future and lean into some difficult conversations that need to happen within climbing.

We have some real challenges around mental health. There are a lot of eating disorders, grief from trauma, and loss. We have a fair bit of misogyny out there. I don’t think that’s exclusive to climbing but they are as and we need to address it. There are some issues around inclusion and equity. We are going to lean into these conversations and I know that we are going to be difficult because we are already in one of these conversations. We want this to be a healthy, inclusive community and we have got a place to be that organization that helps to amplify the work that’s already being done and bring it onto the national stage.

There is so much good but difficult work going on in the diversity and equity space now. Diversity, equity, and inclusion, I know that climbing has historically had a little bit of a challenge in that space. It tends to be uniform in terms of race and it’s a little bit of an uphill battle. It’s great to hear that you, as well as a lot of the nonprofits that I talked to, are focused on that piece of the equation. I know it’s a challenging and sometimes hard discussion to have but I’m happy to know that you are having those over there at American Alpine Club.

One of the things that’s interesting with a membership that large is, do you do much action-oriented stuff in terms of mobilizing that membership to take action on big land issues, climate change issues, or some of the other things that are affecting the climbing community from a governmental standpoint or a level?

It’s a conversation that we are in as we speak. Our policy and advocacy team was built around a silo within the organization, with the idea that we would show up in DC or local governments and try to advocate and influence policy. Our policy committee is led by a Chair of the Board member, who’s chairing the committee, his name is Pete Ward, and our Chief Programs Officer, Misha Charles.

They started to reenvision this and asked, “How can we combine the work of the education department, the volunteers, and the 80 chapters that we have across the country into a forest that can show up, activate the halos of climbers and friends that are around them as AC members but also, show up in local governments or even as the Federal Government as a large group of people with voices to say?” We want to affect the policies that the government is thinking about.

It’s a large number out there and you are right. We have not in the past been very effective in mobilizing and activating. Our strategy moving forward is about activating and mobilizing our base. It’s also about how we might move our base in the policy interests that we have, the AAC, and how might we move to mobilize our base to amplify the work that the Access Fund, Outdoor Alliance or The Nature Conservancy might be doing. At the end of the day, our interests are all the same. It’s all of us outdoor users who want to protect and preserve access to these places. If we have a membership base of 25,000 plus the halo of people around them, and we can show up to support the access fund back at the end of the day, that’s better for all of us.

People never show up together because they’re so fragmented. People have to learn to show up together as a much larger force.

There’s always a challenge when competing for attention and memberships or donors for nonprofits to feel like they have to go against one another. Even very divergent nonprofits, who have the same end goal in mind come together, and being able to completely amplify and change the narrative on certain issues.

I remember back in the day when there was going to be a bunch of oil and gas exploration around rifles. That was Ducks Unlimited and the Access Fund came together. They don’t have a whole lot of overlap in terms of what they are doing or what they are trying to accomplish most days. In this case, they were both aligned with the idea that we needed to try to protect this land.

My recollection of that was that they managed to get quite a big chunk of land preserved in some fashion so that hunters, people of that nature, and who like to access the outdoors and backcountry could continue to enjoy that without having it be threaded with a bunch of oil and gas stuff at the time.

If I remember correctly, the Outdoor Industry Association put out a study about the economic impact of the outdoor industry. The number was somewhere north of $800 billion and that’s huge. That’s larger than the extraction industry but we never show up together because we are so fragmented. Climbing does not show up together but human-powered space does not show up together.

Certainly, the motorized does not show up with trail runners, and trail runners don’t even show up with the mountain bikers. At the end of the day, the use case might be different but we are all there because we love the mountains or the wild places in this country. We have to learn to show up together as a much larger force and these fragmented use cases that don’t have a whole lot of political power by themselves.

How are you mobilizing that membership to take action? Are there things that you have done that have worked or things you have tried that did not work that you thought were going to be a home run? How are you getting those people out and excited about calling their representatives, for example?

We have not done a significant job in this or we haven’t done significant work in mobilizing our members. That’s part of our strategy moving forward to ask, “How do we connect our membership, our large base with our policy advocacy work?” We do have a couple of policies scenes that go out, we send emails and text messages to our members when something is happening but it has not so far been an organization-wide effort. If I was to be transparent, it’s also about how this American Alpine Club, over the last few decades, has built the organization through silos. Policy advocacy, membership, and education have their own silo.

There’s some mixing happening because we are within the same organization. We have not directed the organization to mesh all these things together. Our future vision includes the education department. Hypothetically speaking, we might have an instructional designer who helps to design education components for a volunteer to go out and teach policy, advocacy, engagement to members of a climbing gym, for instance. That hits both the policy, the education department, and the community department, rather than thinking of all of those things as separate entities doing their own thing.

We talk about content maps a lot and look for opportunities to plan out an organization’s outreach. A lot of times, it’s good practice to segment your list. If you have people who have come into those different buckets that you spoke about earlier, you certainly want to provide them with the materials that make the most sense for them.

RTNP 51 | Diversity And Inclusion
Diversity And Inclusion: As you start to mesh all of the work together, you want to be able to follow a map and see what their policy interests are and what organization are they giving to so that you can start segmenting the right communications to them.


I would say that looking for overlap in opportunities to make sure that you don’t get completely pigeonholed into one of those buckets which tends to happen. Usually, the first step is to take a step back. Let’s say there are four opportunities to reach out and you have one major bucket. Even if you have five minor buckets that you wanted to provide engagement with, making sure that there’s consistency and maybe one post a week, it goes out to the major bucket. The other three posts get rotated between those other five user group types. Planning that out can be the first step to making sure that you can start to pull people who normally would associate with only 1 or 2 of your initiatives into getting more informed about all of the initiatives that you have on the table.

We are starting to recognize the deficiencies of our current database to do this. We started to mesh all of the work together and wanted to be able to follow a map to a single member or group of members. We want to be able to see what their policy interests are, where they live, what education components they are interested in, what events they might have shown up in, what are they giving to the organization, and what component or organization they are giving to. We can start to see these individuals and start segmenting the right communications to them. Also, we want to recognize that most members are interested in multiple works of the American Alpine Club so that they don’t get bucketed into a tiller and not be able to move freely across the organization.

It’s a challenge on keeping track of everybody’s interactions and engagements. It’s amazing how much data can be collected and how overwhelming it can be to try and analyze it all.

We are not quite sure how we are going to tackle this challenge yet. It’s probably at 2022 or 2023 project to bring all of our data together into one database and figure out how we are going to be able to read it in a way that makes sense to the organization and also be able to pull reports for each of the departments in a way that makes sense for everyone. We are climbers. We like big challenges. This will be our cake, I guess.

It’s amazing how diverse the community is in terms of expertise. I have met climbers that have a remarkable amount of expertise. Maybe reaching out to the community and seeing who might be interested to help would be a way to tackle the problem.

We try to get activation through touching their sense of adventure and doing something hard. I need somebody to help climb V8 or V13 with us.

You have a great partnership program in terms of all of the brands that have come onboard and supporting the membership by giving out discounts. Do you leverage those brands in any other capacity during the course of the year to help support events? Do they support you financially as well? What are those relationships typically look like?

They do all of the above, depending on the brand and what their interests are. Brands support or events are mostly are Craggin’ Classic, climbing events across the country. They often support initiatives or programs that we have by cash donations. They also come in and help us with our annual benefit dinner. Those could be cash donations and could be product donations as well.

In events, there are always products that are creating classics that have happened across the country. They will also help us market ideas or actions because most brands have big followership as well. As we have leaned into this conversation, we started earlier about leaning into difficult conversations. As we have gone lean the organization into this project we are calling Climb United, it’s around equity and inclusion. Climbing route names out there now that is objectively offensive. Several large brands were the first to step in and say, “We are going to give you several $100,000 each to address this conversation. In return, they don’t want anything from that. They want to see a healthier, more inclusive climbing space.

The impact is important, but sometimes you want to share the intent and how things got to be that way.

There are a lot of challenges that go along with that or at least that tends to be the case. You can look toward all historical naming conventions, not just in the climbing community. It’s an interesting challenge to reverse or at least change the direction of the way that people think about those things and certainly a big challenge. I’m fascinated to see how you are tackling that because there are certainly some routes out there that have less than friendly names attached to them.

What we have decided to look at this challenge now is we organize the publishers to come together and ask, “What is publishable for you all?” There are some route names that are simply hate speech. Any of those publishers have reached back out to first ascensions. Some of this work has had started long before we’ve got involved to ask if they might be interested in changing the names of their routes. Most first ascensionists say yes.

What we have learned is that majority of the first ascensionist or climbers are not doing the set of mile intent. They felt that at that time, it was part of their creativity or there was an inside joke that they were talking about or whatever it might be. As we have all gone and learned, we have also started to be able to separate intent from impact.

A lot of the first ascensionists simply want to change the names that they put out there. For us, watching that has been a great sense of optimism from that. The publishers and the AAC started creating and it’s all going to be iterative, a list of words that they simply don’t want to publish and asking first ascensionists is not to use them. It’s a pretty small list. It’s maybe 60 to 70 words that publishers are not going to use and they want to actively inform for suspension of that racial slang or something that’s publishable by them anymore.

AAC or the publishers are not saying you cannot name your route, whatever you want. What we are simply saying is that we can’t put this into print. This also goes back to the multiple conversations around free speech that I have had. Sometimes we forget that free speech is not about the rights of the speaker but it’s also about the rights of the compelled listener.

The Supreme Court has debated multiple times that you can’t say whatever you want because the listener has rights, too. You have to balance those rights. Sometimes we forget the rights of the reader. In terms of climbing, we have focused on the rights of the first ascensionists and not those hundreds of people who come after them to climb the route that they put up.

It’s certainly an interesting dilemma and it’s cool how you are tackling it in terms of going up out to the publishers and saying, “Can we all agree that we won’t have roots with objectionable names published?” The desire to be noted as the person who put up that route theoretically would overweigh or outweigh the desire to name it something offensive. It’s a cool way to go about it.

It’s a starting point because the climbing route names is on a good number of climbers’ mind. We are using that as a pivot to start here and pivot into a broader culture conversation because route names are an expression of culture. If we are a part of a culture that thinks hate speech and then we have not addressed the core problem, which is the culture and not throughout the expression of it, we will get the route naming things, the first edition or the first draft that settled out into the public sometime this summer of 2021. The Climb United Program will pivot into working on helping to educate all of us, including me, on how we can be better climbers or citizens in climbing, more inclusive, and be less exclusive, I suppose.

RTNP 51 | Diversity And Inclusion
Diversity And Inclusion: It’s a little easier in the digital age to retype and set everything, versus having to do it the way that they used to in the pre-digital age.


How are you addressing those routes where the first ascensionist is no longer with us? What happens with those?

It’s up to the publisher if it’s being published. For some of those routes, if a publisher decides it’s not fit for print, it might give it a number and refer to a number instead of the name itself. There are a few publishers that are thinking about putting it in the back of the book. You might get a number but if you want to see the original route, you can go to the back of the book and somebody might also get an explanation or the intent of a name. The impact is important but sometimes you want to share the intent and how a name got to be that way.

It’s an interesting dilemma. I don’t envy you having to try and navigate that one. It’s certainly interesting.

I don’t want to say, “The easy part.” We needed to get the momentum started. The publishers, first ascensionists, and climbing community are doing the hard work and the long-lasting work. I’m grateful that a large handful of publishers showed up and said, “We want to do this.”

They have to retool some of their things. I imagine it’s a little easier in the digital age to retype set everything versus having to do that back the way that we used to have to do that in the pre-digital age. It’s still a lot of work and there has some historical stuff to navigate there. It’s interesting. I’m glad you are doing that work. That’s cool.

It has been interesting for me as my own education to watch the online route aggregators. They can change some of these things relatively easily but we compare it to the print publishers, who have guidebooks out there that have been in print forever. We have 182,000 volumes downstairs with lots of things in there.

I recognized that the American Alpine Club has contributed and been part of creating this culture. It has also been interesting for us to learn to become more humble and learn from our mistakes and say, “We have some responsibility in trying to help change the trajectory here.” We are going to keep the 180,000 and 200,000 books that we have and those names are going to exist in the library forever. I think that’s okay.

If we erase history, we don’t have the opportunity to learn from it. It’s a delicate balancing act. If we wipe it out, it probably has a little bit of opportunity to resurface at some point. Having that historical reference might not be the worst thing. That’s among a broader discussion in terms of Civil War statues and things of that nature that we can get into but education is the first step. If we are coming at it from that perspective, it’s probably the right way to approach it.

I keep reminding myself and our team that we are not trying to judge the decisions of people from the past. They did what was right within the context of the culture at that time. As we learn, we have to evolve our practices along with the evolving society and that’s all that we are simply doing.

It’s been interesting becoming humbler, learning from your mistakes, and acknowledging the responsibility that you are able to change your trajectory.

I’m going to pivot a little to asking you a little bit more about how you engage. You have memberships, donors, corporate partners, and sponsorships. I’m noticing on the site that you also have volunteers. Can you tell me a little bit about your volunteer program and what is that looks like?

Our volunteer program is built around communities. There are about 80 sections and chapters around the country. There’s a new one that’s forming around somebody. Those are groups of numbers who are coming together, climbing, hanging out and doing things together. If you bring groups of people together, you need somebody to organize those groups. The volunteers are mostly volunteering to organize those groups of members that want to build community in person, whether that’s grabbing a beer together or going climbing.

Part of the future vision, though, is those volunteers who are the most active volunteers. We would love to provide them with the toolkit to activate their climbers in their circle to show up for policy or advocacy events. Volunteers also help us with trail cleaning events or trail maintenance events. Volunteers also show up with our Craggin’ Classics. Events and activities, volunteers to help with those two.

I was curious. I was not sure if you were overdoing trail building and things of that nature or how people were volunteering. Are there people out there as part of the AAC that is doing rebolting routes and things like that?

There are probably members of the AAC out there rebolting routes. We do not have a rebolting project like the AAC. I know the access fund does and we used to co-fund their bolting project. What we have decided is that we don’t need to be in the front and center with that. We simply want to write checks to the access funding to do it so well and help support their work.

That sounds like you work well with other nonprofits in finding organizations like Access Fund, Nature Conservancy or even Volunteers For Outdoor Colorado and places like that that do trail-building things. It sounds like you work well with other nonprofits. Have you gone about trying to nurture or build those relationships over the years?

I will be transparent. I don’t think that we do it well yet. We are working towards doing it better. Even this bolting conversation, Chris Winter over at Access Fund and I had a conversation soon after I started. We have this conversation like, “How can we do this better?” From my perspective, I looked at Access Fund and said, “You want to do this better and we are just hanging on? There’s no need to try to truncate this. Let’s amplify what you do.” That’s an approach that I have, where if we can look around and say, “There’s an organization that’s doing the work and can do it better than we can, let’s not start segmenting this. Let’s try to help support their work.”

That’s great that you have those resources and funds. You can activate your membership. That seems cool to have that approach to it.

RTNP 51 | Diversity And Inclusion
Diversity And Inclusion: You have to evolve your practices along with the evolving society.


We are in so many things that we don’t have to have one thing that we do well. We are very broad. What I think policy around Access, they do it so well. Why are we trying to do Access policy in a way that is not as effective as the Access Fund? Let’s take whatever we were going to spend on that and give it to them to do it better.

How does that work in terms of money that’s coming in for you to reroute? How does that work within either the way that you message that or manage it?

A large portion of our revenue comes from membership. That membership revenue is not allocated to anything in particular or it’s certainly not restricted to anything. It’s membership due. We can look at that membership and ask, “How can we best use this cash to further the mission of the organization or the interest of the members?” If conservation policy is what it is, we look around and say, “How can we do it ourselves? Is there someone else that might be able to do it better than we can?” Funds that come from donors with specific restrictions or corporate funds. Those don’t typically get routed to anyone else. As you imply, that’s possible.

That speaks to some of the advantages of diversifying those revenue streams, where you have a little more flexibility to point things in the direction that seems like it’s going to be to the best benefit. A lot of nonprofits have that one revenue stream, which is donations and those tend to be fairly restrictive in how they are used. Likewise, grants tend to be pretty restrictive in terms of their usage. I liked that you have at least one avenue that you can be flexible.

It helps to create lots of opportunities for us.

In terms of your memberships, one of the things that we look at is our opportunities to get people used to spend smaller amounts, perhaps over a longer time and that tends to increase the amount of revenue that you can bring in as well as creates some semblance of cashflow and predictability. Have you experimented at all with monthly memberships versus all at once?

There is a small segment of our members, less than 100, who have chosen to pay their annual membership over a twelve-month period but for the most part, the vast majority pay once a year when they renew. It creates a challenge for us because up until March 2021, our membership was attached to that rescue benefit and publications. How do you decide when that rescue benefit kicks in? Is that the first installment of twelve or the last one? It creates challenges at that. Honestly, we did not try to overcome it.

I could see how there might be a tendency for some portion of that membership to try, come, go and take a little bit of advantage of the situation by saying, “I’m going on a big trip. I’m going to kick my membership up for this trip.” Drop it for two months and turn it back on. I can see how that might be a challenge for you.

Some of it might also be not because of intent. If you are over twelve months and hypothetically, your credit card expires during that time, you are out in the Himalayas or something, and you miss your last month’s payments, are you still a member or not?

If you just erase history, then you won’t have the opportunity to learn from it.

I can see how you came to that decision. It does seem like it might be a bigger challenge than a benefit. I like that. At least you walked through the options.

I do think that we need to figure out how we might do this in a way that more members might be able to pay for a higher level of membership. If we are asking for $45 at the supporter level, I can feel good about asking you that all at once but at the leader level, at the higher rescue benefit level and discount level, that’s $250. A lot of us may not be able to pay that all at once. How might we structure that is a great question and one that we will have to tackle.

I wonder if you could not include a sponsorship deal, where if you have 25,000 members, there’s a certain percentage that could afford more than the advocate level of $500 a year. If you framed it in an interesting way or particularly tied it to not the stereotypical dirtbag climber guy but some scholarship sponsorship opportunity to bring more people into the fold. Someone who did have the means to do $600 could sponsor a couple of people coming in at the $45 level up to the partner level.

I don’t know how your relationships work with the rescue coverage or the medical expense coverage stuff. I would imagine that there might be a way to finagle lower prices on those if you had a higher number of memberships that were taking advantage of those programs. Even kick in an extra $5 or make it a monthly donation that goes into this membership fund that helps people who may be applying for a scholarship to get bumped up. Maybe you could tie that to volunteering time to work on trails, do something with the Access Fund or somebody like that. That way, you can fuel this entire ecosystem of the community to give each other a lift and also help boost all the great things that we can do as a big community like this.

I like this idea because many people who are at the advocate level have the capacity to give another extra $100, $200 or whatever amount that they might feel comfortable giving to help buy memberships for those who may not be able to afford it. It goes a long way, especially around the rescue coverage and the medical coverage in terms of having some comfort of being outside outdoors and maybe in partway places.

It’s something maybe to think about in terms of being able to increase your membership levels and perhaps even increase your memberships if there was an opportunity for people to apply for a scholarship. I could see how it could fuel a whole bunch of different activities there.

In the spirit of this conversation, we had four members come out and say they wanted to anonymously start a new grant that we are calling the Catalyst Fund that is only open to LGBTQ individuals. Now, $22,000 in that fund. What we are asking is that you tell us what your climbing dream is and see if we can help fund it.

We are not going to tell you what you have to climb or what your dream ought to be but that needs to be cutting edge. It could be gym to crack transition. It could be, “I want to learn how to belay.” It could be, “I want to go climb links.” We don’t care. Tell us what it is. If you can figure out a way to help fund it, we will help fund it and that will come with a membership as well. It is similar. There are few folks who had some capacity that said, “How can we broaden up the members and the faces of climbing? They simply decided, “We will fund it and help make it happen.”

I’m glad to hear that’s an option for people. I certainly think that it’s a great public relations opportunity as well as it does a lot of good. The more diverse we can make our communities and the more overlap that we can have, the better we can do. I had a fun time talking and reconnecting with you, Mitsu. I appreciate you being on the show. How can people learn more about the American Alpine Club?

RTNP 51 | Diversity And Inclusion
Diversity And Inclusion: Diversifying revenue streams allow you to have a little more flexibility to point things in the direction that gives the best benefit.


Come to our website, AmericanAlpineClub.org. You can learn about all the work that we do, sign up for emails from us or feel free to give us a call. We still pick up phones here. We have got a membership coordinator who would love to have conversations about the work that we are doing.

I encourage everyone to go check out AmericanAlpineClub.org. I loved our conversation and having these conversations. I would like to see how these can foster some action. If there was anything that you would have our readers do after reading and it could be anything, take a climbing lesson or do whatever they would like but what would that action be that you would like people to take?

The action that I would love all of your readers to take is to become a member. I don’t know how wide your audiences are. At least from an AAC and my perspective, I would love to see every climber, pickup truck or car with an AAC bumper sticker on it, with an Access Fund bumper sticker on it, and their local climbing organizations, don’t first occur on it. Get involved with organizations around you and get involved, whether it’s trail maintenance, advocacy or community building, these things don’t happen in a vacuum like we all have to activate.

I encourage everyone to go out and look at those organizations. I hope our paths cross here out on the crag sometime in the not too distant future.

I hope so, too. I would love to share a ballet stand somewhere with you. I appreciate the opportunity to have this hour of conversation.

Thank you so much again for being on the show.

Thank you so much, Stu. I enjoyed this hour.

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About Mitsu Iwasaki

RTNP 51 | Diversity And InclusionHe led the rebuilding of the Northwest Outward Bound School where he was the executive director for more than five years. He has also held senior roles at Outward Bound and Big City Mountaineers. “I first joined the AAC as a member in 1997 and am honored to step in as the next leader,” said Iwasaki. “The AAC has broad and deep influence both within and outside the climbing community. The AAC is at an exciting and important juncture with an opportunity to build on the strong foundation put into place under the leadership of Phil Powers.