Social Enterprise Profile: Elevation Outdoors

Elevation Outdoors is focused on breaking down barriers and helping young people find a passion to help them lead a healthy, happier life. Since their inception they have expanded their program offering to include snowboarding, mountain biking, rock climbing and sailing programs. All of their programs are offered at no cost to any eligible youth or families to assist in providing them with an opportunity to develop a healthy passion.

Mike Greer – Executive Director at Elevation Outdoors

Since their first program in 2008, they have been able to help hundreds of young people find a new passion and develop more healthy lifestyles while learning skills that will stay with them for life.

We caught up with Mike Greer to learn a bit more about Elevation Outdoors. Mike has been involved with Elevation Outdoors since 2014, and in 2015 he took on the role as Executive Director. Combining his education with a passion for the outdoors, he has been able to improve program delivery and drive the organization forward. If the snow is deep in the middle of the week you just might find him having a “board meeting” at Big White. If so, share a chair with him and see if he hasn’t convinced you to help out by the time you reach the top.

Here’s what Mike had to say about how Elevation Outdoors is using social enterprise to help the organization become more sustainable:

Name of Company: Elevation Outdoors

Type of Organization: Charity

Headquarters: Kelowna

Number of Employees: 1

Year Founded: 2007

The Problem: We were seeing a disconnect between the opportunities available to youth in the Okanagan valley. We have sports and outdoor recreation at our fingertips and there was a decreasing amount available to young people. The organization started to fill the gap of experiential modelling to put more of that into the lives of the young people that we serve because it can go a long way and create a positive impact. There was really nothing like that available for people who didn’t have money in the valley.

The Solution: Tori Hanson started the charity to try and provide access to these programs for an increasing number of kids. We started with just a single 6 week snowboard program, and we’re now at the point where we have three 4-week snow programs, a 7-week mountain bike program, two 4-week climbing programs, a sailing program, and we’re going to pilot a hiking program this year as well to create more opportunity. The kids who don’t have these chances are disconnected from their communities and there’s higher likelihood of occurrence of criminal activity. There’s a lot of negative social outcomes if these opportunities aren’t available, so that was our effort to try and make the community a stronger place.

All of the programs are free to the kids and their families as long as they meet our eligibility requirements. We have a fee for service summer camp program where we charge registration cost for families that have the financial capacity to cover it as a way to create some revenue streams to try and offset our reliance on grants and donations.

Accomplishments: Our summer camp program created positive return for us in our second year of operations, so we’re pretty happy to see that it was worth the input going into it. When you take the summer camp program capacity into account as well we can now serve over 100 youth a year – in a community of our size that’s pretty positive to see those impacts.

We’ve also been around long enough now that we’re starting to see past participants come back as volunteers. It’s great to see them aging out and being passionate and still being engaged with the organization to come back and help us out – not only as a way for them to keep accessing the sport, but as a way to inspire kids in our community to keep at it. We’re also starting to see little brothers and sisters come through of families who have previously been through our programs. It lets us know the families really appreciate the opportunities available to them.

Next Steps: We’re looking to become 20% self-sustaining on social enterprise or fee for service based models. We’re hoping to get our summer camp program and our bus rental program running more consistently and really creating positive return to the organization. We’re also looking to add one or two programs over the next 3 years.

What You Need Help With: We’re currently looking for somebody new to come in and join our board of directors with a bit of a marketing background so they can help us structure that side of our operations more cleanly and help raise awareness among participants, donors, and volunteers.

We’re also looking for customers who see the value in renting our bus versus a bus from somewhere else. We would like to add some weeks onto our summer camp program and maybe expand those dates. If we can fill this Summer’s camps up, it allows us to more confidently look at expansion in the future.

Lastly, we’re looking to find local businesses that would be interested in being a presenting sponsor for each of our four programs as a way to get more relationships within the local community and ease our reliance on our granting.

Website: www.elevationoutdoors.ca

To learn more about the programs at Elevation Outdoors or if you’re interested in renting their bus, connect with Mike Greer.

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