Opening the Outdoors

The San Diego Foundation Opening the Outdoors program connects, protects and increases access to nature across the county, especially for San Diegans in underserved and park-poor communities.

In 2010, The San Diego Foundation commissioned the Parks for Everyone report to better understand green access in the San Diego region. The report found that while 45 percent of San Diego County’s total land area is green space, many low-income, ethnically diverse communities have limited access to parks and open spaces. There was also a strong correlation between communities with high rates of childhood obesity and low park access.

The Opening the Outdoors program was established in response to these findings and our region’s need to connect, protect and increase access to nature across the county, especially for San Diegans in underserved and park-poor communities.

See 2017 Grantees

2018 Grant Cycle

The San Diego Foundation is inviting Letters of Interest (LOI) from nonprofit organizations working to protect and connect outdoor spaces and improve outdoor access, especially for our most park-poor and underserved communities. Specifically, nonprofits may apply for $25,000 to $75,000 for projects/programs that contribute to one or more of the goals listed below:

  • Create and sustain access to natural amenities in communities where access to green space is limited, as defined in resources such as the Parks for Everyone report or Parks for All Californians.
  • Build community support for timely public policies or funding measures that will significantly expand protection, connection or access to wildlands and green space.
  • Connect and protect nature through conservation/restoration/acquisition of open space.


Across three grant cycles from 2015 to 2017, The San Diego Foundation has worked with a diverse set of donors to award approximately $1.3 million through 33 grants for projects involving more than 50 organizations working throughout San Diego County. Organizations have led inspiring projects protecting wild places, creating new natural amenities such as parks and trails, revitalizing canyons and vacant lots and engaging youth with otherwise limited opportunities to enjoy nature-based education and recreation.

Yet we know that while much has been accomplished, solutions to the challenges presented in the Parks for Everyone report are both long-term and multi-faceted. Through our Opening the Outdoors program in 2018, The San Diego Foundation will continue its commitment to invest in community solutions that protect, connect and increase access to nature for today’s communities and future generations.

IMPORTANT: This year, the Opening the Outdoors program will prioritize applications that:

  1. Demonstrate they are developing long-lasting solutions to overcome underlying barriers preventing high-need, low-income, and/or park-poor populations from accessing the outdoors, with particular focus on the communities of El Cajon, Escondido, Lemon Grove, National City and neighborhoods within the City of San Diego with limited access to green space. AND/OR
  2. Building the capacity of their organization(s) to deliver more effective or efficient solutions to protect, connect and increase access to the outdoors.


LOIs are due by March 9 at noon, after which selected nonprofits will be invited to submit a full proposal by April 16. For full application instructions, please refer to the Grant Guidelines. For questions regarding the application or grants program generally, please contact Everett Au at or Nicola Hedge at

LOI Application Deadline: Friday, March 9 at 12:00pm (noon).

Grant Guidelines

Apply Today

Webinar & Office Hours

We will host a webinar for interested applicants Tuesday, February 27 from 10:00am – 11:00am. We will hold office hours by appointment from 3:00pm – 5:00pm February 15 and 22, and March 1 and 8.

Register for the Webinar

Contact Everett Au at to sign up for office hours.

Our Impact:

  • 24,000+ accessed the outdoors to experience nature through our program partners
  • 22,000+ volunteers engaged in community outreach, advocacy and environment-based education programs
  • 45,000+ acres of critical natural habitats and green space was acquired (equivalent in size to six Balboa Parks)
  • 6,300+ residents helped revitalize green space and reduce exposure to toxic pollutants
  • $165+ million secured in private and public funding for land acquisition and stewardship

We are partnering with San Diego Grantmakers, the Satterberg Foundation and other donors at The San Diego Foundation to support efforts to:

  • Increase community-driven efforts to enhance trails, signage, and natural amenities in neighborhoods where resources are deficient (provisions that increase access to resources including hiking/biking/horse trails, picnic areas, gathering places, etc.);
  • Encourage kids from park-poor communities to engage with the natural environment through physical or educational activities;
  • Connect and protect nature through conservation/restoration/acquisition of key lands or building community support for relevant public policies or funding; and
  • Engage residents in revitalizing natural areas in their communities and diverse volunteers in community outreach, advocacy, and environment-based education programs.

Support Opening the Outdoors

Contact Our Community Impact Team

  • Or call us at (619) 235-2300 to speak to a team member right away.

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