Leaders We Admire: Torrey Udall
Director of Development and Operations, Protect Our Winters, Boulder, Colorado
Founded in 2007, Protect Our Winters helps to turn outdoor enthusiasts into advocates for solutions to climate change. Torrey Udall joined the organization in 2016 and shares how his small team can produce outsized results.
Foundation: What is Protect Our Winters?
Udall: Quite simply, our mission is to turn passion into purpose—that is, turn passionate outdoors people into effective and purposeful climate advocates. Our theory of change is that the environmental movement’s base has done incredible work, but it hasn’t been enough. Roughly 26 million people participate in snow sports each year and 100+ million participate in outdoor recreation throughout the year. We are a vehicle for bringing a fraction of those outdoor enthusiasts into the environmental movement. We focus on a policy agenda that includes carbon pricing and renewables and defense of public lands and electric vehicles—we look through those lenses to states with outdoor communities that, if we can mobilize at the margins, we can bring those solutions to fruition.
Foundation: How does Protect Our Winters manage to make such a big impact?
Udall: We’re able to have a disproportionate amount of impact because we’re fortunate to have over 150 athletes and CEOs who volunteer their time, their reach, and their platforms to us. For example, the athlete ambassadors who support us have a collective reach of 10 million across social media. So, we’re small in-house by design, allowing us to punch above our weight.
Foundation: What are your responsibilities?
Udall: There are only about a dozen of us, so everyone wears a lot of hats. On the development side, I work closely with our executive director on all aspects of fundraising—from corporate partnerships and foundation grants to major individual donors and events. We also have merchandise that we sell for donations. On the operations side, I again work closely with our executive director on our budgeting, financial reporting, legal, planning, and day-to-day operations.
Foundation: How does Grand Circle Foundation contribute to your organization?
Udall: Grand Circle Foundation and the Lewis Family Foundation have been really incredible for us. Their support early on—it’s hard to explain how important it was. They have and will continue to support our movement building, especially in terms of grassroots volunteer training, which we’re focusing on now, and the training of athlete ambassadors and CEOs, helping us build a base in a way that’s really positioned to help us take action when we need it to.
Foundation: What is your vision for the future of Protect Our Winters?
Udall: Ahead of the 2016 election, we were on a track to be doing what I was describing on the international level and helping the international community meet the targets of the Paris accord. We have ten international chapters that are operating autonomously because we haven’t been able to invest in them in the way we want to. Coming out of the 2016 election, we knew we had to focus domestically, on U.S. policy opportunities. Coming out of 2020, we’d really like to get back on a path to focus on Paris targets globally, and that includes a lot of strategic planning and network building across those ten chapters.
Foundation: What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?
Udall: Living our mission. One thing Mario [Molino, executive director] brought on to the organization immediately is what we call Nature Rx days. Instead of using a “sick day,” Protect Our Winters employees can use their allotment of 12 days to go spend outside. It creates a culture of living and breathing the experience that we’re trying to protect.
Tell us a little about yourself. Which do you prefer?
Chocolate or vanilla?
Chocolate, no doubt!
Reading a book or seeing a movie?
Going for a hike or sitting by a fire?
Going for a hike
Talking or listening?
Dogs or cats?
Being interviewed or having a tooth pulled?