CEO Update: 2023 Fiscal Year End Recap

On October 25, 2023, we held our Annual Meeting to recognize organization-wide volunteer awardees, share highlights from the past year, and look ahead to upcoming priorities for 2024. Learn about our accomplishments and what we’re looking forward to in the year ahead of adventuring with purpose!
Tom Vogl Tom Vogl
CEO, The Mountaineers
November 18, 2023
CEO Update: 2023 Fiscal Year End Recap
Snowy Lakes. Photo by Tom Vogl.

One of my favorite things about my role at The Mountaineers is working with and recognizing our volunteers and supporters. This was the primary theme at the 2023 Annual Meeting, an event hosted to reflect on what we accomplished together during our fiscal year (Oct-Sep). We are celebrating a terrific year and highlighting exciting priorities in the year ahead, all made possible by the generosity, skill, and dedication of our community. Read on to meet our award recipients, check out our 2023 highlights, get a look at how we’re implementing our strategic plan, and/or watch a recording of the Annual Meeting.

As you may recall from previous years, our Annual Meetings took place in September. Following a bylaws update in 2022, our Annual Meeting was moved to October in order to align with our October to September fiscal calendar. 

We began the evening by congratulating our new and re-elected board directors:

  • Dave Foong, Director-at-large
  • Maya Magarati, Director-at-large
  • Mike Riley, Olympia Branch Director
  • Mark Walters, Director-at-large
  • Vanessa Wheeler, Director-at-large
  • Robert White, Director-at-large

It’s an honor to serve the organization alongside a terrific group of leaders, and I very much appreciate their commitment to our mission and community. 

Organization-Wide Honorees

One of the highlights of the 2023 Annual Meeting was recognizing our organization-wide award recipients. This includes our annual Mountaineers Service Award, Leader of the Year, and the Leadership in Youth Education Award, as well as a special acknowledgment of this year’s Legend Award. 

We have so many glowing things to say about each of these recipients, so I encourage you to watch the recording to get a fuller picture of their many contributions. 

Service Award - Donna Kreuger

This year’s Mountaineers Service Award winner was Donna Kreuger. A Mountaineers member since 2013, Donna has held numerous leadership roles across the Olympia Branch and is currently serving as the Chair for the Olympia Hiking and Backpacking Committee.  Her leadership has been instrumental in fostering a welcoming environment for new members, providing essential training, and facilitating a nurtured introduction to hiking and backpacking adventures.

Leader of the Year - Richard DuBois

This year’s Mountaineers Leader of the Year Award went to Richard DuBois. In the last decade with The Mountaineers, Richard has led 389 trips and has volunteered over 2,900 hours - with nearly 1,050 of those hours in the last year. Richard has been a Key Leader and Super Volunteer since 2015. In 2023, Richard led or co-led over 85 trips and impacted more than 205 unique Mountaineers. As an exemplary hike leader, he truly embodies his motto: “Hike the hike you want to hike.” On every trip, he creates a welcoming and emotionally safe environment. Richard goes to great lengths to ensure that all participants feel at ease with their abilities, allowing them to fully enjoy every aspect of the hiking experience.

Martinique Grigg Leadership in Youth Education Award - CeCe Venzon

This year’s Martinique Grigg Leadership in Youth Education Award was bestowed upon CeCe Venzon. CeCe has been a regular volunteer with youth programs since 2015. She helps foster a safe space for youth of all ability levels by supporting students at the crag and beyond. Cece has led and/or instructed the Seattle Branch’s Introduction to Rock Climbing Course since 2017, which is a gateway for many new members to the outdoors and a lifetime of climbing. She's a 2022 and 2023 Super Volunteer, contributing nearly 500 volunteer hours in the past two years. When she's not teaching or climbing, CeCe is raising funds to maintain and build our climbing access trails through the Washington Climber’s Coalition. Our PNW community collectively owes CeCe a debt of gratitude. 

Mountaineers Legend Award - Don Heck

The last award we recognized at the Annual Meeting was The Mountaineers Legend Award, bestowed on Don Heck. The Mountaineers Legend Award recognizes individuals who have advanced our mission in exceptional and countless ways over the course of many years. Don is only the third recipient of the Legend Award. His leadership and service have been nothing less than profound as a steadfast volunteer for more than four decades. Over his 44 years of dedicated service, Don has consistently demonstrated exceptional leadership. In acknowledgment of Don's commitment to advance our mission, he was recognized with The Mountaineers Service Award not once but twice, in 2000 and 2015. Don is not just a member of The Mountaineers; he is an embodiment of our core values. We are deeply grateful for Don and honored to recognize him as the recipient of The Mountaineers Legend Award in 2023.

The individuals I recognized represent a tiny fraction of the inspiring and generous leaders across The Mountaineers who are committed to our purpose and community. I am deeply grateful to the many individuals who authentically support our mission.

2023 Highlights

Our community member's efforts delivered outstanding impacts and results in 2023. Here are some of the top highlights:

Community & Belonging

  • Membership is now nearly 16,000 strong, having rebounded from a pandemic low of 13,500.
  • More than 3,000 people volunteered with The Mountaineers in the last year. We're known for our volunteer-led programs, and our volunteer leaders do a phenomenal job sharing their expertise and passion for the outdoors.
  • We continue working to lower barriers and make the outdoors accessible to historically excluded communities through programs such as Mountain Workshops, Gear Library, and Scholarships.
  • Our donors continue to support the mission and impact of The Mountaineers in unprecedented ways. We have twice as many Peak Society members as we did in 2018, and we’ve added 41 new Summit Society members in the last four years. 

Leadership & Volunteerism

  • Together, Mountaineers gave over 165,000 hours of time to teaching, leading, and stewardship in the last year. 
  • We offered 186 courses, including 1,192 field trips, as well as 345 seminars and clinics. 
  • We offered 2,897 trips, covering 221,000 miles and climbing 49,000,000 feet. 

Youth  Experiences

  • The Mountaineers offered 922 youth activities, including our year-round clubs, day camps, and partner programs, delivering more than 15K youth experiences.
  • We offered 159 workshops to 33 partner organizations, serving 1,292 unique participants and providing 3,164 partnered, youth experiences.

Mountaineers Books

  • Our publishing division continues to be one of the most highly regarded nonprofit, independent publishers in the outdoor category.
  • In 2023, we published 24 new titles. Sales continue to have excellent momentum and haven’t slowed down since the pandemic. All-in-all, we had 525,838 books sold in FY2023, a total sales of $4,927,140 which was an increase over last year.
  • We continue to elevate stories and voices that would otherwise not be highlighted, earning The Mountaineers accolades from readers and critics alike. 

Conservation & Advocacy

  • We participate in leading important efforts to protect the natural world with a particular focus on recreation and conservation. 
  • Our Conservation & Advocacy Director, Betsy Robblee, was appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture to serve on the Federal Advisory Committee, working on revisions to the Northwest Forest Plan. This is critically important work. We are proud that Betsy was selected to represent the outdoor recreation community and The Mountaineers on this effort. 
  • We are making excellent progress on reducing our carbon footprint. Our Tacoma Program Center is on the verge of becoming a Net Zero facility. We received a $90K grant from the Washington State Department of Commerce to combine our solar power generation system with battery backup. This enables us to further reduce our carbon footprint, and also serve as a community resource during power outages, e.g. following a natural disaster or power outage. 

Adventure with Purpose: Our Strategic Plan

Before opening up the Annual Meeting for a Q&A, we provided an update on our strategic plan: Adventure with Purpose. Staff leaders shared accomplishments from the past year as well as top priorities for 2024 under our three, strategic priorities: Lead Innovation in Outdoor Education, Engage a Vibrant Community of Outdoor Enthusiasts, and Advocate on Behalf of the Natural World. 

strategic framework.png

This plan is an evolution from our previous strategic plan, Vision 2022. We've sharpened the edges in terms of  how we're articulating our priorities and implementing the plan in the years to come. We're excited that the three, strategic areas - Lead, Engage, Advocate - all have individual goals and yet each priority has significant overlap with the others. Ultimately, we are all about adventuring with purpose. 


Our vision outcome for Lead is that "anyone inspired to learn outdoor skills has that opportunity with The Mountaineers". To support this vision, we're growing and launching investments in multiple areas.

For years, we've been offering staff and volunteer trainings as part of our Leadership Development Series. Last year we launched our Equity & Inclusion Leader Toolkit followed by a new eLearning course, Emotional Safety in the Outdoors. Volunteers are the life-blood of our organization. We will continue to offer these courses and leadership opportunities to support our community of leaders.

As we look ahead, we know that certain courses are having complex, capacity challenges - we have more interested students than we have course spots and we're digging deeper into why. The Mountaineers is committed to understanding the different issues, so we can create tools to support our community. These challenges will be addressed through the Advocate priority, with particular evaluation of permits, technology, volunteer availability, and current course structures. 

I'm excited about the recent, planned investments in our outdoor centers. We're focusing on projects to improve guest experiences, like updating our bathrooms at Stevens Lodge and adding a new teaching room at Baker Lodge. We're also focused on investments to assure the longevity of our lodges as a home for thriving, mountain communities.

We've made significant investments in our website, which is the hub for our members and volunteers. Kind of like when you need to upgrade plumbing in your house, most of these changes aren't something you will see. However, these invisible upgrades in infrastructure have improved speed and performance, which directly serves out entire community. 


The vision for our Engage strategic priority is centered on fostering a Mountaineers where all people can find inspiration and belonging.  We strive to do this through our work in equity & inclusion, publishing, youth programs, and many other priorities mentioned in the Lead section. This work is driven by our efforts to deepen our culture of giving.

For decades, our publishing division has been at the forefront of amplifying voices traditionally excluded from the outdoor experience. For the last seven years, we’ve been focusing on doing the same through our magazine, blogs, and social media. Oftentimes referred to as representational justice, we believe it’s important to actively change the narrative of who belongs in the outdoors. This has been critical in our Equity & Inclusion work - known internally as E&I - and will continue to be a foundational priority moving forward. 

In 2019, we began an exciting partnership as a fiscal sponsor supporting Climbers of Color (CoC). This partnership has aided CoC's mission to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in the climbing and mountaineering community by developing leaders of color. They have changed—and continue to change—the face of climbing while simultaneously impacting the feel of the climbing community for the better. Thanks to CoC’s leadership, climbers are using inclusive language and are valuing a supportive and welcoming environment. They are true friends of The Mountaineers and continue to teach us how to foster an environment where all people feel like they belong. 

Looking forward, we are integrating E&I into our strategic plan, and will be focusing on the key priorities outlined here. Specifically, we’re hoping for broader adoption and use of our E&I Toolkit and Emotional Safety course. We’re also looking ahead to our upcoming member survey to better understand how things have shifted in the last two years.  Our work to create a Mountaineers where all people feel belonging is ever growing and evolving. We’re eager to take our learnings and apply them to future work.

We're thrilled about the ways our youth programs are introducing more people to the outdoors. This year, we piloted our week-long residential camps at Stevens and Baker Lodges, and we launched youth and family hiking & backpacking seminars. We're continuing to offer break camps, year-round clubs, and partner programs to get more kids outside. In the coming year, we will expand residential camps and offer more scholarships for our youth programs. 

To support these investments, we continue to deepen our organizational culture of philanthropy. This does not mean we expect members to donate, but rather that we want to offer a range of opportunities to give back should they be inspired to do so. 

We recently launched the new Ridgeline Membership, an elevated giving and recognition circle. We've already welcomed 100 members into this group, and also continue to see growth within Peak Society and Summit Society. In the years ahead, we will continue educating our community about the many things we do that are made possible through the generous support of our donors.


This priority strengthens our capacity to protect our planet and the outdoor experience for future generations. To do this, we have three, overarching goals within our Advocate strategic priority.

I will first highlight a new investment that both deepens our partnerships to advance innovating solutions for sustainable recreation access and supports our L2 (second goal in Lead) to invest in teaching spaces for our programs. Mountaineers courses and youth programs are a core part of delivering on our mission. However, as demand for these programs has grown, permit and access challenges cause us to hold steady or reduce capacity. In order to deliver on our mission, we need additional access to relevant, outdoor terrain. As an initial investment, we've funded an additional staff position to address the complexities related to permitting, public land planning, and policy work on sustainable land access.

With the help of  our passionate and dedicated volunteers of the carbon footprint reduction committee, we've made great progress in minimizing our organization's impact on the  environment and working towards a net zero organization. Our lodges are increasingly, environmentally friendly. They are also more comfortable for guests with the addition of high efficiency, electric heat pumps at both the Stevens and Meany Lodges.

We're dedicated to making the Tacoma Program Center (TPC) a Net Zero facility. We've completed phases one and two of this project, which replaced the lighting with energy efficient LEDs, as well as the gas fired furnaces and hot water heater with heat pumps. We're now on the cusp of completing phase three which will make the TPC a Net Zero facility and help us provide an emergency preparedness hub for the Tacoma Community. 

Last but not least, our conservation team is working to enable our community to be effective advocates for the natural world through a new Advocacy 101 eLearning course. We hope to have it live by the end of the year. 

Watch the recording

For members of our community who weren’t able to join us for the Annual Meeting, we invite you to watch a recording of the presenters. We’re on firm ground. With the support and commitment of our community, we are excited to tackle the challenges and opportunities of the year ahead.

Add a comment

Log in to add comments.