Be Snow and Summer Smart

Organization Information:

Organization Name:
North America Outdoor Institute
City & State:
Organization Website:
Organization's Mission Statement

Our mission is to provide engaging outdoor safety and environmental awareness education for young people, outdoor enthusiasts and those seeking advanced knowledge or careers in the outdoor industry and search and rescue fields in an effort to reduce preventable outdoor accidents.

Submission Information

Impact Essay

Every year thousands of children and adults lose their lives in preventable outdoor accidents that range from avalanches to ATV crashes to drowning. Research shows many of these tragedies could have been prevented or minimized if the victim had been more aware of the potential dangers and learned a few simple skills.

In 2004 the North America Outdoor Institute launched the Be Snow Smart program in Alaska where avalanches kill more people per capita than any other state. We set out to educate the general public by teaching practical life saving skills for traveling and recreating outdoors and in the mountains. Since that time Alaska has seen a 30% drop in avalanche deaths.

When we started we had a few concerned citizens, a professional mountain guide and one $1,500 grant. We had to do a lot with almost nothing.

At the start of 2007 we had a database of less than 500 members and were spending huge amounts of time trying to create dynamic curriculum materials and manage and track the most basic information. Then in June we learned about Tech Soup and joined immediately.

Thanks to a donation of Microsoft Office 2007 by Microsoft Technologies, we have been able to create exciting, multimedia Powerpoint presentations, establish a powerful database with Access, track grant expenses in Excel and generate critical reports and letters with Microsoft Word. Using One Note we have been able to organize and manage large projects with ease. We have produced curriculum packages, brochures, safety cards and flyers with Publisher and now communicate with donors, sponsors and members in a seamless and simple manner on a daily basis with Outlook.

All of this has helped free up our time to focus on our mission: teaching practical outdoor safety and environmental awareness skills that save lives and our planet.

Since 2007 we have successfully expanded our reach of education programs to more than 20,000 individuals’ directly and more than one-million people indirectly through a media campaign that delivers safety education messages.

With the help of technology we are now able to partner with dozens of resource agencies across the nation that enhance what we do in Alaska, making us all more effective.

Today, with a database of more than 10,000, the work flow has become almost effortless and we are building our capacity to reach more than 250,000 individuals nationwide directly this year with our interactive programs and information.

Joe Rucker, a young college student in Alaska that attended an NAOI program, said the visual aids developed with the Microsoft Office software used in our training presentations made a huge impact on him.

“Seeing examples through graphics and pictures of places you should not travel was very enlightening for me,” said Rucker. “After watching the Be Snow Smart Powerpoint presentation I’ve learned to look at the mountains and travel in a whole new way. I feel lucky my friends and I never had an accident before because we were making a lot of mistakes just because we didn’t know. I learned a lot by seeing this and now as a high-school teacher, I’m able to share this information with hundreds of students.”

At NAOI we do not have large endowments, donations or big grants. We are not listed in a government budget with secure income. We struggle from one grant, one donation and one dollar to the next because we believe in doing all we can to save lives from the senseless tragedy of preventable outdoor accidents by sharing free information.

Thank you Tech Soup and Microsoft for helping small non-profits like ours, where every dollar counts, make a BIG difference.

Submission Category
Transformations to Maximize Impact