A warrior for conservation: Ginna Kelly on what it takes to start a nonprofit

We’re featuring Ginna Kelly for our #WarriorCrushWednesday series because she is truly using her passions and talents to change the world. Ginna is an Attorney, Non-Profit Leader, and Mountaineer. She is also the Founder and President of the non-profit Climb for Conservation, Inc. which scales mountains around the world in the name of wildlife conservation. Ginna is an accomplished mountaineer having summited some of the tallest peaks including Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa (3 times), Aconcagua in Argentina, Chimborazo in Ecuador, and treks to Mt. Everest Base Camp and the Inca Trail. We sat down with Ginna to get inspired and find out what it takes to really make a difference.

What is the mission of your nonprofit?

Climb for Conservation, Inc. is a 501c3 tax exempt non-profit public charity. The mission is to “climb mountains around the world for a conservation cause.”  C4C climbs to raise awareness and funds for critically endangered species and wildlife conservation. To date, the organization has donated over $75,000 to local wildlife conservation projects and had 100+ climbers join their teams to the summits of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Mt. Everest Base Camp in Nepal, the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu Peru, the Colorado Rockies, and many more!  

How does it work?

Anyone who loves the outdoors  is welcome to join our teams! Participants pay for their own trip and travel costs and then commit to fundraising for the cause. We have an all-female staff of volunteers who tirelessly dedicate their time. Most of our trips are co-ed, but some are all female adventures that inspire women to achieve their dreams and follow their passions.  

Why did you start C4C?

I started C4C by pursuing my two passions of hiking & climbing mountains and also saving animals and wildlife! Conservation is about the ethics of using resources wisely. According to recent studies, unless we take action now, one-half of all species on Earth will be extinct by 2100! While natural extinction of species takes place continuously throughout history, it has also been estimated that the current extinction rates are around 1,000 times higher than the normal rate. We climb to put a spotlight on this issue and make a real difference.

What was the biggest challenge to starting Climb for Conservation?

The biggest challenge for starting C4C was taking a creative idea and putting in the hard work to build a successful nonprofit from start to finish. I took a leap of faith, followed my heart, and brought my idea into action. Not to mention that getting certified as a nonprofit is a very demanding & lengthy process, and setting up the corporation takes time. So, to summarize, it took a really long time to get everything set up properly. But I think the lesson here is not to think your idea will happen overnight, so be sure to give it time to come to life.

How is your nonprofit impacting the communities and organizations it supports?

We support local conservation projects near the mountains we climb. For example, when we climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, we visit the Mkomazi Rhino Sanctuary which is working to save some of the last remaining critically endangered Black rhinos of Africa. We have donated close to $40,000 to build fences and support rangers who guard these prehistoric animals that are being brutally slaughtered for their horns.

What’s next for Climb for Conservation? What are your goals for the organization?

This summer we are climbing one of the famous “7 Summits” – Mt. Elbrus – the tallest mountain in Russia! This expedition will take 10 days and reach over 18,000 feet high with technical mountaineering including ice axes and crampons on steep slopes. In the Fall, we have a team hiking in the Pantanal of Brazil to visit jaguars and raise awareness and funds to support Panthera. In 2019, we will be going back to summit Mt. Kilimanjaro for the fifth time!

What did you learn about yourself through starting and running a nonprofit?

I’ve learned that you can achieve anything you set your mind too!  I’ve also learned how to handle any task that I’m confronted with – whether that’s updating the website, managing volunteers, building partnerships with international conservation projects, and even climbing a mountain.

What advice do you have for people who want to follow their own dreams but can’t seem to get started?

Life is short. Follow your passion and you can change the world!

Stay inspired by following our #WarriorCrushWednesday series on the blog and on Facebook and Instagram.

Calling all Warriors! Doing great work and want to be featured? Know someone who deserves a shout out? Send us an email to info@healthwarrior.com. 

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