We’ve finally made it to 2022! The pandemic finally passed and the world is opening up…oh wait…that is how it was supposed to work, but alas, it hasn’t come to pass. The dog days of the pandemic have turned into a groundhog day of repeated cycles – a light at the end of the tunnel and a soft whisper of optimism begin to emerge, only to be shut down by the next variant or negative plot twist in this story that we’ll all remember for the rest of our lives.
We’re all tired. But, like everyone else in the world, we are holding out to the hope that this year, at long last, will be one that allows us to return to some semblance of normalcy. Perhaps (perhaps!) it will finally come to pass.
As each year passes, it is always helpful to step back and reflect on the previous year. The highs and lows are all tempered with time and a dose of perspective. At the Untours Foundation, 2021 certainly brought challenges, but it also produced some amazing results that we can’t help but celebrate. In no particular order, here are our key highlights of 2021.
Co-Leadership model takes shape – OK, this one started at the very end of 2020, but it’s worth mentioning here – Elizabeth Killough, our longstanding foundation leader, finally got some help to carry the leadership burden. Jonathan joined the team as Co-CEO in November of 2020, but he really began to shift into high gear in helping Elizabeth as 2021 kicked off.
2021 was a banner year for fundraising – We all know that Untours travel has been hit hard by the pandemic (as has the entire travel industry). This means that the foundation needed to step up its fundraising efforts in order to continue growing the impact of our work. The good news: it happened! Thanks to our generous donors, we raised more money than expected, allowing us to shore up our finances and set the foundation up for long-term growth in scale and impact. We want to help more and more entrepreneurs to change the world, so this is a key part of the process!
Hal’s Giving Club was launched – Our beloved former leader passed away five years ago and we were so proud to launch this program to honor his legacy by securing the long-term finances of the Untours Foundation. Members of this club provide monthly donations that help to provide consistent funds to cover our operations. They also get some fun perks along the way! To be totally honest, we didn’t have quite the response we had hoped for in 2021, but the base is now set and we are confident that 2022 will see a growing number of members to this club.
An amazing group of 11 investees joined our family – We were able to support these 11 world-changing businesses with loans or equity investments. From a community and earth-enhancing ecolodge on the Pacific Coast of Mexico to a tea company sourcing from women-led farms in the Himalayas to a hub for diverse entrepreneurs in downtown Baltimore, we found and supported some trailblazing entrepreneurs building inspiring businesses that are truly changing lives for the better around the world. As we work to grow our fund to $12 million (yes, that’s an audacious goal, but we can do it!), we will be able to support even more entrepreneurs in future years.
The Reset Tourism Fund was launched – Untours Foundation was born out of a travel company, but we have never intentionally supported travel companies with our investments. Now, given the upheaval in the travel industry, we feel that the time is right to build out a specific focus on companies that are using travel and tourism to transform communities and save the planet. This fund is just getting going and fundraising efforts are underway, so more to come on this in 2022!
Our Mission Aligned Investing advisory work has taken shape – Because of the unique background of our foundation – being set up from the beginning to use 100% of our endowment to invest in companies that advance our mission – we are leaders in this growing movement amongst foundations. We can take the lessons we have learned with our relatively small pool of capital and help foundations with much larger endowments (like, much, much larger) to move some of that money out of traditional stocks and bonds and into companies that are changing the world. This program has the potential to help move hundreds of millions of dollars into the impact space and we’re just getting started!
We look to 2022 with great optimism for our health and planet, but also for the strength of the Untours Foundation and the impact we can make. Thank you for your support, and look for more exciting news and updates from us.