Nonprofit Spotlight: Honnold Foundation


Alex Honnold free climbing Photo by Jimmy Chin

“There’s no real point in being well known, unless it actually does something useful for the world.”

          -Alex Honnold, founder of the Honnold Foundation

You may know Alex Honnold from Free Solo or even as “that insane guy who climbed El Capitan without ropes.” But, Alex sees his notoriety as an opportunity to make change. Alex Honnold’s role as a philanthropist is equally as impressive as his daring rock climbing accomplishments. Before his famous ascent in Yosemite, Alex was living out of his van, climbing everything he could—oh, and giving back over 30% of his income to philanthropy. In 2012, Alex founded the Honnold Foundation, an organization dedicated to promoting solar energy initiatives to create sustainable communities and a more equitable world. 

The Honnold Foundation primarily acts as a grant-maker, funding small nonprofit organizations all over the world that might not otherwise be able to find funding. Like its founder, the organization has a pretty high tolerance for risk.


Child smiling while using a solar light to read“We tend to find projects that are a little bit more out there—a little bit more innovative and super community-based. Our dream projects are ones that shift the needle on what's possible for energy access in marginalized communities,” says Executive Director, Dory Trimble. 

photo by Patrick Bentley

With the environmental crisis and inequity distinctly intertwined, the Honnold Foundation prioritizes communities that are particularly susceptible to the effects of climate change. The mission is to fund solar power initiatives—not only as a clean and sustainable energy source—but to ensure climate resiliency and self sufficiency in these vulnerable communities. 

The Honnold Foundation joined  1% for the Planet in 2015 as a nonprofit partner, allowing business and individual members to fight alongside Alex Honnold for a more sustainable and equitable future. Although not everyone can give back 30% of their annual income, Alex believes that everyone has the ability (and responsibility) to do something useful for the world. So in 2019, Alex became a 1% for the Planet individual member—to give a voice to our movement and encourage others to join in, too.


Climber free climbing rock arch Photo by Jimmy Chin

The free soloist aims to prove that the solution to even the most daunting and complex problems—starts with one small action that anyone can take. As a 1% for the Planet member, Alex approaches the climate crisis as he would approach his next big climb:

“The key to successful environmentalism is all about incremental progress. It’s moving forward, setting goals, and working toward them. I became an individual member of 1% for the Planet because I think it’s important to take small concrete steps toward the overall goal of improving the state of our planet.  Anyone should be able to donate 1% of their time or money to support our planet in whatever way we can.”
—Alex Honnold