Giving Back: Outdoor Organizations Worthy of Supporting

This is the year you’re going to be more involved. That was the resolution, right? Whether it’s political, donating time, money, or resources, why not use your love of the outdoors as a place to start? 

Most of the organizations listed below will accept time, money, or resources, but I’ve sorted them based on their primary means of collecting assistance. This is by no means an exhaustive list, so feel free to use it as a jumping-off point for your own research.

Volunteering with National Organizations

National Park Service


Virtually everyone is familiar with this federal agency for our National Parks. However, you may not be familiar with all the volunteer opportunities they offer. The Park Service offers stints of varying lengths and types, some of which even include housing. Usually you get at least some free NPS swag, plus after 250 hours of service you can get a free annual Parks pass!

Student Conservation Association

screen-shot-2017-04-24-at-3-08-48-pmAsk a park ranger where they got their start, and many of them will mention SCA. This non-profit pairs applicants with volunteer/internship openings in federal, state, and local parks, anywhere from a few weeks to over a year. A few opportunities are age-based, but most are open to anyone.



American Hiking Society

ahsThe American Hiking Society organizes for advocacy, education, and stewardship in relation to hiking and public lands. Of particular note are their “volunteer vacations,” weeklong trail building and maintenance trips on public lands. Their web site also has great resources for finding smaller hiking organizations near you. 



Volunteering with State/Regional Organizations

State/County/City Parks Departments

If you have a public park near you, chances are there are volunteer opportunities available in it. This could mean anything from staffing the phones to helping with school programs to maintaining the disc golf course. Stop by your local park or check the government’s web site (usually under Parks or Environment) to get started.

Hiking Clubs

apcThese clubs help to maintain, advocate for, and spread the word about trails in their jurisdiction. This could mean anything from your local park all the way to hundreds of miles of the AT. These clubs might hold work days or let you adopt a specific section of trail. Some trail clubs have a public online presence, but many smaller ones are more old-school, so if you can’t find yours through Google you may have to scour your local trailhead bulletin board.


Advocacy Organizations

Maybe you don’t have an extensive trail network in your area, but there is probably a natural resource near you that needs protection. Organizations like this are often the ones behind stream clean-ups, fundraisers, and the like. You may be able to find these organizations with some Googling, or by going to a scheduling/registration site like Eventbrite and filtering for volunteer events near you.

Making Financial Donations: 

There are hundreds of organizations that will gladly turn your money into helping protect our parks and natural resources. Here are a few that come to mind. 

atcAppalachian Trail Conservancy

Love the AT, but don’t live close enough to volunteer your time? Donate to the ATC to support the Conservancy’s work, plus get a nice magazine and discounts on AT gear. Many trail volunteer opportunities are available as well as financial donations.


Pacific Crest Trail Association

pctaThe PCTA does for the PCT what the ATC does for the AT. Keep in mind that the PCTA and the ATC run frequent trail volunteer and maintenance days throughout the hiking seasons, and are always looking for volunteers.




EJ’s tagline is “Because the Earth needs a good lawyer,” and that aptly sums up what this group stands for. Earthjustice presents legal challenges when there are threats to natural resources, parks, and human health.


screen-shot-2017-04-24-at-3-13-02-pmNational Park Foundation

The official charity partner of the National Park Service.




npca_logo_350National Parks Conservation Association

NPCA is another advocate for our National Parks. They sponsor events and initiatives, and produce a very informative National Parks magazine.



nrdcNatural Resources Defense Council

NRDC’s aim is to protect the broader environment, not just on public lands and not just in the U.S.



screen-shot-2017-04-24-at-3-14-05-pmSurfrider Foundation

Surfrider focuses on protecting our shorelines. They break their main mission into specific campaigns, so it’s easy to donate to an issue close to you or somewhere you love.


trcp-high-res-logoTheodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership

TRCP represents the interests of sportsmen and women when it comes to conservation. Even if you don’t hunt or fish yourself, you can probably agree it’s important having these users as allies in protecting public lands.


Do you have a favorite outdoor charitable organization? Feel free to share it in the comments!

Feature image courtesy The Potomac Conservancy (one of my favorite local advocacy organizations), used with permission

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Comments 5

  • Laurie Potteiger : Apr 29th

    The Appalachian Trail Conservancy runs several trail crews from May through October. Most of them require hard work but are incredibly rewarding, and you learn some valuable trail construction or maintenance skills (and make great friends) along the way. Quite a few ATC Konnarock, Rocky Top, SWEAT, and mid-Atlantic Trail Crew volunteers have found these stints eventually led to careers in the outdoors.

    • Brian : May 1st

      Thanks, Laurie! Trail maintenance is definitely where it’s at.

  • Tony Barber : May 9th

  • Brian A Lickel : Nov 9th

    Great list, thank you!


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