11 Unique Ways to Volunteer in the Outdoors
When it comes to protecting the outdoors, there are many ways to volunteer your time and effort. For all the time you spend exploring your favorite places, there are even more ways to give back. It’s important to support non-profits in the outdoors. They not only help make nature more accessible than ever before, but they also work hard to protect what’s most important to us.
There are many ways to donate your time (or money) to the outdoors. Both bring tremendous impact, even in the smallest gestures. Here’s a look at several ways to volunteer in the outdoors, including a few of our favorite organizations that we at Outdoor Prolink support.
How to Find Ways to Volunteer in the Outdoors
In today’s world of social media and websites, it’s really easy to find ways to get involved with volunteering in the outdoors. First, decide what organization you would like to support. Choose something that reflects your values. Some people volunteer on a national level, and others help out locally. The choice is yours and there is no wrong answer. The point is to find an organization you’re psyched on and get involved in whatever way speaks to you.
Being a volunteer in the outdoors means a lot of different things. You can go through a rigorous training program and become an involved member in outdoor youth groups, or you can simply volunteer for a trail clean-up day. Volunteering your time in the outdoors directly gives back to local, grassroots organizations.
One great way to give back is to spend the day cleaning local trails, waterways, or even parks. There are countless organizations that do these kinds of projects, or you can organize your own. Just be sure to check with local land-regulating bodies and follow any permitting requirements.
They say the best gift is to teach. What better way to promote land stewardship than by educating others. It can be as simple as volunteering with your neighboring gear shop to hosting a free class on a particular skill you may have. Using your volunteer time to educate people about the outdoors goes a long way towards empowering others to take responsibility for the places we love too.
Build and Maintain
Help out with local trail and park networks to help build and maintain trails or infrastructure for outdoor recreational areas. This is a great way to volunteer for those who love to break a sweat. Simply search for trail and ‘park maintenance volunteers’ and see what pops up. This is hard, yet rewarding work.
Use Your Skills
Do you have a special talent or trade? Perhaps you’re a lawyer, creative, or tech-savvy. Volunteer your skills towards a cause you’re passionate about. Sure, the boots-on-the-ground work is sexy, but there are teams of countless volunteers working behind the scenes to make things happen.
One of our partner organizations at Outdoor Prolink, Protect Our Winters (POW) uses the power of creatives, athletes, scientists and more to create non-partisan policies that promote carbon neutrality and healthy environmental practices to curb climate change. Without the help of dedicated volunteers, there wouldn’t be such an impactful organization.
If you’re new to the volunteer scene, learn about local organizations by attending various events. Events are a great way to show up and show support for various initiatives. They also provide a great opportunity to connect directly with different outdoor organizations, furthering your outdoor volunteering opportunities.
Our partner, The Conservation Alliance, holds events throughout the year to advocate for the protection of our wild spaces. Their work emphasizes policy and advocacy. Without their events, they couldn’t get the funds, signatures, or awareness they need to enact change at both local and national levels.
What If I Can’t Volunteer?
Our time sometimes is more valuable than our money. A lot of us bounce around, work insanely long schedules, or simply don’t live close to volunteer opportunities. That’s okay. Remember, there’s no wrong way to volunteer in the outdoors. There are a lot of other ways to get involved. Let’s dive into a few ways you can make an impact without being at a physical location.
Become a Member
Memberships offer a great way to show your support for a particular organization. Membership fees help outdoor organizations do good work. The best part? You’ll be the first to know about any volunteer opportunities should you have time in the future. Not to mention, memberships often come with a few fun perks, such as literature about current initiatives, gear discounts, and other goodies.
Another Outdoor non-profit partner, American Whitewater, offers memberships that support the protection and restoration of America’s waterways. Your membership is important for local and national river stewardship. You also get connected to local whitewater enthusiasts who share your passion for America’s greatest asset – the water.
Give and Support
Simply donating money to an outdoor organization is always appreciated. Without funding, there is no organization. Your donations help keep organizations afloat and continue to support their missions.
That’s why at Outdoor Prolink we offer the chance to give to our many partner organizations every time you make a purchase. One of our newest partners is Pride Pads, which works on supplying under-served communities in Africa with menstruation education and eco-friendly products. Small amounts matter just as much as bigger donations, so don’t ever think your dollar doesn’t count!
Everyone has a voice with their vote. Flex your influence by voting for outdoor causes you care about. Look up with local politicians are doing to help protect your favorite spaces, and show your support by voting. The same goes for voting on legislation. Often times, local elections have a huge impact, so don’t forget to participate in the smaller election cycles too!
As outdoor professionals, a lot of us probably have tons of excess gear lying around. Round up that outdoor gear and find a place to donate! Organizations that focus on getting under-served communities outdoors are always looking for outdoor gear. Simply give them a call and ask what’s on their wish list. Have an extra backpacking bag lying around? Donate it. Do those old climbing shoes still have good soles? Find a youth climbing organization that needs footwear. There are many ways to give back to the outdoors, so donate your gear to organizations in need.
Learn and Share
Lastly, don’t forget to learn and share things with your community. Find a cool new organization that’s trying to raise money to send kids into the outdoors? Share it on your Instagram stories. See that someone has a cool fundraiser for local park improvements? Give a shout on your Facebook page. Be open to learning about new initiatives and sharing what you care about.
Volunteering in the outdoors isn’t just about getting outside, it’s about finding creative ways to get involved with your favorite outdoor place in a new and rewarding way. You don’t have to drop everything and commit your life to volunteer, there are many easy ways to get involved with conservation and accessibility in the outdoors. So think outside the box with these awesome ways to volunteer for the outdoors.
About the Gear Tester
Meg Atteberry is a full-time freelance writer and outdoor enthusiast. Her mission is to empower others to get outside and have an adventure. She loves a sunny crag and delicious trail snacks. When she’s not wordsmithing you can find her hiking, climbing, and mountaineering all over the world with her fiancé and adventure pup, Nina. To learn more about Meg, check out her blog Fox in the Forest. She’d rather be dirty than done up.