We’re nearing the time of the year when many of us begin making our plans for charitable giving. If you’re planning to participate in #GivingTuesday or other planned giving activities this time of year, you may be wondering about the best ways to donate to the national parks through a charitable contribution.
Today we’re assembling a list of the most popular charitable organizations that contribute directly to the National Park Service, to a particular national park unit, or to conservation efforts that help protect our most treasured places.
While we’re not connected with any of these organizations (and don’t receive anything in return if you make a contribution) we do hope you’ll join us by considering them in your plans to give this year.
Why Donate to the National Parks?
More than likely if you’re interested in the national parks, you already know about the tremendous shortages in funding the parks are experiencing right now. The giant backlog of maintenance and construction projects continues to pinch budgets around the NPS. Making a financial contribution to one of the organizations below can help support the completion of these projects and ease the pressure felt on these budgets.
Other reasons to donate to the national parks:
- Give back to a resource that has provided priceless memories to you and your family.
- The parks only exist because hundreds of people throughout American history have donated their land, time, and talents to the NPS. You can be a part of a legacy of giving.
- Donations can be used to protect plants, animals and pristine habitats for future generations.
- You’re joining a group of thousands of other national park supporters. We’re a passionate group with a common love of the parks!
- 9 Gifts for a National Park Lover
- Ways to Volunteer in the National Parks
- The Ultimate National Park Bucket List
Ways to Donate to the National Parks
Below are 3 different ways you might consider making a donation to the national parks this year:
Donate directly to the NPS
The National Park Service is able to accept financial contributions directly to the Department of the Interior or designated directly to a particular national park unit. If you have a particular program or park activity that you enjoyed during a visit to a national park, giving directly to the NPS with a designation is the best way to make sure your funds are used for exactly what you intend them to be used for. You can also make a donation for ‘general use’ which allows the NPS to determine the highest needs areas. To make a gift to the NPS, contact the Office of Partnerships and Philanthropic Stewardship.
The National Park Foundation
One of the first organizations we supported as #parkchasers emerged was the National Park Foundation. The National Park Foundation is the official philanthropic partner of the National Park Service. Chartered by Congress in 1967, it has a long history of supporting the growth and protection of the national parks. Their current mission and goals include the #findyourpark initiative to expose more children and families to the national parks, as well as intensive focus on the priority initiatives of the national parks. The National Park Foundation has received four-star and platinum ratings from CharityNavigator and Guidestar, two organizations responsible for auditing the financial stewardship of charitable organizations.
The National Park Conservation Association
Along with the National Park Foundation, we have been long-time sustaining supporters of the National Park Conservation Association (NPCA). One of the largest non-profit organizations supporting the national parks, for more than 100 years the NPCA has focused efforts on conservation and political efforts to protect and defend the parks. Whereas the National Park Foundation is directly affiliated with the NPS and follows the direction of the current NPS administration, the NPCA may have different projects outside of what the National Park Foundation is able to support. Many of their efforts focus on issues that encroach on the land and resources within and immediately surrounding the parks. Check out what they worked on
Rather than supporting a large, national organization if you have a specific national park unit you would like to make a gift to, we recommend finding the park’s “Friends” organization. There are more than 200 organizations that partner with the National Park Service through cooperative associations. Organizations like Glacier National Park Conservancy and the Channel Islands Park Foundation support specific national park units. Others like the Appalachian Trail Conservancy or the American Battlefield Trust support a variety of different units within the National Park Service.
The benefit of choosing one of these organizations is that you’re working directly with local volunteers and board members who are on the ground and aware of the immediate needs of each park. These organizations pride themselves on completing the projects that have the biggest impact and the best outcomes for the park you want to support. The National Park Service maintains a directory of each of the “friends” organizations. Search to find the website and contact information for the park you wish to support.