Impact Giving: How Fundraising Improves Outdoor Access Through Mountain Workshops

Our Mountain Workshops is a wellness-based program that provides youth with outdoor connections and year-round activities. Learn more about how this donor-funded initiative empowers more than 1,500 youth a year through outdoor education.
The Mountaineers The Mountaineers
July 31, 2020

At The Mountaineers, we believe a diverse and inclusive outdoors inspires unity, respect, and passion for the places we love. We also believe that the outdoors is for everyone. As part of our recurring Impact Giving blog series, this month we’re talking about one of our favorite donor-funded outreach efforts: Mountain Workshops. This program increases outdoor access for youth who may not easily have opportunities to enjoy positive experiences in our wild places. 

What are Mountain Workshops? 

The main tenet of Mountain Workshops is partnership. We meet youth where they are by partnering with dozens of local youth-serving agencies to deliver single- or multi-day outdoor experiences. Each outing is designed collaboratively with the partner organization to best meet the needs and interests of their specific group. With the guidance of our partner organizations, and the support of volunteers and staff, we love building activity-focused curricula in nearby parks as well as destination adventures to areas like the North Cascades, Lake Easton, Mount Rainier, and beyond. For many of our participants, these outings provide their first trip to a state or national park.

So far, we've been fortunate to partner with over 40 youth-serving organizations and have provided nearly 10,000 youth participants with transformative outdoor experiences. Last year we organized outings with 1,500 youth and dozens of program partners, including Aki Kurose Middle School, Bailey Gatzert Elementary School, Wa He Lut Indian School, Pierce County Juvenile Court, SheJumps, Young Women Empowered, and more.

We know programs like these are critical because studies have shown improvements in health, mental wellness, creativity, school engagement, and home life for youth who spend more time outside. Through Mountain Workshops, we’ve had the opportunity to positively impact the lives of thousands of young people through a catered series of outdoor activities, including rock climbing, hiking, camping, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and wilderness first aid skills. 

DSC_0116.jpgExit 38 Climbing Mountain Workshops with Interagecy. 

DSC_0123.jpgLake Washington Kayaking Mountain Workshops with Young Women Empowered.

Why Are Mountain Workshops Important? 

Many of our region’s children experience significant obstacles to accessing our wild places. Through the Mountain Workshops program, our team of staff and volunteers build collaborative programs to address barriers that prevent outdoor access, including transportation, gear and clothing, and expertise. 

One of the most inspiring aspects of these workshops is that they are designed to support young people to be courageous and vulnerable alongside a supportive community, as well as provide a space to connect with other youth about the impact of their experience. As youth build relationships and trust among peers and mentors, they are better equipped to integrate the program’s educational lessons into real life. Health and wellness for people and places are more easily understood as youth learn about ten essentials and how to apply them, practice outdoor cooking and discuss nutrition, and learn about Leave No Trace principles and public land stewardship.

RIO05418 (1).jpgDiscovery Park Stewardship Mountain Workshops with Aki Kurose.

B8E5108B-E4D4-4AF3-8A82-6521EBD24DAC_1_201_a.jpegSalmon Safari Mountain Workshops at The Mountaineers Kitsap Forest Theater with Tacoma Girl Scouts.

Another way we cultivate an ongoing relationship with the outdoors is by offering free training to the staff within our partner organizations to equip them with the expertise and skills to venture on hikes and camping trips on their own. We also provide direct access to our Gear Library, free of charge. Thanks to over $200,000 of in-kind donations from outdoor brand partners, our Gear Library has been critical for our ability to provide positive outdoor experiences for Mountain Workshops partners because access to clothing and gear has a direct impact on the comfort, safety, and accessibility of the wilderness for youth. 

Traveling with a bus full of youth to Lake Easton in the pouring rain had me a bit worried about how the day would go. For many of the youth on this trip, it would be their first time on a pair of skis. The cross-country skis and wet-weather gear supplied by the Gear Library was a morale game changer.  This trip could have been cold and miserable for the group, but because we were prepared with the right gear, it was a great way to learn how important it can be to stay dry and have a blast in the process. We were all entertained by how hard it was raining but we were magically still dry. We even enjoyed our lunch on a soggy snowbank while we learned about the ten essentials and had a great time. ”

-- Mountain Workshops Volunteer

DSC_0173.jpgLake Easton Cross Country Ski Mountain Workshops with Young Women Empowered.

How Mountain Workshops Are Funded?

Mountain Workshops are largely supported through grants from nearly a dozen foundation partners. Additionally, many individual donors choose to personally support this youth serving program because they are inspired by its mission to offer outdoor opportunities to as many youth as possible. The total cost of the program varies year to year and depends on how many program partners we serve. Some of the largest expenses of this program are staffing costs to oversee 200+ outings a year, as well as transportation and supplies. We regularly seek new funders to support this work because the number of youth we can serve is directly tied to how much funding we can secure. 

In 2019, donor and foundation support for youth outreach programs made it possible for us to secure a 15-passenger van. Thanks to a sponsorship from Carter Subaru, we have also benefited from a donated lease on a Subaru Outback. These vehicles have been critical in helping us to reduce overall program expenses, which ultimately empower us to serve more youth!

DSC_0023.jpgThe Mountaineers Subaru Outback lovingly referred to as “The Blue Monster” on a Mountain Workshops trip thanks to Carter Subaru.

What the Future Holds

Mountain Workshops strive to build lifelong relationships with the outdoors for our participants and our programming is designed with long-term partnerships in mind. Sustained funding allows us to retain current partners year after year, and new funding from donations and grants enables us to increase the number of partners we can serve annually. The effects of COVID-19 and the long-term consequences may influence our ability to grow the program in the short-term, but we are committed to its sustainability with the partners we currently have. Some partners have been with us since the program's inception in 2010, and many participants have had the opportunity to engage in more than a dozen outdoor activities and experiences.

Like many other nonprofit organizations, the challenges we’ve faced in 2020 have greatly impacted our physical and financial ability to provide a full suite of programming and continued growth within Mountain Workshops. In early March we began to suspend outreach programs for the health and safety of our youth participants, volunteer instructors, and our staff. As we continue to build contingency plans in anticipation of resuming these programs once again, all efforts are going into maintaining our current partnerships and preparing to resume activities as soon as we are able to do so safely. 

If you would like to learn more about our youth outreach programs or feel inspired to make a gift in support of this effort, please contact us at development@mountaineers.org

This edition of Impact Giving is a part of our online series. For more information about how philanthropy makes a difference, check out our previous blogs:

  1. Why is Earned Revenue Not Enough? 
  2. An Insiders Look on Scholarships
  3. How Year End Appeals Support The Mountaineers
  4. Planning your Legacy with The Mountaineers Summit Society
  5. How Fundraising Events Support The Mountaineers
  6. Peak Society Takes Us to New Heights
  7. How Philanthropy Supports Mountaineers Books

The Mountaineers® is a 501(c)(3) organization supported through earned revenue and elevated through charitable contributions, tax ID:27-3009280, 7700 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, WA 98115.

If you are inspired to make a gift, please visit mountaineers.org/donate or call 206-521-6006.

Main Image: MOUNTAIN WORKSHOPS TRIP TO DISCOVERY PARK, PHOTO BY BRI VANDERLINDEN.