Impact Giving | Small Gifts Add Up to Big Change

This year we’re celebrating the 10-year anniversary of becoming a 501(c)3, and giving thanks to the thousands of donors from all over the world who demonstrate to us every day how small gifts can add up to big change.
The Mountaineers The Mountaineers
February 01, 2021

A decade ago, The Mountaineers undertook a radical endeavor: to become a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. This year, we’re celebrating the 10-year anniversary of this important accomplishment and giving thanks to the thousands of donors from all over the world who demonstrate to us every day how small gifts can add up to big change.  

Launching a fundraising program within a membership-based organization took leadership, patience, and creativity. We see a lot of similarities in today’s funding structure, but with a little more pomp and circumstance. In the very beginning, Mountaineers members pooled their financial resources together to fund major projects like the launch of Mountaineering: The Freedom of The Hills, upgrades and renovations to our teaching and gathering places, and helped to source gear and cover membership dues for those who couldn’t afford it. The culture of paying it forward is still alive today, though we now utilize industry-leading fundraising tools like the annual gala, seasonal appeals, and the website to support members who want to make a gift. 

Last month we shared Philanthropy’s Year In Review and highlighted how charitable contributions help us to expand the depth and breadth of our mission delivery, but did you know that out of the 4,118 gifts received in fiscal year 2020, 93% of those gifts were $100 or below? The cumulative impact of those gifts provided nearly $100,000 in philanthropic support last year alone! We really mean it when we say, “a gift of any size will make a difference!”

More than half of these smaller gifts are made through our Mountaineers website, often when members are registering for courses and seminars or shopping for a favorite Mountaineers Books title. We also see a strong tradition of members making donations in honor of a volunteer instructor who made a difference in their lives, to show appreciation for a fellow leader, or to commemorate  a loved one.

These small gestures represent big love, and we are thrilled when we receive notes from donors like these:

“This small donation is in appreciation for all that The Mountaineers does to promote love and respect for the outdoors and our natural resources.”

“I am donating now in hopes that every little bit will help The Mountaineers stay afloat during this difficult time. My membership has given me so much in the 2 years since I moved to WA, including knowledge, skills, experience, and a great social community. I hope to be able to donate more in the coming months, if I am able.”

“Thank you for taking care of your workers during COVID-19! And thank you for helping me quell my hiker antsy-ness with these books!”

“This place means too much to a lot of us.”

Another big way small donations add up is through tiered ticketing and donations made through virtual events. After the first wave of in-person events and courses were cancelled or postponed for  COVID-19 safety measures, many volunteer leaders adapted to deliver Mountaineers content through virtual events, courses, and seminars. Though we’d much prefer to meet in person, virtual gatherings have become an essential part of keeping in touch and feeling connected while staying safe. Many annual traditions have gone online, including our popular BeWild event series, MountainFilm, and Banff Mountain Film Festival. We also saw new volunteer-led offerings emerge, too, like our Backpacker’s Pajama Parties and online workshops. We’ve been humbled to see many virtual event participants add a donation to the cost of their registration: 

“Thank you for continuing the great effort. Loving the Beta & Brews series during this lockdown. Thanks!”

Thank you for the Armchair Global Adventures in the Dolomites and the Backpacking on the Olympic Peninsula beaches. Both were really great!

Thanks for the virtual Beta & Brew, Global Adventures, and especially the Pajama Parties this spring. They inspire me to keep my dreams alive.

Thank you Mountaineers for keeping me connected to the mountains while I stay home to keep WA healthy. Thanks!

We are so thankful for the many ways Mountaineers supporters choose to pay it forward, whether through giving a small donation, recommending one of our 650 book titles, or volunteering their expertise to share the love of the natural world with our broader community. Our favorite quote of the year came from Meredith, a member who hails from Alaska.  Her small gesture inspired at least 10 others to donate during our 2020 State of the Organization meeting: 

“Having all the feels tonight about how much I love I have for The Mountaineers and how much [they] have enriched my life. I wish I could go on a climb with every one of you right now, and give you all a hug. I just watched the State-of-the-Organization presentation tonight, and while The Mountaineers will endure, I want it to thrive. It gave me most of what I cherish. There were over 200 people on the call tonight, and if each person gave $100 we would raise $20,000, instantly. So I just made a $100 donation because that is what I can afford this week… This organization is much more than one specific outdoor activity. It’s a community of people who love getting out into the outdoors, love our public lands, and love one another.”

The Mountaineers would like to extend a special appreciation to the thousands of members, volunteers, and books supporters from all over the world who empower us to pursue ambitious outcomes in outdoor education, conservation, and advocacy. If you’d like to learn more about how The Mountaineers is navigating the COVID-19 crisis related to these outcomes, we hope you’ll join us for our 2021 State of The Organization taking place as a virtual gathering on February 25. 

Stay Involved

For more ways to stay involved, please check out our upcoming events and virtual resources:


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.

Lead Image by Cheryl Talbert. 


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