Impact Giving | Why Does the Mountaineers Need Donations?

With an operating revenue budget of $9.79M, The Mountaineers is unmatched in helping people explore, conserve, and learn about our natural world in the Pacific Northwest and beyond. Charitable donations enhance our mission in ways we cannot do with earned revenue alone.
The Mountaineers The Mountaineers
February 01, 2022

Over 116 years, The Mountaineers has undergone many changes. In 2011, we made the transformational decision to become a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, thereby allowing tax-deductible contributions in support of our mission. This strategic shift better aligned us with the founding spirit of The Mountaineers and cast a broader vision for our role in the community. Today, we field questions from old friends and new members alike: Isn’t The Mountaineers just a club for outdoor enthusiasts? Why does it need donations? Members pay membership dues, course fees, buy books, or volunteer… isn’t that enough? 

You’ve got questions about donations, and we’ve got answers. 

Why does The Mountaineers have a $9.79M budget?

With a membership of over 15,000, it’s inspiring to think of the many ways The Mountaineers enriches our community. Outdoor education courses, lodge stays, trips to explore lands or waters, year-round youth and family programming, and unique lectures and events… these are just some of the ways that members and volunteers engage with our organization and the outdoors. Mountaineers Books expands even more on that impact, reaching millions of homes across the world. 

We are a community built around passion for the outdoors and exist to enrich the community by helping people explore, conserve, learn about, and enjoy the lands and waters of the Pacific Northwest and beyond.

Big impacts come with big responsibility. For our 2022 fiscal year (Oct 2021 - Sept 2022), The Mountaineers Board of Directors approved an operating revenue budget of $9.79M and operating expenses of $9.62M to ensure our organization has the resources it needs to thrive. 

Our budgeted spending includes everything from hot chocolate for youth participating in a Mountain Workshop to the complex IT infrastructure that hosts our courses, calendars, and communications. Dedicated staff develop youth programming, support volunteer leaders and members, coordinate our advocacy efforts, and more. And roughly half of our budget goes to producing, publishing, and distributing books by, for, and about outdoor adventurers and conservationists. 

Earned revenue funds most of our budget, but donations take our mission impact to the next level. Philanthropic support helps our community go beyond fun and exploration. Donations are an investment in equitable access, stewardship, education, community, advocacy, and conservation. 

A chart showing FY21 actual revenue ($1.3M philanthropic and $7.6M earned) and FY22 budgeted revenue ($1.6M philanthropic and $8.2M earned)

What is earned revenue?

Earned revenue comes from the sales of goods and services. Examples at The Mountaineers include book sales, course fees, membership dues, facility rentals, lodge stays, ticket sales, and youth club dues. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, all of our revenue - earned or donated - goes back into the community to directly fund our mission-critical initiatives.

Earned revenue covers 84% of our board-approved operating budget, and funds things like:

  • 50% of youth programs
  • 84% of volunteer support and recognition
  • 90% of administration and professional staff support
  • 95% of Mountaineers Books production, distribution, and operations
  • 100% of our member services team
  • 100% of website and IT expenses
  • 100% of program centers and facilities
  • 100% of Global Adventures

As a mission-driven nonprofit organization, our earned revenue is both a strength and an opportunity. Revenue-generating programs provide a strong foundation to grow our impact through philanthropy.

Why do we spend more than what we receive from earned revenue?

Our mission isn’t to sell things or to make money - it’s to enrich our community by cultivating connections with the outdoors and protecting the wild places we love. Some of our programs naturally generate revenue, like when people pay for lodge stays or buy books. And some don’t. 

We provide world-class outdoor training, books, and experiences, and we are trusted in the industry and the region. We’re highly-regarded for our work educating and engaging people to be advocates for public lands. So when our mission compels us to do more, we’re already most of the way there! 

“The work that The Mountaineers does to protect those mountains, and most importantly, teach people the skills they need to make those mountains accessible, is a powerful combination that we feel strongly about supporting in any way we can.”

-Ed & Amelie, 20-year members

What does The Mountaineers do with donations?

Donations (also referred to as charitable contributions or philanthropic support) are gifts made freely without anything received in exchange. Examples include: financial gifts from individuals, bequests, grants, corporate sponsorships, gifts of goods and services, and employer matching of donations and volunteer hours. 

Philanthropy currently covers 16% of our operating budget and funds things like:

  • 5% of Mountaineers Books production, distribution, and operations
  • 16% of volunteer support and recognition
  • 50% of youth programs
  • 75% of conservation and advocacy efforts
  • 100% of volunteer leadership development
  • 100% youth and adult scholarships

Donations do what can’t be done with earned revenue alone. They move the needle on conservation, advocacy, and outdoor access. Donations also fund innovative volunteer leadership development, youth programs, publishing, outdoor facility improvements, and more. 

How do donations support conservation and advocacy?

The Mountaineers community is united by our fierce love for the places we explore and our strong desire to protect them.

Our conservation and advocacy efforts span from boots-on-the-ground restoration work, to stewardship education, to shaping legislation that preserves threatened landscapes. Our carbon footprint reduction efforts show the important role of the recreation community in the fight against climate change.

Mountaineers donors support the communication tools, infrastructure, and staff leadership that make community mobilization possible.

How do donations support access?

Adventurers from all backgrounds come to The Mountaineers looking for a connection with the natural world. Everyone deserves the opportunity to learn, explore, enjoy, and help protect our lands and waters. And yet, many people have been excluded due to barriers like finances, transportation, education, and even the culture at large.

To help address financial and educational barriers, we award 140 scholarships annually to help youth and adults participate in courses, clinics, and camps. Donations also help us stock and staff our gear library to increase access to technical or seasonal gear for individuals and families.

Mountain Workshops serve youth who experience significant barriers to outdoor access and may not otherwise be able to access adventure programming. 

The Mountaineers Equity and Inclusion Committee works towards a vision where everyone feels belonging in our community. They identify barriers and create long-term, organization-wide plans to ensure equitable access to our courses and programs.

How do donations support volunteer recognition and leadership development?

Volunteers drive nearly everything we do. Without their initiative and support, our education programming simply would not exist. Recognizing and investing in volunteer leaders is integral to our mission.

Donations provide advanced skills training through programs like Alpine Ambassadors and Mountain Education Alliance, as well as scholarships for relevant professional growth. Charitable gifts fuel our Leadership Development Series, which trains volunteers in equity & inclusion, risk management, group facilitation, instruction, organizational skills, conservation, and advocacy.

When we invest in volunteers, they feel appreciated and enhance our programs. Well-trained volunteers stay longer, add course capacity, provide better instruction, and inspire more people to engage with the natural world.

How do donations support Mountaineers Books?

Donations allow us to capture the history and stories of adventurers, backyard explorers, and naturalists that would otherwise go unpublished. They document hard-earned best practices and techniques for even the most niche outdoor communities. They help us to deliver books directly to K-12 classrooms, Search & Rescue teams, and community libraries. 

Donations champion emerging authors. They enable us to create our books in an environmentally sustainable way. And they help leverage the impact of Braided River, our conservation imprint, to engage readers and activists around some of the most pressing threats to our natural world.

Learn more.

I already support The Mountaineers as a member or reader. Why would I also donate?

The Mountaineers mirrors an outdoor community built on “giving back” and “paying it forward.” Those who came before us developed the trails, tools, techniques, and stories that shape and inspire our connection with nature. And we’ll do so for the generations that come after us.

Overwhelmingly, those who access our books or adventure programs aren’t only interested in their own experience, they want to share that experience more broadly. They want others to enjoy and steward our trails, forests, parks, and waterways. They want their friends and neighbors to be inspired by stories and nourished by the natural world. They want future generations to enjoy the richness of a healthy environment. That is why so many members and customers also choose to donate.

Sales, dues, and fees are a sustaining force for much of our programming and help us deliver excellent books, courses, outdoor experiences, and events. But unrestricted donations give us the flexibility to respond to new opportunities and fuel the most important, and often unfunded, aspects of our mission.

When you donate to The Mountaineers, you help our community go beyond fun and exploration. Your donation is an investment in equitable access, stewardship, education, community, advocacy, and conservation. 

“I believe it is important to give back to The Mountaineers because young members represent our future. Our natural environment needs the love and care of the next generations, and it is because of our ongoing support that they will give it. Only if young folks love the natural world will they want to explore and protect it.”

-Joan, 71-year member

I already support The Mountaineers as a volunteer. Why would I also donate?

None of this good work would be possible without volunteers, who donate over 200,000 hours in service every year! Their gifts of time help us to deliver on our mission and get people outside. 

Many of our most-committed volunteers also partner as donors because they see firsthand the impact of The Mountaineers. They are on the front lines of training and engaging new explorers and advocates. As both volunteers and donors, they multiply their efforts and create an even greater impact.

Additionally, donations fund some of our most innovative leadership development opportunities. Those who can afford to chip in with donations are investing in their co-leaders and teammates.

Learn more

Thank you for being part of The Mountaineers community. In fiscal year 2022, we hope to raise $1.6M in donations to support our most mission-critical programs. The Impact Giving blog series helps people like you understand how you can make a difference. 

Learn more about how your giving makes an impact:


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. 

Photo by Brendan Moore-Penaskovic.