Donating to National Parks: How to Give Back and Save on Your Next Trip
It’s exciting to travel to faraway places to see new sights and different cultures. But don’t forget, the US has some of the most amazing and popular parks in the world.
The issue is, they need your help. Many of these parks were severely impacted by the recent government shutdown. The shutdown left our public lands unsupervised because National Park Service employees were furloughed during that time. As a result, there were incidences of damaged property and stolen artifacts, and reports of overflows of human waste and garbage.
The parks suffered without anyone there to maintain these precious spaces. But by visiting a National Park, you can give back and support these beautiful areas of the US.
Our guide explains how you can save on your next National Parks vacation, along with additional information on other ways to support the parks.
Donating to National Parks
Giving directly to the National Park Foundation is the most straightforward way to donate to our National Parks. According to NationalParks.org:
The National Park Foundation is accredited by Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance, meeting all 20 standards for charity accountability. This indicates the organization’s commitment to fair and honest solicitation practices, adequate oversight, transparency and financial effectiveness.
Just remember, it’s wise to use a credit card that earns travel rewards or cash back to make such a donation. Not only will the National Park Foundation benefit from the gift, but you’ll earn something for making the donation as well. It’s a win-win!
Below are a number of other ways (outside of a direct cash donation) to make a gift to the National Park Foundation.
Memorial or Special Occasion Gifts
Making a donation to the National Parks is a great way to honor the memory of someone or to celebrate a special occasion.
Have a family member who loves to hike? Donate to the National Park Foundation in their name! Have a friend whose passion is conservation and keeping public lands accessible? Give a gift to the National Park Foundation to celebrate their birthday!
Giving to the National Park Foundation through estate planning is something many people might not consider, but it’s a great way to pledge support the parks in the future.
Through estate planning, you can, for example, give a gift to the National Park Foundation through a life insurance or retirement plan, through your will or trust, or in other ways.
If you’re interested in contributing in this way, it’s important to contact the appropriate professionals (tax consultant, lawyer, etc.) and to discuss the planned gift directly with the National Park Foundation.
Donating securities (like stocks) is another great way to support the National Park Foundation. When you donate stock, the National Park Foundations sells and puts the proceeds right to use. The value of the stock is established (per the IRS) by calculating the mean average price on the date ownership is transferred.
If you decide to donate/transfer securities, it’s important to notify the National Park Foundation in advance so that they can properly credit you for your gift. And you should also be sure to discuss any plans for stock or securities donations with your financial advisor.
IRA or Retirement Accounts
If you’re 70 and 1/2 years of age or older, you can donate directly from your IRA to the National Park Foundation without having to pay income taxes on your gift.
If you need help setting up these types of contributions you can contact the National Park Foundation directly. As always, it’s wise to consult with a tax professional or investment advisor when making any sizable donations.
Many employers offer matching gift programs where they’ll match charitable contributions made or volunteer hours served by their employees. Sometimes these programs will double, or even triple, charitable contributions made by employees. So it’s worth asking your employer if they offer such a thing.
If the company you work for offers matching gifts, you can fill out your company’s form and mail or fax it to:
National Park Foundation
1110 Vermont Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20005
The process is made even easier for Federal Employees through the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) – the largest workplace giving campaign in the nation. Through this program, federal employees can support nonprofit organizations through either a one-time gift or a payroll deduction. To support the National Park Foundation through CFC, us CFC #11252 on your pledge card during the next fund drive.
You can read more about the Combined Federal Campaign on the U.S. Office of Personnel Management CFC website.
AmazonSmile is a website run by Amazon that offers the same products and prices as the regular Amazon site. But when you shop through AmazonSmile, the AmazonSmile Foundation will donate 0.5% of the purchase price of eligible products to the charitable organization of your choice. In this case, you could choose the National Park Foundation.
While 0.5% doesn’t seem like much, every bit counts. And people tend to spend more than they realize on Amazon purchases! Plus, this method takes little effort aside from selecting the charity you wish to donate to.
How to Save on Your National Park Adventure
Whether you want to relax and take in the stunning scenery, or be adventurous and head out horseback riding, hiking, or rock climbing, there are endless things to see and do in our National Parks. And saving money along the way can help make your trip that much more enjoyable!
Here are tips for saving on your next vacation to a National Park.
Off-peak Travel Dates
One of the easiest ways to save on a national parks vacation is to schedule your trip during off-peak travel times. For many of the parks, this means avoiding the summer months.
This might not be the easiest thing to do for families working within the constraints of school and work schedules, but this strategy could work for others. In fact, traveling to national parks during the off-season will not only save you money, but you’ll likely battle smaller crowds. And that will make your trip even more enjoyable!
The main issue you’ll face when planning a trip to a national park in the off-season is the weather. Depending on which park you’re visiting and the time of year, you could face more severe weather, like snow and rain. So it’s something to be aware of!