National Outdoor Leadership School

Lander, WY, 159 Employees

Playing the Field: Nonprofit Organizations

STATUS REPORT: In the first nine months of 2008, 35 percent of nonprofits experienced decreased giving. Then the stock-market plunge depleted foundation coffers by some 30 percent. The result: 100,000 nonprofits could perish, according to Paul Light, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. But there's a flip side: Nonprofits had been outpacing the business sector—assets of public charities grew 48.5 percent between 2001 and 2006—and are expected to do so again in a rebound.
OUTLOOK: Organizations specializing in energy, the environment, and health care are expected to grow fastest when the economy recovers. Meanwhile, the shift to social entrepreneurship—launching profitable projects that support nonprofit missions—has many organizations looking beyond classic fundraising formulas. "What's really been increasing are business ventures," says Karen Beavor, CEO and president of Opportunity Knocks and the Georgia Center for Nonprofits. "Nonprofits are looking for new sources of capital."
BREAKING IN: The movement toward a business model means new opportunities for those with for-profit sales, marketing, and management skills. One must-have trait: commitment. "Focus on a particular issue and you'll be a strong candidate," says Russ Finkelstein, associate director of, which connects organizations, volunteers, and employees. Yearlong service programs offering moderate wages but invaluable experience (e.g., AmeriCorps) are an increasingly popular entry track. Also check out

MOUNTAIN READY: Employees in the eco-friendly Lander headquarters have the spectacular Wind River Range as their after-work playground, and NOLS offers the flex-time options (four ten-hour days) to enjoy it. Many staffers arrive early and leave early to take advantage of the local skiing, climbing, and biking. Vacation time is generous (23 days for new employees), and "Beer Fridays" are frequent.


NOLS, a nonprofit school, takes people of all ages on real wilderness expeditions, develops leadership, and teaches outdoor skills and environmental ethics. NOLS graduates are active, positive leaders with an environmental ethic and outdoor skills that last a lifetime. NOLS instructional skill areas include: wilderness medicine, mountaineering, sea kayaking, canoeing, rafting, kayaking, backpacking, skiing, rock climbing, sailing, and many more.

Our facilities have workout rooms with weights, rowing machines, treadmills, bikes, Stairmasters, or a climbing wall or a swimming pool. All of our facilities have locker/shower rooms. Employees can eat in our dining rooms for a nominal fee. In addition, we provide coffee, tea, and hot chocolate at no cost all day long. Department celebrations are rampant, and hardly a day goes by without birthday cake or some other snacks available. Beer Friday is a common event.

Our employees are very active in the community: They volunteer with the ambulance, fire department, and SAR, and they coach sports and volunteer in the school system. They are involved in local service groups such as Kiwanis and Rotary; serve boards such as AEE, Wilderness Risk Management, Yellowstone Business Partnership, etc. We do not have a formalized volunteer program. We allow our staff flexibility to balance their workload and volunteer time.

We recycle at all facilities, and half of our locations have composting systems in place and produce soil additives for on-site organic gardens that feed our staff and students. As an educational institution, we don't manufacture a product. We have completed a schoolwide sustainability audit that informs our sustainability initiative, setting aggressive goals for reducing our environmental footprint. The initiative includes a climate protection goal to reduce carbon emissions annually. It also sets goals for working with product manufacturers in an effort to encourage them to develop more sustainable supply chains. Headquarters is a green building with numerous environmental design features including: building orientation that maximizes natural lighting; sun shades, insulation, tinted glass, and a rooftop garden to help minimize heat loss and gain; storm drainage that's returned to irrigation canals; carpet, ceiling tiles, and tables made from recycled materials; flooring made from recycled tires; few private offices to reduce square footage.

We offer children-friendly scheduling, i.e. time off to volunteer in the child's class, attend parent-teacher conferences, attend school events, or take a family member to an appointment. Children are welcome in the workplace. Many staff can work from home if necessary. We offer course discounts up to 75 percent for family members, including extended-family members such as nieces and nephews, parents, and others to take a NOLS course or WMI of NOLS course. We offer flexible work hours for most employees so they can balance their work-life needs. Staff can use NOLS equipment at no charge—backpacks, stoves, sleeping bags, skis, fishing gear, etc. Most of our locations provide easy access to backcountry areas. Staff get 50 percent off their lift ticket at one of the major ski areas in Wyoming.

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