So, the very first step to figuring out how to volunteer on the road is figuring out where to look! Not all volunteer jobs are what I’d call RV friendly. For example many of the places I used to volunteer while in a “fixed” home (e.g. animal shelters) require training & longer-term commitments which are hard to do when you’re constantly moving around. Thankfully RV volunteering has developed quite a bit in recent years so that are many options out there…if you know where to find them.
Now I should point out that I DO make a distinction between volunteering and workamping, although you’ll sometimes hear the terms intermixed. In general workampers are RVers who work for $$ whereas volunteers are giving their time for free. There can be similarities (e.g some volunteer jobs do offer campsite benefits and many of the questions you’d ask up-front are the same for either job), but for the purpose of this series I’m going to focus on pure volunteering. Generally speaking volunteer jobs are shorter hours (not always true, but often the case), are not paid any $$ and may or may not provide any campsite benefits.
With that definition in place there are actually a TON of places to look and more jobs than you’ll ever imagine. Just to give you an example here is a list of RV-friendly volunteer jobs available at Bullards Beach State Park (just this ONE campground):
- Campground Host (“also called “Greeting Hosts”) – these folks monitor the campground, sell firewood, check the bathrooms, raise and lower flags, rake fire pits, stock brochures and other camp duties.
- Yurt Host – these folks monitor and clean the yurts.
- Lighthouse Host – What we do.
- Relief Lighthouse Host – The folks that take over for us on our days off. They have other campground-assigned duties on other days.
- Maintenance Host – These hosts help with maintenance and grounds.
- Snowy Plover Host – These hosts help with preserving summer nesting for the Snowy Plover. Most of their on-duty time is spent at the nesting sites.
- Program Host - these folks run the PM programs and Jr Ranger Programs.
And that’s just here!! There are sooooooo many options out there I couldn’t possibly list them all, so I’ll just give a sprinkling of ideas of places to look:
1/ State Volunteer Programs
Every state runs volunteer programs that offer a wide range of opportunities from campground hosting to educational, historical or wildlife. Oregon’s Program is very well-organized (and comes wheelingit recommended :)), but you can find openings anywhere across the US. Just pick your state and off you go!
2/ Public Lands Volunteering
All the public lands offer volunteer positions. The Bureau of Land Management offer campground hosting, minerals/geology, natural resources and much, much more. The National Park Program has a volunteer service, as does Corp Of Engineers. If you’re unsure of which agency to go to, the volunteer.gov website has connections to most of them and is a nice, centralized place to start looking.
3/ Volunteering With Animals
There are a few animal-related spots which welcome short-term volunteers. If you’re an animal lover Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in UT is a fabulous sanctuary which offers super-RV-friendy flexible volunteer hours and is simply a “must do”. The Wild Horse Animal Sanctuary in SD offers short-term volunteering spots as does Desert Haven Animal Refuge in NM and Safe Harbor Farm in NC. Finally the US Fish and Wildlife service also offers a wealth of volunteer positions in fish hatcheries and wildlife refuges across the country.
4/ Volunteering For Disasters and People
The American Red Cross actively uses volunteers for disaster support. DOVE is a superb Escapees Organization that helps link RVers with Red Cross operations across the country. If you’re interested in building homes, RV Care-A-Vanners is an excellent RV organization that works with Habitat For Humanity (sign up early for builds since these are popular!). Several faith-based organizations also work cross-country including NOMADs, SOWER and RVICS.
5/ Archeological Digs & Historical Preservation
Passport In Time is a sub-division of the USDA Forest Service that links volunteers with various archeological and historical opportunities across-country. A totally unique program that’s very RV friendly too.
Many of these volunteer programs require NO prior experience and are open to either couples or single folk (we have one single gal volunteering here at Bullards Beach right now). If you’re interested in reading stories from RVers who’ve done this check out some of these stories on workamper, or read other bloggers such as Birding RVers (experienced lighthouse hosts) and Our Odyssey (long-time Red Cross volunteers). I’m sure there are no end of links, bloggers & ideas I’ve managed to miss so feel free to add a comment below too!
P.S. Last of the series coming up -> How to apply for and secure your dream job (including questions you should ask up-front before you commit)….oh, I can barely wait
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