Over 1.8 million nonprofits and charities for donors, volunteers and funders

2012 Top-Rated Nonprofit

National Outdoor Leadership School

1,899 pageviews

Claim This Nonprofit

More Info

Add to Favorites

Share this Nonprofit


Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Environment, Environmental Education

Mission: To be the leading source and teacher of wilderness skills and leadership that serve people and the environment.

Results: With courses ranging from 10 days to a full academic year, we attract highly motivated students who want to learn how to lead. NOLS graduates have everything needed to lead others in the backcountry, as well as the leadership ability to excel at work or in the classroom. We expect a great deal of our students. NOLS courses are demanding, because we believe people thrive when challenged. Our hands-on, learn-by-doing approach means our graduates get the skills they need to be competent, responsible wilderness travelers long after their course.

Target demographics: NOLS serves students from age 14 to over 70.

Geographic areas served: NOLS graduates are from all 50 states and 42 countries.

Programs: We believe positive, ethical leaders change the world. Based on this belief, NOLS has, over the last 46 years, become the leader in wilderness education. Founded in 1965 by legendary mountaineer Paul Petzoldt, NOLS takes students of all ages on remote wilderness expeditions and teaches them technical outdoor skills, leadership, and environmental ethics. What NOLS teaches cannot be learned in a traditional classroom or on a city street. It takes practice to learn outdoor skills and time to develop leadership. The backcountry provides the ideal setting for this unique, experiential education—NOLS classrooms are some of the world’s wildest and most awe-inspiring locations. We believe living in untouched places like our classrooms will teach students responsibility for all that surrounds us.

Community Stories

5 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters



Rating: 5

We hear the term "life changing" as a descriptor of a NOLS experience so often it is almost routine- a cliche. Such was my NOLS course in 1970. Though I could not have dreamed it those many years ago, an even more important life changing experience for me would be my daughter's similar experience in 2006. And so it continues. My last NOLS course: about 90 days ago- August 2012. In 1970 I thought NOLS was an expedition for a month- or a summer. I now know it is an expedition of a lifetime.


Rating: 5

NOLS is unlike anything else. My experience with this program has helped me define the kind of person I want to be. While my experience only lasted three short months, I think about the relationships I built and the memories we all shared every day. The experiences I had through this program are unlike anything else, but somehow I find myself applying the things I learned in my daily life. NOLS taught me how to be a leader. It taught me how to make the most out of life and how to live in the present. I have been changed through this program and I could not be more grateful.


Rating: 4

NOLS offers a positive, life changing experience. What are you waiting for?


Rating: 5

I helpled begin the relationship between NOLS and the US Naval Academy and have been working with them, and occassionally for them ever since. It has been a great character and leadership development tool not only for the many students I have worked with, but also for me. The staff is full of idealistic and fully engaged people who live what they believe. I'm a better person for having become involved with NOLS and the people I know there. Bob


Rating: 5

A wonderful school with committed teachers and administration. NOLS is a family tradition for me. I look forward to continuing this tradition as my family grows.