ways of giving

Credit: Mark Jordan

You give to NOLS because you believe in the school’s mission, but there are benefits for you in charitable giving, too. Read on to see which type of gift best fits your situation. Please contact us if you want more detailed information. In all cases, we urge you to consult your legal and financial advisors.

Gifts Now

Make a gift today to benefit NOLS immediately while providing tax deductions for yourself. Find out the different ways to give by clicking the tabs below.

An outright gift of cash is the simplest and most common way to donate to NOLS. Since NOLS is a nonprofit, you can deduct the entire gift amount from your yearly income taxes, up to 50 percent of your adjusted gross income. Any amount over the limit can be carried over to future years—up to five additional years. Your actual tax savings depend on your income tax rate; the higher your tax rate, the greater the savings. State income taxes can further magnify the savings.

You can make a cash donation to NOLS with a check, through an automatic cash transfer, or with a credit card or PayPal. By donating your gift unrestricted, it allows NOLS the greatest flexibility to address current priorities.

Give Now

NOLS accepts gifts of publicly and privately traded stock.
Find out about more about making stock gifts to NOLS or give us a call at 800-332-4280. We would be happy to provide more information about the tax advantages and the mechanics of the gift itself.

If you contribute closely held stock to NOLS, you receive a current income tax deduction, up to five years to 30 percent of your income. If the donation exceeds your deduction limit, the Internal Revenue Service allows you to carry over the excess for up to five years. Your family corporation can then redeem the shares at fair market value and the family retains 100 percent control of the business.

With a gift of closely held stock, you can:

  • Protect up to one-third of your income from current income tax
  • Transfer assets to heirs with reduced gift and estate taxes
  • Reduce accumulated earnings
  • Make a significant donation to NOLS in support of wilderness and leadership education

While the rules don’t allow the donor to tell NOLS how to manage the gift, it is generally in the school’s best interest to sell closely held stock back to the private corporation because such stock rarely pays dividends. When the corporation redeems the stock, it reduces corporate accumulated earnings and the possibility of a penalty accumulated-earnings tax on amounts over $250,000.

Completing a Gift of Closely Held Stock

The Internal Revenue Service requires an appraisal for gifts of closely held stock exceeding $10,000. Gifts less than that amount may be valued by a qualified independent appraiser or at the per-share cash purchase price of the most recent bona fide transaction involving the same stock.

If you work for one of the thousands of companies with a matching gift program, your employer will match your donation to NOLS—dollar for dollar. Some corporations will even match your donation two or three to one!

Securing the match is easy.

Just follow these steps to make a positive difference in wilderness education:

  1. First, find out if your company matches employee donations. This benefit often applies to spouses and retirees, too. The best place to ask is probably in your human resources department.
  2. Once you determine that a matching gift program exists, get a matching gift form from your employer. Again, the most likely place to find this is in the human resources department.
  3. Fill out the form completely.
  4. Send the form to NOLS according to your employer’s guidelines. Usually the form must accompany your donation.
  5. We’ll take it from there.

In addition to the personal satisfaction that comes with increasing your gift to NOLS, you also receive credit for the entire donation in our annual donor recognition lists.

A tax-wise gift of appreciated property can provide generous support for NOLS and generate significant tax savings for you. Almost any type of real property—a personal residence, a farm, a vacation home, a commercial building or an undeveloped parcel of land—can constitute a gift.

By making a tax-wise gift of appreciated, long-term (more than one year) property, you can save taxes twice:

  • You receive an income tax charitable deduction for the current value of the property.
  • You save by eliminating the payment of capital gains tax on the increased value of the property.

You can deduct the full value of your donation—up to 30 percent of your adjusted gross income. If you cannot use the entire amount in the first year, you can carry over the deduction for up to five years. Please consult your financial advisor for up-to-date information regarding taxes.

Gifts for the Future

There are two main types of planned gifts: bequests and life income gifts.

While a bequest is a gift left in your will, life income gifts allow you to donate to NOLS now, but keep or increase the income from your assets. Learn more about the options by clicking the tabs above.

A charitable bequest is a simple and powerful way to support NOLS. Tax laws favor bequests, providing a 100 percent charitable deduction for gifts made to NOLS through a will or estate plan. Bequests offer considerable flexibility too, allowing you to tailor your gift so that you and your heirs can reap the greatest benefits. The sample language provided here is an easy way to begin building a bequest to NOLS. The provisions in your own will depend upon the type of gift you make as well as your specific circumstances. Please consult your attorney when considering any legal matter.

Bequests: Sample Language

  • Unrestricted Bequest:

An unrestricted bequest is one intended for the general and best use by NOLS at the discretion of the Board of Trustees. Such a bequest might read:

I give to the National Outdoor Leadership School, a nonprofit corporation located in Lander, Wyoming, the sum of $__________ (or _____% of my estate; or the property described herein). The property comprising this gift may be used to further the charitable purposes of NOLS at the discretion of its trustees.

  • Restricted Bequest:

As with any gift, donors can restrict bequests for specific purposes. If you create a restricted bequest, please give the school flexibility to meet unforeseen circumstances. Such a bequest might read:

I give to the National Outdoor Leadership School, a nonprofit corporation located in Lander, Wyoming, the sum of $__________ (or _____% of my estate; or the property described herein) to be used for _______________________ (specify purpose). If, in the opinion of the trustees or their successors, the need for funds for the charitable purpose described above no longer exists at some future date, the trustees or their successors are authorized to use these funds in the best interest of NOLS.


Naming NOLS as a beneficiary of your retirement plan is a tax-smart way to donate. Because retirement contributions are often made with before-tax dollars, those assets are taxable when withdrawn.

If passed to heirs in an estate, retirement assets can be subject both to estate and income taxes, which can diminish their value considerably. However, these same assets can fund a charitable gift at a relatively low cost to your estate—typically, such funds pass to NOLS outside of probate and free of taxes.

Life insurance is a straightforward way to support NOLS. The most common method—especially if you have a policy your family no longer needs—is to designate NOLS the owner of that policy. This option allows an immediate income tax deduction. Or you can simply name NOLS as a beneficiary.

Because the latter is not an irrevocable designation, you do not receive an immediate income tax deduction; however, at your death, your executor can take a federal estate tax deduction for the full amount.

Through a charitable remainder trust, you transfer assets of cash, securities, or other property to a trust for NOLS’ benefit. In return, you or another beneficiary receives an income for life or for a term of years. After that term ends, those assets become a charitable gift to NOLS.

Benefits to you

  • You receive a generous income tax deduction the year the trust is created.
  • You save capital gains tax.

There are two kinds of remainder trusts designed to meet differing donor financial goals.

  • An annuity trust pays the donor a fixed amount annually, regardless of how the trust’s investments perform.
  • A unitrust pays a percentage of the assets, which fluctuates based on the annual value of the trust.

The simplest of the life income gift options, a charitable gift annuity, is a contract that you sign with NOLS. You make your gift directly to NOLS and we agree to pay you or your designated beneficiary a fixed income (based on a percentage of your gift) for the remainder of your or the beneficiary’s life. Additionally, because part of the principal used to make your gift will eventually be returned to you as income payments, part of your income will be tax-free. The amount you receive is based on your age, the amount of your gift, interest rates, and whether or not you have another beneficiary. All of these factors go into determining the rate of these payments, as defined by the American Council on Gift Annuities. If future rather than immediate income is your goal, you can choose to delay income payments with a deferred gift annuity. You make a gift to NOLS and we guarantee a fixed income to you or your chosen beneficiary starting at a designated future date.

A valuable, often-overlooked tool for individuals with sizable estates, a charitable lead trust is a tax-smart way to support NOLS now and pass a portion of your estate on to heirs while avoiding heavy gift and estate taxes.

Established during life or through a will, lead trusts sometimes provide a larger inheritance to heirs than an outright bequest or taxable gift.

To create a charitable lead trust, you transfer securities, real estate, business interests, or similar properties to a trust for NOLS’ benefit. The trust pays income to NOLS for a fixed term of years. At the end of that term, the assets go to a non-charitable beneficiary, such as a child or grandchild. The assets often appreciate and are transferred with lower gift or estate tax.

Join the NOLS Summit Team

Our recognition society for legacy donors, the Summit Team is a prestigious group of supporters dedicated to the long-term success of the NOLS mission.

Established in 1999, it honors those who have made supporting wilderness education a top priority. By including NOLS in their estate plans, Summit Team members demonstrate their commitment to creating a strong future for the school.

The generosity and foresight of the Summit Team ensures that generations of students will be able to experience the immeasurable rewards of a NOLS education.

Contact Us
Credit: Nick Garrett

Andrew White’s bucket list included a NOLS course for years before he joined a 25-and-Over Wyoming Wilderness course in 2001. “I don’t think it’s overstating things to say that my first NOLS trip changed my life,” said White, 50. His spouse, John Degon, also 50, said he hadn’t seen true wilderness until his Rocky Mountain Outdoor Educator course. The couple recently became NOLS Summit Team members by naming the school in their wills. White and Degon are especially interested in NOLS continuing to challenge itself to be a key player in a diverse world. "That seems a worthwhile legacy to leave behind,” White said.

For more detailed information or to discuss any of the gift ideas listed above, please contact the NOLS development office. We welcome an opportunity to talk with you about planning a gift that matches your goals.

Whatever form your gift takes, it will make a difference for future generations of NOLS students.

Call us today at 800-332-4280.