Volunteering On The Road

Not everyone needs or wants paid workamping positions.

For many, a free campsite is all that is needed to make the budget work. But along with a free campsite comes a sense of purpose, a sense of accomplishment, and a way of giving back to our society.

On this page, we will look at several volunteering options. All involve the donating of time while living in an RV.

And none of the volunteering positions we talk about here involve monetary compensation. There are "free" campsites and there may be other perks such as free propane. But there is no pay except for the occasional nominal stipend designed to reimburse the volunteer for some expenses.

Now, I group volunteer positions into two categories: "location-based" and "cause-based".

Huh? Let me try to explain.

By "location-based" I'm referring to volunteering in a particular location. Work needs to be done at a place. Generally, the motivation for volunteering is more about the location than the work to be done. Think public parks and other facilities that have campgrounds, or there might be designated RV sites (not known to the public) set aside for volunteers.

By "cause-based" I mean volunteering for charitable purposes where the location of the work changes. Volunteering is done on location until the work is done, and then the volunteers move on to do similar work elsewhere. Here the motivation is more related to the cause than the location. RVers can usually park for free, but they often are staying in parking lots and other specially arranged, temporary spots.

Location-Based Volunteering

Most location-based RV volunteering (but not all) happens at public facilities - state parks, national parks, national monuments, national forests, national wildlife refuges, corps of engineers campgrounds, etc.

So how does one find these volunteer opportunities?

Well, almost every state park system has a volunteer program of some kind. Just go to any state park website and search for "volunteer", "volunteer opportunities", or "getting involved". Of course those web pages are for all volunteers, not just RVers, so it may take some effort to discover the positions that include an RV site.

There are numerous camphosting positions available at state park campgrounds. Duties for camphosts vary from state to state, so be sure to talk to the volunteer coordinators.

In addition to campground hosting positions, there may be visitor center jobs, interpretation/docent jobs, and other positions within the park. The websites are great, but they don't always give you all the opportunities and potential arrangements that can be made. Always try to talk to the state volunteer coordinator if you can - there is usually contact information on the volunteering page of the state park website.

For federal volunteer opportunities, you can go to a single website: Vounteer.gov. That's a great source.

You can search for positions by city, state, interests, agency, or by plugging in a "keyword". Now, keep in mind that this is a general volunteering website, so most of the positions probably don't include an RV site.

However, there is also a "Housing/Amenities" dropdown box so you can search by jobs with "RV/Trailer Pads".

Again, the website is wonderful, but don't always believe all the information that is listed. Sometimes the dates of the position are incorrect or have not been updated.

Be sure to click on the "More Info" link for each position to get a pretty good job description. But again, I would suggest contacting the listed volunteer coordinator for the position directly.

Caution: Most federal positions with "free" campsites require 24 - 32 hours per week (3 to 4 days) per person. If you figure that a typical campsite is worth 15 - 20 hours a week, you can see that this type of volunteering is a bad deal economically since you don't get compensated for the hours over 20. So, it has to be worthwhile in other ways that are personal to you.

The same situation may be true with state park volunteer jobs, so just be sure the "donation" of those extra hours is worth it in intangibles.

Yes, there are other "volunteer" opportunities out there that are not with government agencies. Some private employers have several workampers that work only 15 - 20 hours per week for their sites. It takes a little digging to find them, but they are out there.

Of course, Workamper News also has ads for these volunteer jobs. A couple of the volunteer jobs we've had came from our Workamper News Membership. One was at a National Wildlife Refuge and one was at a golf resort where we weren't paid, but we got all the free golf (with cart) we wanted to play for our "extra" hours worked.

Why don't more private employers just hire bunches of people willing to work 20 hours a week for the site and no pay?

Well, there are a couple reasons. First, the fewer people they have to train, the better. Second, if it's a private campground, the more workampers they have, the more sites they may have to take out of their site inventory which may cost them more in lost revenue that the work provided.

Okay, so that's a decent overview of "location-based" volunteer positions. Now let's look at "cause-based" opportunities.

Cause-Based Volunteering

Many people that we talk to that are considering full-timing have concerns about being bored or not having a sense of purpose like they do in their careers. They don't need the money, and free campsites are not really a motivation either.

So we tell them about the numerous charitable volunteering opportunities for full-time RVers. Here are a few with brief descriptions and links to their websites.

Habitat For Humanity
Habitat For Humanity has their RV Care-A-Vanners program. Here is a summary from the website.

No Experience Necessary
Every RV Care-A-Vanner building project is a unique and rewarding experience. Previous RV Care-A-Vanner teams have participated in house construction, roofing, interior and finish work, renovations and disaster relief. Those who prefer to be non-builders volunteer in the affiliate office or as “go fors” around the build site. There are ample opportunities to learn and plenty of meaningful work for everyone — no experience necessary.

RV Care-A-Vanner builds normally involve eight to 20 RVing volunteers and last two weeks, with ten six-hour to seven-hour workdays. A typical day begins with devotions and includes morning, lunch and afternoon breaks. Volunteers bring sturdy work shoes and gloves, and their personal hand tools—tool belt, hammer, square, pencil, measuring tape. The affiliate provides everything else including power tools, ladders, building materials, instruction and supervision. A volunteer leader handles the organization and administration of the team.

Team members pay their own expenses, which may be tax deductible, and the host affiliate arranges for RV parking—usually free or at a nominal charge. Teams can expect at least minimal electric hookups, access to water and a dump station nearby. Hosting affiliates often also provide lunches and a welcome gathering. Due to safety and hygiene issues, pets are not permitted on the work site.

D.O.V.E. - Disaster Operations Volunteer Escapees
DOVE is an organization affiliated with the American Red Cross. Because it is an official "Birds Of A Feather" (BOF) group inside the Escapees RV Club, the information on their website is geared toward training RVers to assist with various Red Cross projects.

DOVE has very specific guidelines and formal operations. You can belong to a local chapter and participate in several different ways. Check out the website for more details.

N.O.M.A.D.S. - Nomads On a Mission of Active Divine Service
NOMADS is a mission outreach ministry of the United Methodist Church. They travel all over the country donating their time to various United Methodist projects. And they have been at it for 20 years.

From the website:

The NOMADS program offers persons with recreational vehicles the opportunity to share their time and skills in United Methodist projects, including churches, camps, mission agencies, and local neighborhoods.

NOMADS are people who:

  • Want to share their time and skills in a meaningful Christian service at United Methodist - related missions agencies, camps, churches, and in disaster response.
  • Can provide their own transportation to a project and be self sufficient while there.
  • Can spend up to three (3) weeks at a project site.
  • Can spend time in various locations of the country working on projects
  • Are willing to volunteer their labor 20-25 hours per week on mission projects designated by the host group.
  • Enjoy fellowship with other Christians while traveling with a purpose.

    Note: You do not have to be a member of the United Methodist Church to be a NOMAD

    S.O.W.E.R. - Servants On Wheels Ever Ready
    SOWER is a non-profit, non-denominational working ministry made up of Christian RVers. They perform work for other selected non-profit Christian ministries.

    Information from their website:

    A SOWER Project typically starts on the first Monday of the month and lasts for three consecutive weeks. A work “week” is four days, typically Monday through Thursday, and a workday is six work-hours long.

    The week following completion of project work is a “free week.” Members are free to remain at the project with the host continuing to provide RV space and hookups. SOWERS may use that opportunity to visit the sights in the area, for rest and relaxation, or they may choose to move on down the road.

    For more details click on the website link above.

    R.V.I.C.S. - Roving Volunteers In Christ's Service
    Excerpts from the RVICS website.

    RVICS Missionary Servants are retired Christian couples living in recreational vehicles, who are serving the Lord through an organized service ministry. Although we sometimes do small construction projects, we are primarily a maintenance and service ministry. We endeavor to serve only non-profit evangelical Christian colleges, schools, camps, conference centers, etc.

    Project hours accumulate when 4 to 6 couples serve for 3-1/2 to 4 weeks at a Project Ministry. The men serve 21 hours a week and the women serve 12 hours a week for a total of 33 hours a week.

    The missionary couples donate their labor, provide their own living expenses and accident insurance and furnish their own tools when practical. The project host furnishes all materials needed and a site for RV parking with full hookups at no cost to the missionaries.

    RVICS also has a retirement village for its members.

    The above are only a few of the many cause-based volunteering opportunities available to RVers. We have not participated in any of the above organizations, so their listings here are not an endorsement.

    However, these are well-established organizations with years of experience with RVers and with websites that provide more detailed information. If you come across or are aware of others, please let us know so that we can list them here.

    Volunteering is a wonderful way to workamp. It may not be the most economical thing to do as you often put in many more hours than your "free" campsite is worth.

    However, in our five volunteer workamping experiences (the "location-based" type), we have learned that we cut our expenses by about $1,000 per month. So our two stints with National Wildlife Refuges (U.S. Fish & Wildlife), two gigs as camphosts in a National Park (National Park Service), and one job with a private employer have benefited us economically.

    But the personal rewards from volunteering are not to be dismissed. Fulfillment and nourishment to your heart and soul are immeasurable.

    Click on the links below to learn more about workamping.

    What are the types of jobs available?

    What kind of commitment is required?

    How much can I expect to earn?

    What are the Pros & Cons of working for pay vs. volunteering for for a site with no pay?

    What are the tax implications of workamping?

    Lean More About Workamper News Memberships