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Breaking Down Rock Climbing Non-Profits

Rock climbing is more than a sport. It is a community of good and kind-hearted people who encourage each other to challenge mental and physical limits. Behind the community are many non-profits contributing to the flourishing of the sport and its culture. From outdoor climbing area (crag) upkeep, bolt, and perma draw maintenance, accessibility, competitions, and diversity and inclusion, there is a non-profit for every conceivable niche. Supporting these groups and their local chapters is vital to growing the rock climbing community while promoting and increasing its diversity, inclusivity, accessibility, and safety for climbers.


What are Climbing Non-profits and Local Chapters?

To qualify as a non-profit, these organizations must have a bigger purpose or cause to which they donate all income beyond operational costs. There are four major categories of rock-climbing non-profits in the United States: outdoor climbing access/stewardship, diversity and inclusion in climbing, climbing education and safety, and competitive climbing. Some, especially those dedicated to outdoor climbing, have been around for decades, while others, like those pushing for increased diversity and inclusion, have more recently emerged. Regardless of their origin, we’ve identified the most prominent non-profits on the climbing scene, many of which support local chapters. A local chapter carries out the non-profit's mission, led by local organizers and volunteers, to make change among communities nationwide. The work each is doing is essential to recognize, and if their message resonates with you, consider supporting either monetarily, volunteering, or spreading the word.

Categories of Climbing Non-Profits with Local Chapters and Why They Need Your Support

●     Outdoor Climbing Access/Stewardship

○     Access Fund

Partnered with 145 local climbing coalitions in the U.S., the Access Fund has been the leading force towards sustainable access and conservation of outdoor climbing environments since 1991. You may have seen their tents at crag trailheads spreading information on the trail and outdoor etiquette at some point in your adventures.

○     The American Safe Climbing Association (ASCA)

If you’ve enjoyed pre-bolted or perma-drawed routes since 1998, you may have the ASCA to thank. They’ve put together a team of volunteers to go out and replace deteriorating anchors and bolts in popular climbing areas, thanks to donations from individuals who care about the safety and continued enjoyment of outdoor gems.

●     Diversity and Inclusion in Climbing

○     Adaptive Climbing Group (ACG)

Since 2012, ACG has worked to create processes to integrate para-climbing programs in climbing gyms, outdoors, and competitions. They have developed and provided a training camp for para-climbers competing at high-level competitions while hosting sessions at indoor gyms for individuals of any experience level. They meet individuals where they are and leverage their abilities to get them climbing.

○     Climbing for Change (C4C)

Founded by pro climber Kai Lightner, it is working to create opportunities for underserved minorities in the outdoor industry. To this end, it offers an Adventure Outside Grant to fund BIPOC individuals exploring outdoor recreational activities. It has also developed a DEI Connections Database, enabling anyone to find and connect with outdoor diversity, equality, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives.

●     Climbing Education & Safety

○     American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA)

If you go outdoor climbing with a guide or want to become a mountain guide,  this organization may be the certifying power behind that guide. Created as an educational non-profit, AMGA provides education, standards, and advocates for professional mountain guides and various sub-types of climbing instructors.

●     Competitive Climbing

○     USA Climbing

USA Climbing coordinates nationwide competitions for youth, collegiate, professional, and adaptive climbers. They have an expansive network of volunteers and have built relationships with indoor climbing gyms so youth and collegiate climbers can compete within their regional, divisional, and national levels.

These non-profits are just a few examples of the organizations meaningfully impacting the rock-climbing community. There are likely smaller non-profits specific to your area. The best place to find out about them is your local climbing gym - ask the front desk employees, talk to other gym patrons, or look for flyers posted on billboards or social media. If you have the means, supporting any of the non-profits listed or the local initiatives with money or volunteers will keep furthering the positive evolution of the sport for everyone. Comment below with any thoughts or questions, and if you have a non-profit you feel is worth supporting, please share!


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