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Difference Volunteering VS Workamping?


baldwinh

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I've been doing a lot of reading blogs/forums etc. and watching tons of YouTube videos as we make plans to sell our home, pack up just a few keepsakes and move on to a new phase in our lives of full-time RV'ing.

 

The question I have at this point is "What is the difference (or is there any difference) between Volunteering in exchange for camp site vs. Workamping in exchange for camp site?

 

It seems from what I can gather (reading between the lines) that Workamping may be long-term (months or years) where Volunteering might only be weeks? We want to see the country over the next few years, but we really like the idea of free site and hook-ups. Is it reasonable to expect that we might be able to stay in one place only about a month at a time and still get the benefit of site in exchange? Would a campground owner even have any interest in bothering with such a short timer?

 

Thanks in advance for your input.

Herb & Kathy Baldwin

2003 Airstream Land Yacht XC365

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Welcome to the Escapee forums! We are happy to have you join us.

 

RV volunteering is a form of work-camping but generally the main difference is that you volunteers are not paid nor do they receive a specified value of benefit that is equivalent to an acceptable wage. What most volunteers do is usually of much higher value than is what benefits they might get in return. The typical situation for volunteers is that they are helping at a public park of agency, a charity or some other "not for profit" organization and receive no monetary return.

 

In general, work-campers expect to receive either a wage or and equivalent value that would equal that of an acceptable wage for all hours worked, and usually both. In general, volunteers put in more work for the value of the RV site and whatever else they may receive, but they also have the benefit of being more selective in the kinds of things which they will do. We have done a lot of service as RV volunteers over the years and we only go places where we can learn new things and have new experiences. The work-camper is usually employed by some commercial venture whose purpose is to earn a profit for the owners.

 

I would invite you to look over our history of volunteer service to get some ideas of what it is that we have done over the years. You can do so by following this link to our website.

Good travelin !...............Kirk

Full-time 11+ years...... Now seasonal travelers.
Kirk & Pam's Great RV Adventure

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We chose to volunteer off and on during our 16 years of full-timing. Like you, we wanted to travel and see this beautiful country and volunteering gave us options to do so. We only chose to volunteer in places that we really wanted to explore on our time off. We also didn't want long-term commitments. We mainly did national and state parks with some Fish and Wildlife. We also chose to do interpretation rather than camp hosting. Giving lighthouse tours was our favorite.

 

Quite often we'd be in a park, liked the area and applied at that time. We got some 'instant' gigs and also some where we were asked to come back in a couple months. We also stated that we didn't want all season positions and 1-2 months were ideal. We also didn't want to clean bathrooms. It worked for us.

 

I think volunteers are treated perhaps a little better than workamper employees. We were also made to feel like part of the family. They included us in many things and were always thanking us. It made us feel good that we were helping out in the kinds of parks we enjoy.

 

I would say that you'll find more short-term positions in state parks rather than national parks although we were able to talk a national park into letting us share the summer season with another couple whom we chose and knew. It worked out great. Best of luck to you!

Full-timed for 16 Years
Traveled 8 yr in a 2004 Newmar Dutch Star 40' Motorhome
and 8 yr in a 33' Travel Supreme 5th Wheel

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I agree with 2gypsies mostly. We have been fulltime for 9 1/2 years and mostly volunteered in state parks. We have stayed 4 to 6 months and had a few short stays. This summer we "fell" into a volunteer job at a Army Corps of Engineers park on Beaver Lake in Rogers, AR. We were in the area visiting family and saw they didn't have a gate attendant and asked one of the rangers. We ended up staying 6 weeks and working the booth for them. I would hit the phone lines and just call the ranger or park owner. You never know what will result. There is every kind of paying and non paying job out there, it might be worth it to sign up for Workamper News for a year. You get daily emails on new job postings. Coolworks is another site that lists temp jobs. You will find jobs that appeal to you. Just remember, they don't care what you did in your old life, they only care that you can perform the duties that they have. Good customer service skills, being a team player and a good attitude is all you need.

Jan & Thomas

2012 Drv Mobile Suite 5'r

2012 Ford F350 Super Duty

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I would agree that state parks generally have a shorter minimum stay than do federal facilities. We always chose areas that we had never been to and usually spent 3 months or so and usually did not go back to a place we had already been. Campground hosting is very easy to get and nearly all states use them. Volunteer.gov is the best place to start looking for federal facilities and some states are there also.

Good travelin !...............Kirk

Full-time 11+ years...... Now seasonal travelers.
Kirk & Pam's Great RV Adventure

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I usually refer to paid vs unpaid rather than work camp or volunteer. Some of the work camp jobs are only in exchange for a site.

I have done mostly winter volunteering and the required time in most of the federal agencies I have worked is 3 or 4 months and a few 6 months or the entire season. Summer season can vary depending on if you are in snow country. You usually work no more than 32 hours and couples hours are counted together so 16 each I believe (I am a single so not sure on this). I have received a stipend at some agencies that have a partner foundation which is tax free about $15 a day plus free site. I have sometimes paid electric.

 

I have just started researching paid jobs. What I have found so far is that you may be paying $300 a month for your site if you have a paid position. You may also work 40 or more hours a week. Seasonal workers are not required to get minimum wage and you may not get overtime until a number of hours over 50 a week depending on the state.

 

I am finding it is harder to find paid positions in the winter.

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The difference we found was that the private park owner that you workamp for in exchange for site & utlities did not appreciate the work done. At least in our case they expected you outside working and mingling with camper from 8am - 10pm. There were no days off, no dinner break, etc. As this was our 1st experience, we decided to try volunteering and it won hands down as far as our happiness

When volunteering we had a set number of hours that we could do on our own timetable( many do have set work schedules). We felt very appreciated for anything that we did and actually put in many more hours than required because we wanted to.

Pat DeJong

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WOW! Thanks to all of you for your quick response! It's great to get so many comments on our questions. Looks like the short term state park (or fed) volunteer positions are the ones we will be looking for.

 

Thanks again and maybe we'll see each other some time!

Herb & Kathy Baldwin

2003 Airstream Land Yacht XC365

2006 Saturn Vue Toad

WB8BHK

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So far, I've just volunteered at National Wildlife Refuges, and I've found the experience incredibly rewarding (and staff extremely friendly and appreciative of volunteers' service).

 

At my current Refuge, I work just 24/hrs a week and in return get a full hook-up site, free propane, laundry & wifi. We also have use of a lounge building that has a large kitchen and dining area, living room w/big screen TV, pool table, and other perks. The Refuge prefers stays of about 3-4 months, but will often take volunteers for less time, especially if they're experienced. At the end of my gig here, I'll get a Volunteer pass for free entry to any Federal Lands park, and a very generous credit to spend at the Refuge's nature store/bookshop. My duties here have been fun and varied, from working the Visitor Center, to driving a tour van, to giving Refuge tours.

 

In comparison, when I see some private campgrounds (and even some National & State Parks) wanting 32-40/hrs a week, a full season of time commitment, and much more demanding/demeaning work (cleaning bathrooms, etc) in exchange for just a full hookup site, no propane/laundry, and no compensation, I really have to wonder what they're (and any RVers who would take such positions) are thinking!

 

Lynne

2007 Winnebago View 23J

2003 Chevy Tracker ZR2

Blog: WinnieViews

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So far, I've just volunteered at National Wildlife Refuges, and I've found the experience incredibly rewarding (and staff extremely friendly and appreciative of volunteers' service).

 

At my current Refuge, I work just 24/hrs a week and in return get a full hook-up site, free propane, laundry & wifi. We also have use of a lounge building that has a large kitchen and dining area, living room w/big screen TV, pool table, and other perks. The Refuge prefers stays of about 3-4 months, but will often take volunteers for less time, especially if they're experienced. At the end of my gig here, I'll get a Volunteer pass for free entry to any Federal Lands park, and a very generous credit to spend at the Refuge's nature store/bookshop. My duties here have been fun and varied, from working the Visitor Center, to driving a tour van, to giving Refuge tours.

 

In comparison, when I see some private campgrounds (and even some National & State Parks) wanting 32-40/hrs a week, a full season of time commitment, and much more demanding/demeaning work (cleaning bathrooms, etc) in exchange for just a full hookup site, no propane/laundry, and no compensation, I really have to wonder what they're (and any RVers who would take such positions) are thinking!

 

Lynne

 

In the immortal words...."Because they can".

 

My experience on the "other side" of volunteering was that the Ranger Districts that were respectful of their volunteers offered the best volunteering environment.

 

I would like to add once again, when you volunteer be sure to talk about YOUR skills and talents. We had volunteers taking photographs, doing archaoelogy (under supervision), preparing a butterfly collection, etc. etc. If you have handyman skills you can probably talk an agency into just traveling around doing minor repairs to recreation facilities.

 

The disadvantage to traveling is that it takes awhile to "trust" a volunteer. Keep track of past supervisors and use them as references to get the better assignments.

 

Volunteers are great.

Vladimr Steblina

Retired Forester...exploring the public lands.

usbackroads.blogspot.com

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At my current Refuge, I work just 24/hrs a week and in return get a full hook-up site, free propane, laundry & wifi. We also have use of a lounge building that has a large kitchen and dining area, living room w/big screen TV, pool table, and other perks. The Refuge prefers stays of about 3-4 months, but will often take volunteers for less time, especially if they're experienced. At the end of my gig here, I'll get a Volunteer pass for free entry to any Federal Lands park, and a very generous credit to spend at the Refuge's nature store/bookshop. My duties here have been fun and varied, from working the Visitor Center, to driving a tour van, to giving Refuge tours.

 

In comparison, when I see some private campgrounds (and even some National & State Parks) wanting 32-40/hrs a week, a full season of time commitment, and much more demanding/demeaning work (cleaning bathrooms, etc) in exchange for just a full hookup site, no propane/laundry, and no compensation, I really have to wonder what they're (and any RVers who would take such positions) are thinking!

 

Lynne

 

Not that long ago (2-3 years), the refuge that you are currently enjoying required 32 hours per person and required bathroom cleaning. They payed a small stipend and were able to get volunteers under those terms. Once they discontinued the stipend they discovered that they needed to reduce their requirements to continue to draw volunteers.

 

I find that volunteer positions are a pretty simple supply & demand equation. If folks want to work in your refuge/park badly enough, you can require more of them. I've know folks who were thrilled to work 32+ hours each week to host at Rocky Mountain NP. Different strokes...

Mark & Teri

2021 Grand Designs Imagine 2500RL, 2019 Ford F-350

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I take a slight issue with referring to bathroom cleaning or any other work as demeaning. I do not necessarily think it was meant in a bad way just that people in general tend to think of it as demeaning. I understand people not wanting to do it and it is not my favorite job but I just cannot think of any necessary work that is done as demeaning. Quite often when I see someone doing it I will say thanks for helping make things nicer for us. Even if they are getting paid to do it a little recognition and appreciation is a good thing. I know I sure do appreciate some one doing it.

 

I agree that the hourly requirements and work requirement have crept higher. I think there are multiple reasons and one has to do with staffing. I know at the main place I have volunteered with the forest service staffing is a lot lower. I am told and believe due to budgets. I know it has also affected closing dates for some areas. A good number that stayed open until Oct. 30 are now closing Oct. 15. In the spring areas are taking longer to open because of preperation and clearing of hazards like hazard trees ie: As far as opening and maintaining trails they would almost be dead in the water if it were not due to a cadre of local volunteers. I am amazed at what they do and are capable of. As for me, I just try and do my little part. As my physical sitution has changed I have begun riding with the maint. guy and helping as I can. One thing I say is if only by being there I am usefull because if he is working on the roof ie: I may not be able to catch him if he falls off but at least I can call for help. Fortunately the folks I have volunteer with most recognize the value of just having someone with you in the boonies. Funny aside- he seems to have developed a habit of letting me walk several paces in front when we are in bear country. Wait a minute, thats not funny.

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Yeah BigJim, I didn't mean to degrade bathroom cleaners specifically (I've gladly pitched in to clean a few here from time to time whenever needed). But only trying to make a general point that many non-paid commercial work camping jobs I've seen posted (as well as a few at National/State Parks) have a tendency to want more hours and more demanding work than many volunteer gigs. Sure there are exceptions to this on either side, but I have to scratch my head at some of these job postings and wonder who would take them? For instance, the Illinois DNR had (maybe still does have) a requirement for each of their campground hosts to work 40 hours a week in exchange for a free campsite. 40 hrs! And they wonder why most of their parks never can find camp hosts?!!

 

 

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Lynne, I agree 100%. I think some of this is inexperience of people "dumped" into recruiting volunteers and not really knowing what is generally accepted. I had a volunteer coordinator some years ago that was recruiting a new person and started out requiring 40 hours until 2 of us seasoned volunteers pointed out this was totally unrealistic and not the standard. She was very reasonable and looked into what we said then reduced the requirement to the 24hr per week range. As we pointed out if a volunteer is enjoying their stint they will frequently work additional hours on their own. In effect we as volunteers sometimes spoil it for others as they come to assume that should be the standard. Also I have pointed out that having us living on a site is a form of "security" that has a value in itself.

I have thought for a while now that with somewhat of a "glut" of baby boomers retiring and hitting the road it is some easier for requirements to be higher.

Last summer I ran into a new situation as I was in a site at the ranger station that the district was informed would have to be paid for by either me or the district. I had been in that site twice before and many others had been in it including seasonal firefighters. The only others required to pay were paid employees or contract employees. In my case the district ranger who was known to be very tight with a dollar was happy to pay for the site (about $300. mo. including utilities) as she saw the value of my being on site even if only for the security but of course I did more. (Our firefighters had their vehicles parked in line next to mine while they were fighting fires where ever for extended periods not to mention the FS vehicles and shop and a small pueblo with trail.)

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For instance, the Illinois DNR had (maybe still does have) a requirement for each of their campground hosts to work 40 hours a week in exchange for a free campsite. 40 hrs! And they wonder why most of their parks never can find camp hosts?!!

It seems strange but looking at the Illinois DNR volunteer site, I can't find anything at all about duties or requirements... I have long held that even volunteers need to have a detailed job description and statement of expected hours of work before you accept any position. I also include in our resume what we are not willing to do, as well as what we do. In spite of those things, we did arrive at one USFWS fish hatchery only to discover that we had been greatly mislead about our expected duties. After two weeks of trying to work with them we left under much less than friendly terms.

 

It has been our experience that the vast majority of locations are very appreciative of volunteers and try to make things fun and satisfying. But everything does have their exceptions. We have been to more than 30 different volunteer positions over the past 15 years and to date have had only two situations which were not good experiences. That is pretty good odds, as far as I see it.

Good travelin !...............Kirk

Full-time 11+ years...... Now seasonal travelers.
Kirk & Pam's Great RV Adventure

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One other thing to consider is taxes. If you are paid, then you owe taxes. But at some private parks you are NOT PAID but still owe to the IRS tax on the value of the site you are given in exchange for your work. At most Fed, State, or Non-Profit parks you are not taxed.

2015 Itasca Ellipse 42QD

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It seems strange but looking at the Illinois DNR volunteer site, I can't find anything at all about duties or requirements... I have long held that even volunteers need to have a detailed job description and statement of expected hours of work before you accept any position. I also include in our resume what we are not willing to do, as well as what we do. In spite of those things, we did arrive at one USFWS fish hatchery only to discover that we had been greatly mislead about our expected duties. After two weeks of trying to work with them we left under much less than friendly terms.

 

It has been our experience that the vast majority of locations are very appreciative of volunteers and try to make things fun and satisfying. But everything does have their exceptions. We have been to more than 30 different volunteer positions over the past 15 years and to date have had only two situations which were not good experiences. That is pretty good odds, as far as I see it.

We started our volunteer career at an Illinois State Park. The main duty then was writing camping permits and collecting fees and answering questions about the park and surrounding area. At that time bathrooms shower house were cleaned by summer temps along with cleaning fire pits and general campsite cleanup. When we started the second host had mechanical breakdown somewhere on their way up from their winter roost. We were required then to work? be on site 5 days with Monday and Tuesday off. Never said which 40 hours were required since as a camphost your on duty whenever you're there. Friday afternoon and Saturday we were busy Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday not so much. On those days we often left, sometimes just hiking or fishing in the park, with note on the door for campers to pick a site and come after 00 o'clock for their permit.

It wasn't a bad gig just boring other than the weekends.

John

2017 F350 King Ranch DRW 6.7 4.10 B&W hitch

2017 DRV MS 36RSSB3

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