Educational Institutions

Outward Bound California

San Francisco, CA


Outward Bound California's mission is to change lives through challenge and discovery. By providing the highest quality outdoor education available in the world, Outward Bound California supports more than 2,200 youth and adults annually across California to take new risks and overcome new obstacles, both as individuals and within groups. Faced with the abundance of nature's lessons—from biting winds, to staggering heights, to scorching sun, and bone-soaking rain—participants discover within themselves and among their peers previously unknown reserves of resilience, balanced by more deeply felt compassion for their own limitations and that of their peers. These discoveries become assets that alumni can use to transform their lives, their communities, and the world.

Ruling Year


Executive Director

Nettie Pardue

Main Address

The Presidio - PO Box 29632

San Francisco, CA 94129 USA


San Francisco, Bay Area, San Francisco Bay Area, California





Cause Area (NTEE Code)

Educational Services and Schools - Other (B90)

Recreational and Sporting Camps (Day, Overnight, etc.) (N20)

Other Youth Development N.E.C. (O99)

IRS Filing Requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Programs + Results

What we aim to solve New!

We believe that all youth need opportunities to experience the outdoors, develop character and leadership skills, and achieve their highest potential. We believe that every young person, regardless of circumstances, can push themselves and achieve more than they ever thought possible.

70% of the students we serve annually come low income communities, historically underrepresented in the outdoors. Many live in unstable home environments and/or neighborhoods known to experience high levels of crime. These youth are immersed in a sedentary and digital world, on average logging more than 7.5 hours of screen time. Many are struggling in school and have never visited open spaces in their region.

In this context, our expeditions connect youth to nature, instill hope in them and inspire them to reach their full potential. These courses not only offer holistic health and personal development opportunities for students, but also integrate with schools to create better academic outcomes.

Our programs

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Open Enrollment Wilderness Expeditions

Bay Area Center Expeditions

Outward Bound for Veterans

Youth Leadership Corps

Pinnacle Scholarship Program

Where we workNew!

Charting Impact

Five powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What is the organization aiming to accomplish?

What are the organization's key strategies for making this happen?

What are the organization's capabilities for doing this?

How will they know if they are making progress?

What have and haven't they accomplished so far?

Our overall goal is to provide opportunities for youth to learn and practice leadership and social-emotional skills, while giving them the confidence and will to push themselves in their academics and in all aspects of their lives. There is a growing body of research showing that students are more effective learners when they possess 21st Century Learning Skills such as communication, self-awareness, problem-solving, critical thinking, working in teams, and engaging in both active and passive leadership. These are the skills that Outward Bound has been imparting to students for more than five decades.

Specifically, we focus on building character, leadership and a commitment to community service:

1. Character Development: Youth learn how to push their physical and mental limits so that they feel empowered to pursue new opportunities and broaden their horizons.

2. Leadership: Youth in under-resourced communities gain the confidence and opportunities to become part of the next generation of leaders.

3. Commitment to Community Service: Students increase their knowledge of and compassion for the community's well-being and the environment.

From our Bay Area Center base in San Francisco's Presidio, we run short courses for groups of students from local nonprofits and schools, leading them on adventures and expeditions in natural areas ranging from Golden Gate Park to the Marin Headlands to Big Basin State Park. From our wilderness bases in Joshua Tree and the High Sierra, we offer multi-week backpacking, rock climbing and mountaineering expeditions for students from all walks of life. Regardless of course length or course location, we help youth to dig deep and discover hidden strengths to build resiliency, self-reliance, teamwork skills and lifelong success.

Outward Bound California offers a portfolio of programs which we arrange in progressions and carefully customize to the needs and interests of each programmatic partner. These programs include:

Insight Days – Students and their teachers participate in a one-day outdoor adventure such as rock climbing or navigating local cultural landmarks. Students will often experience a sequence of Insight Days over several months or as a precursor to a longer expedition.

Base Camping Expeditions – These 4-5 day expeditions are for students and teachers who seek outdoor education with moderate levels of physical activity and personal challenge. In Bay Area parks and wilderness area, students establish a group campsite and from there venture out for hikes, rock climbing and teambuilding challenges.

Peer Leadership Expeditions – Students and teachers participate in a 4-5 day expedition, backpacking and navigating from campsite to campsite in national, state and regional parks. These expeditions involve a significant amount of physical challenge and teamwork.

Youth Leadership Corps - Bringing together a diverse group of students from Bay Area high schools, this merit-based scholarship program includes a 12-day summer expedition and a follow up year of a monthly meetings. The year of follow up allows youth to strengthen leadership skills they learned on their expedition and give back to their communities through service projects they design.

Pinnacle Scholarships – Highly motivated youth who receive a nomination by one of our youth-serving community partners are eligible for full-tuition scholarships to participate in a life-changing multi-week wilderness adventure in the High Sierra.

Partnerships are the core of our approach for recruiting and enrolling students from underrepresented communities. Our outreach staff contact schools and nonprofit groups to build partnerships, prioritizing those who serve the highest-need youth and whose administrators and teachers can commit to bringing experiential learning to youth over the long term. We currently work with more than 50 program partners across the state, including public schools, charter schools, and youth serving agencies such as Summer Search and Larkin Street Youth Services.

Outward Bound California is a regional Outward Bound School with bases in San Francisco, the Sierra Nevada, and Joshua Tree National Park. Our courses draw on a legacy of high-quality and transformational programs developed over five decades and build upon a history of expedition programming in California that has helped thousands of individuals to step out of their daily routines and into the perspective-shifting, transformational challenges presented by the great outdoors. These encounters have led people of all ages to discover in themselves levels of grit, resilience, and resolve that they never knew they had. Decades after their Outward Bound experiences, countless alumni proclaim a common outcome: “Outward Bound changed my life."

Founded in 2008 as the Outward Bound Bay Area Center, Outward Bound California uses the transformational power challenging outdoor adventures to achieve positive and enduring change for youth and communities in the Bay Area and throughout California. What began as serving 500 students from one base in 2008 expanded to serving nearly 2,300 students from three bases in 2017. Today, Outward Bound California continues to grow, with a vision of shaping the next generation of California leaders. Our goal is to triple youth participation, growing to engage more than 4,800 students in 2020.

Our Board of Directors is made up of 17 dedicated business and community leaders who are committed to our programs and our mission. They work hand in hand with staff to create strategic plans for the organization, to fundraise, expand our network, and provide fiscal oversight.
Our permanent staff of nearly 30 individuals cover Program Administration, Student Enrollment Services, Outreach and Communication, Fund Development, Finance, Operations, and Human Resources. Our field staff of nearly 100 individuals who directly manage and instruct our courses are some of the best and most highly trained educators in outdoor education field. They identify, assess and approach risk as a learning tool to be managed (but not eliminated) and expertly facilitate opportunities for students to gain new insights and perspectives around their and their group's capabilities.
Outward Bound's staff and board are constantly developing and implementing strategies to build sustainability for the long term. These strategies include:
*Strengthening board and staff's capacity through professional development opportunities
*Building and sustaining relationships with local foundations and companies while expanding our
individual donor cultivation activities
*Growing our earned-income streams such as fee-for-service courses for private schools and corporate
groups, and
*Finding efficiencies in our operations that allow us to do more with less.

As a learning organization, we take program evaluation and improvement very seriously. After each program (1) students and chaperones complete evaluation surveys and (2) we conduct debrief meetings with the program partner and (3) internally among staff. Then we produce and review evaluation reports for each base camp each season, committing to make adjustments as needed. Based on evaluation data and feedback, we have for example shortened course itineraries; acquired new, smaller backpacks; and created a new internship program for underrepresented youth.

Evaluation surveys consistently show that we are achieving these goals and their associated outcomes. For example, spring 2017 course-end evaluations reported by an ethnically diverse group of 304 Bay Area Center students, reported positive skill-building experiences as follows:

o 89% learned to overcome challenges on course.
o 89% learned to work with others to solve problems.
o 87% gained confidence to try new activities.
o 81% gained an appreciation for nature.
o 74% felt more confident leading others.

Additionally, in 2015, Outward Bound California participated in a research project with Alpenglow Education Consulting around the benefits of activities that increase an individual's grit and resilience. The study surveyed 283 wilderness expedition students, ages 12 to 22, finding statistically significant increases in character traits including grit and levels of resiliency through a sense of mastery of skills and a sense of relatedness with group members. The authors concluded that the study “validates the mission and function of OB programs around the globe" that seek to “instill traits like resilience, compassion, and integrity" in young people.

In 2017, Outward Bound California reached nearly 2,100 young people, adults and veterans over the course of more than 10,800 student program days. We delivered 14.6% more program days in 2017 than in 2016 and delivered 11% more courses (129 courses taught in 2016 and 143 in 2017).

Through the diversity, equity and inclusion initiative that we launched in 2016, staff continued to focus on making our programming more accessible, inclusive and relevant to students and staff from broader ranges of backgrounds and identities. As part of this, we began planning to build a new challenge course in a permanent and accessible San Francisco venue and we also kicked off a new internship program at our Bay Area Center in 2017 aimed at removing barriers that young adults from under-resourced communities face in securing careers in the outdoor education industry.

We delivered higher-quality programs than ever in 2017 by offering staff more regular work schedules, professional development opportunities throughout the season, and subsidized housing as needed. On the administrative side, we increased the number of staff to match the scale and complexity of Bay Area program delivery and prioritized time off for busy program coordinators during the high-strain peak seasons.

What's Next:

Through our most recent strategic plan (2016-2020), Outward Bound California has charted a course to bring our uniquely effective outdoor learning experiences to every interested young person across the state of California, shaping the next generation of California leaders. Our goal is to triple youth participation, growing from engaging 1,500 students in 2016 to engaging more than 4,800 students in 2020. Additional goals of this strategic plan are to: broaden course offerings; deepen program impact; and ensure that underserved students especially have access to the deep learning and skill building that Outward Bound makes possible. We have raised $5.7 million to date towards a $15 million campaign designed to fund this strategic plan.

External Reviews


Outward Bound California

Fiscal year: Jan 01 - Dec 31

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The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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A Pro report is also available for this organization for $125.
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Board Leadership Practices

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section, which enables organizations and donors to transparently share information about essential board leadership practices.

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization


Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations?

Not Applicable


Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year?

Not Applicable


Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year?

Not Applicable


Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership?

Not Applicable


Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years?

Not Applicable