Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name

Recreation Management

Department or School/College

College of Forestry and Conservation

Committee Chair

Norma Nickerson

Commitee Members

Wayne Friemund, Daisy Rooks


Park Support, Philanthropy, Yellowstone National Park, Pro-Environmenal Behaviors, Donations


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Recreation, Parks and Tourism Administration


Support for charitable causes has long been a topic studied in the hopes of uncovering the reasons for donations and other support behaviors. However, holistic examination of support for places, such as parks, has been relatively untouched as an area of research. One such place where understanding such support is important is Yellowstone National Park, the first designated National Park and one of the most visited parks in the United States. A lack in adequate government funding to meet increasingly heavy visitation has led the park to increasingly rely on outside support for the park.

The purpose of this study was to uncover the ways that several different supporter demographics provided support to Yellowstone and the reasons they provided this support. Participants were drawn from non-donor repeat visitors to the park, Yellowstone Association (YA) members, and Yellowstone Park Foundation (YPF) donors. Semi-structured in-depth interviews were utilized to reveal rich descriptions of these concepts in the supporters own words. Interviews included queries about visitation behaviors, participant definition of park support, donation or visitation specific queries tailored to participant groups, and a list of previously established support behaviors. Participants were recruited both in the park and by phone from a list provided by the YA and FPG and invited to participate in an interview at a later time.

In total, 28 interviews were conducted, ten each from participants who identified themselves as repeat visitors and Association members and eight donors from the Foundation. Study results show that sharing park experiences, bringing newcomers to Yellowstone, and making monetary donations were the three most prominent ways that the participants supported the park. Moreover, personal values that matched park interests, altruism, and tangible benefits derived from giving were the most commonly given explanations for providing the varied forms of support. Repeat visitors were least likely to be aware of Yellowstone’s need for monetary support, and showed no altruistic giving tendencies. Because of this, one recommendation for park and non-profit managers is to better highlight the park’s need to this group. Managers could also pursue interactive ways to further engage these repeat visitors such that non-monetary support is more effectively leveraged for the future.



© Copyright 2016 Geoffrey G. Havens