National Wildlife Refuge Friends Program Fall 2013


The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, along with its partners, recognizes the important role refuge Friends organizations play in building critical community support for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Wildlife Refuge System.  As such, we are requesting proposals for projects that assist organizations to be effective co-stewards of our Nation’s important natural resources within the National Wildlife Refuge System.  This program provides competitive seed grants ($1,500 - $5,000) to creative and innovative proposals that seek to increase the number and effectiveness of organizations interested in assisting the Refuge System nationwide and their work and projects to support the System.

Who is eligible to apply?

Eligible applicants are Friends organizations whose primary mission is to support a refuge or a complex of refuges. Applicants must either be tax exempt under section 501(c), OR be in the process of applying for 501(c)(3) status and submit with their grant application a copy of the letter from the IRS confirming your application has been filed.

What kinds of proposals will be accepted?

Grants will be provided to support proposals that fall within the following areas:

  • Organizational Start-up Grants - Funds will be provided to assist starting refuge Friends organizations with formative and/or initial operational support. For example, funds may be requested for such things as membership drives, tuition for training, brochure and newsletter development, logo design, or consultant fees for planning a mission and strategic plan;
  • Organizational Capacity Building Grants - Funds will be provided to refuge Friends organizations to strengthen the capacity of existing refuge Friends organizations to enable them to be more effective. Capacity building refers to activities that improve and enhance an organization’s ability to achieve its mission and sustain itself over time.  For example, funds may be requested for a communications strategy, strategic plan, volunteer recruitment planning, membership development, new use of technology to become more efficient, or engaging in collaborations with community partners;
  • Project Specific Grants - Funds will be provided to refuge Friends organizations seeking support for projects initiated and managed by the Friends. For example, funds may be requested for Friends who propose to develop and deliver outreach and conservation education programs for local schools, communities, or private landowners, coordinate and execute habitat restoration projects, build an observation tower, develop and provide interpretive materials and programs;
  • Special Initiative: Friends Peer-to-Peer Coaching – Funds will be provided to refuge Friends organizations who propose to coordinate and execute a Friends peer to peer coaching for a minimum of four other U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Friends organizations. See specific requirements for this category below.

Special Initiative, Friends Peer-to-Peer Coaching Proposal Requirements: Applications must include a proposed agenda which includes but should not be limited to at least three of the following session topics: 

  • Board development and management*
  • Board/member/volunteer engagement and retention
  • Developing community partnerships
  • Planning:  Goal setting, annual work planning, strategic planning
  • Communication and cooperation
  • Overview of the USFWS/NWRS/Refuges
  • Overview of the role and responsibilities within the USFWS-Friends partnerships

Additional agenda topics may be customized to suit Friends organizational development needs and could include but should not be limited to:

  • Developing community partnerships
  • Working with the media
  • Effective social media marketing
  • Special event planning
  • Nature store basics*
  • Grant writing
  • Volunteer management
  • Diversifying income*
  • Incorporation of a joint service work project

The proposed agenda must include at least one session either led or co-led with USFWS staff and all affiliated USFWS staff should be invited to entire training, but are not required to attend. Your Service Regional Friends Coordinator is required to be identified and involved as an official Service contact with the coaching planning effort.

* These topics pertain to the development and management of a nonprofit and therefore may not be appropriate for USFWS staff to lead or co-lead in order to avoid creating the appearance that they are managing a Friends organization.

A 40% match is required for Friends travel expenses that includes ground travel only and lodging.  Match can be in-kind.

What types of things can the grant fund for Friends Peer-to-Peer Coaching? 

  • Friends ground travel and lodging expenses
  • Training facility fees (only if appropriate free facilities are not available)
  • Specialized trainer, consultant, or facilitator fees
  • In-training food such as refreshments and lunch for Friends only (breakfast and dinner not included)
  • Training supplies such as flip charts, paper, copying expenses

Funding restrictions

Funds may not be used for:

  • Airline travel
  • Any expenses for participating Service employees
  • Agenda proposals that include training in developing, planning, or implementing advocacy programs intended to influence political leaders or legislation.

While this grant program focuses on four areas, overarching goals of the program are to help refuge Friends organizations build their expertise in developing and executing projects, expand and increase their capacity and skills, meet local refuge challenges, gain and build community recognition and support for the refuge and refuge Friends organizations, build long-term relationships, and encourage the sharing of expertise within our own networks.  Within each area of emphasis, priority will be given to applications that demonstrate their ability to meet these programmatic goals.

What are the funding limitations for this grants program?

The Refuge Friends Grant Program will NOT fund requests for:     

  • Printing for professional publishing purposes;
  • Fundraising activities
  • Political advocacy or litigation activities;
  • Travel (except for the Special Initiative proposals);                     
  • Salaries;                               
  • Non-profit filings;              
  • Food or beverages (except for the Special Initiative proposals); 
  • Refuge administered projects;
  •  Shortfalls in government agency budgets; or
  •  Multi-year grants (applicants may reapply)

What information should be included in my application?

1) The National Wildlife Refuge Friends Easygrants Application,

2) The Full-proposal Project Narrative – Friends of National Wildlife Refuges Form

3) The Applicant and Refuge Manager Signature Page     

When are proposals due and when will applicants be notified of award status? 

December 2nd, 2013 - with final funding decisions and applicant notification by January 31, 2014.

Program Contacts

The following partner contacts are available to applicants to discuss proposal ideas and answer questions about this program.

Teal Edelen, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, 202-857-0166,

Joanna Webb, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 703-358-2392,                                                                                                   

Joan Patterson, National Wildlife Refuge Association, 202-292-2422,

Connie Mahan, National Audubon Society, 202-861-2242 ext 3036,    

The National Wildlife Refuge Friends Grant Program is a collaborative effort between the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Wildlife Refuge Association, and National Audubon Society.  For further information, please contact Teal Edelen at NFWF, 1133 15th Street NW, Suite 1100, Washington, DC 20005, or call (202) 857-0166. 


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