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Strong Parks, Strong Communities

Volunteer working along Ice Age National Scenic Trail
Ice Age Trail Alliance


A collective effort to grow national park philanthropy.

Through Strong Parks, Strong Communities, the National Park Foundation (NPF), National Park Service (NPS), and Friends Alliance (the Alliance) enhance local philanthropic organizations (park partners), bringing park philanthropy to an elevated level. Approximately 450 local philanthropic organizations across the country provide critical support to national parks and programs, and NPF, NPS, and the Alliance are working together to augment the collective impact of these groups.

By building the capacity of local philanthropic organizations, offering peer-to-peer learning, and providing opportunities to take collective action, the Strong Parks, Strong Communities (SPSC) initiative increases the ability of park supporters to protect and preserve natural and cultural resources, increase access to public lands for all people, and reimagine the possibilities of interpretive and educational programming. The SPSC initiative is one aspect of NPF's overall work in Community Partnerships that supports the park partner community in a myriad of ways.

Fossil on jagged rock face

By the Numbers

  • 27
    Park Partner Organizations
    Through the Strategic Growth Initiative, 21 partner organizations have undergone assessments and strategic planning of their organizations to bring it to the next level.
  • 36
    Organizational Leaders
    After completing a year-long professional development experience, 20 leaders of friends groups have graduated from the Friends Leadership Institute.
  • $2.4
    Through SPSC Capacity Building Grants, more than $2.4 million has been granted directly to park partner organizations for organizational capacity building projects.

Program Highlights

A swampy lake at sunset
Strategic Growth Initiative

The Strategic Growth Initiative (SGI) built capacity for philanthropic park partners, including holistic organizational assessments and strategic planning for the organizations. Organizations receive support from a consultant on a variety of areas, including leadership and board development, strategic planning, branding, organizational culture, and fundraising.

Female hiker in hiking clothes with back to the camera facing out onto water
Friends Leadership Institute

A year-long professional development experience for leaders of Friends Groups, the Friends Leadership Institute (FLI) offers participants the opportunity to understand and develop their leadership style, build functional skills, and receive targeted feedback from their peers and the facilitators.

Snow dusts the red rocks and delicate arch of Arches National Park
Capacity Building Grants

Through the Strong Parks, Strong Communities initiative, NPF provides grants to park partners specific to building the capacity of their organization so in return they are able to better serve their parks, visitors, and surrounding communities. Grants vary from funding new technology, website or brand redesigns, visitor engagement projects, strategic planning, leadership professional development, and more.

Sunset over cannon
National Park Affinity Groups

In partnership with NPS and the Friends Alliance, NPF supports the Battlefield Affinity Group, National Park Learning Alliance, and the Development Leaders' Network. Coordinators of each group consist of leaders from the park partner community who work with their peers to provide relevant resources and webinars, as well as create a space for partners to come together to share ideas and learn from each other.

Program Updates