Grants to friends groups
Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program Grants
Each year, $500,000 from the Stewardship program is set aside for grants to friends groups and nonprofit conservation organizations (NCOs) to improve facilities, build new recreation projects and restore habitat on state properties. The program recognizes the important role friends groups play in meeting the development and restoration needs of state properties.
How much money is available
A total of $500,000 is available each year for grants under this program, with a limit of $20,000 per property. Depending on the number of applicants, there may be competition for available funds. Funding for large projects may be applied in three phases with a limit of $20,000 per year or a maximum of $60,000 per project. There must be a usable component of the project at the end of each phase.
Grants are awarded for up to 50% of project costs. The other 50% of project costs shall be provided by the project sponsor. Up to 50% of the sponsor's share of project costs may be non-cash donations such as materials, equipment use, services and labor.
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Who can apply?
Eligible friends groups must be nonstock, nonprofit corporations described under Section 501(c)(3) or (4) of the Internal Revenue Code and exempt from taxation under section 501(a) and in good standing with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions. In addition, the group must have formed to raise funds for a state property and also have a written friends agreement with DNR.
Eligible NCOs must be nonprofit corporations, charitable trusts or other nonprofit associations described in Section 501 (c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and exempt from taxation under section 501 (a). In addition, the purpose of the organization must include the acquisition of property for conservation purposes.
The first 5 eligibility requirements below existed before this program guidance document. Eligibility requirement #6 is new and helps clarify the department's expectation for projects that take more than one year to complete (also called "multi-phased projects"). This clarification is included based on comments the department received from sponsors about their multi-phased projects. Projects must meet all of the following requirements as per s. NR 51.83, Wis. Admin. Code:
- The project is for nature-based outdoor recreation as defined in s. NR 51.002(19) any activity where the primary focus or purpose is the appreciation or enjoyment of nature. These activities may include but are not limited to: hiking, bicycling, wildlife or nature observation, camping, nature study, fishing, hunting, trapping, public shooting range, boating, picnicking, cross-country skiing, canoeing and multi-use trail activities. Eligible support facilities for these activities may include but are not limited to: access roads, parking areas, utility, and sanitation systems, sanitary and shelter building, signs, interpretive items and other features that enhance nature-based outdoor recreation or improved disabled accessibility. Playgrounds and playground facilities that supplement the appreciation of nature and occupy a minor portion of the property are also eligible. Ineligible activities include but are not limited to: extensively developed open space such as dedicated sports fields, swimming pools and tennis courts.
- The project addresses unmet needs consistent with DNR approved plans for the property, unless the project is for a state trail managed and maintained by a governmental unit or other cooperator with a memorandum of agreement with DNR.
- The project is identified in a property's plan, unless the project is habitat restoration project described in s. NR 51.84(2)(e) or the project is for a state trail managed and maintained by a governmental unit or other cooperator with a memorandum of agreement with DNR.
- The project makes long-term capital improvements or installs durable equipment with an expected useful life of 20 years or more, unless it is a habitat restoration project [as described in s. NR 51.84(2)(e)] that is consistent with approved plans governing the management of the property.
- The application has submitted required reports and returned any unused funds for all prior projects within the required timeframe.
- The project is a stand-alone project, the first phase of a multi-phased project, or a multi-phased project for which DNR will have awarded $60,000 or less in Friends grants for all phases.
What Expenses Are Eligible?
Grant funds may be spent on:
- materials, supplies, services and labor;
- salaries and fringe benefits, if directly related to the project;
- rental or lease of equipment to perform the project;
- building and land restoration, if project adds to the permanent inventory or resources of the property; and
- furnishings (e.g., furniture) only if part of a larger development project and amounts to 6% or less of total project costs. Contact the Bureau of Parks and Recreation early in your planning process to verify that your furnishings will qualify.
Grant funds may not be spent on:
- administrative overhead;
- equipment such as bike repair stands, interior supplies (e.g., window blinds, furniture), computers, AV equipment, tools and shop equipment;
- educational materials such as brochures, videos and books.
Because program funds originate from bonded money, a development project must be a permanent improvement, having a life expectancy of 20 years or more.
Project Selection Priorities
Application scoring is new to this grant program. Now that the department is receiving more applications than available funding, the department must identify a way to prioritize projects for grant funding. Assigning a score for each application component is a commonly used method. Projects that meet the goal of the Friends Grant Program score the highest; projects are ranked based on score. Funds are awarded beginning with the highest scored project until all funds are allocated.
DNR staff will review each application for eligibility consistent with the required criteria described in the Eligible Project section of this guidance. Eligible projects will then be scored on questions A1-A4 below. Questions T1-T5 will be used to rank projects that score equally on questions A1-A4. When all projects have been scored, grants will be awarded to projects received from Friends Groups in rank order. If funds remain, grants will be awarded to NCOs in rank order. Applicant prioritization is per provisions of s. NR 51.84(1) Wis. Admin. Code.
|Question||Max Points||Earned Points||Comments|
|A1.1||Project provides capital improvement and or habitat work that directly provides nature-based outdoor recreation opportunities||2||2||If direct, then 2 points, if indirect, then only 1 point. For example, kitchen, restrooms, etc., would be direct. Indirect items would be playground equipment, kiosk, trail signs.|
|A1.20||Project provides capital improvements and or habitat work that indirectly provides nature-based outdoor recreation opportunities||2||1||If direct, then 2 points, if indirect, then only 1 point. For example, kitchen, restrooms, etc., would be direct. Indirect items would be playground equipment, kiosk, trail signs.|
|A1.3||Applicant has requested funding for 25% or less of the total project cost||2||2||"Other funding" defined as sources other than Friends cash or force account (i.e. in-kind) services. If applicant is meeting their match with Friends cash or donated labor from Friends, then zero points.|
|A1.4||Applicant has requested funds for 25-45% or less of the total project cost||2||1||"Other funding" defined as sources other than Friends cash or force account (i.e. in-kind) services. If applicant is meeting their match with Friends cash or donated labor from Friends, then zero points.|
|A2.1||Project provides a new type of, or access to, a nature-based outdoor recreation that is not currently available at the property.||3||3||Projects that expand or modify existing infrastructure to provide new recreation opportunities that meet or exceed applicable accessibility standards qualify for full points (3).|
|A2-2||Project expands availability and/or access to nature-based outdoor recreation activities that currently exist at the property||3||2||Projects that expand or modify existing infrastructure to provide new recreation opportunities that meet or exceed applicable accessibility standards qualify for full points (3).|
|A3.1||Project addresses completely an identified public health, safety, or security concern at the property||3||3||Environmental concerns often include invasive species and energy efficiency.|
|A3.2||Project contributes to an identified public health, safety, or security concern at the property.||3||1||Environmental concerns often include invasive species and energy efficiency.|
|A3.3||Project fully addresses or contributes to addressing a priority environmental concern at the property.||3||1||Environmental concerns often include invasive species and energy efficiency.|
|A4.1||Capital improvement or habitat projects that directly expand environmental education, interpretation programs, or outdoor skills development opportunities or facilities||2||2|
|A4.2||Capital improvement or habitat projects that enhance or expand existing environmental education, interpretation programs, or outdoor skills development opportunities or facilities.||2||1|
|TOTAL MAXIMUM SCORE =||12|
|T1||The project directly supports volunteer-based services provided at the property by the Friends Group||1||1|
|T2||The project reduces property maintenance & operation needs.||1||1|
|T3||The applicant is a first-time applicant for a grant.||1||1|
|T4||The project supports a DNR program priority.||1||1|
|T5||The project is a multiple phased project that has already received funds for the 1st or 2nd phases.||1||1||This supports completion of a started project.|
Nov. 15 each year.
Projects should not be started until you receive your signed grant contract and should be completed within two years. Any costs that are incurred for a project prior to the signed grant contract will not be eligible for reimbursement except planning, contracting and engineering (with the provision that if the grant is not approved or completed funds will not be issued toward these costs).
How to apply
- Step 1
Start planning your project early and contact your DNR Property Manager about your project goals. Review the eligibility guidelines and ranking criteria.
- Step 2
To apply for a State Property grant, complete the following:
- Stewardship Application for State Property Development Projects application Form 2500-112
- Stewardship Friends Grant Program Ranking Question & Criteria Responses Form 8700-339
- Cost Estimate Worksheet Form 8700-114
- Authorizing Resolution Template for Friends Grant
- Location Map
- Detailed Site Plan
- Step 3
Submit the completed application materials to the Property Manager for review and approvals through the associated Bureau Management Team. Please send the materials to the property manager as early as is possible, preferably by October 15, in order to leave time for DNR staff to review the application.
- Step 4
Submit the completed application and attachments to the Friends Grant Program Manager either via email or postmarked by the application due date of Nov. 15. See the Help tab for the contact information.
Friends Group payment forms and instructions:
- Grant payment request
- Stewardship Friends Group Final On-Site Project Inspection Form 8700-335
- Final Inspection Report Form 8700-335
For more information and assistance, please contact your DNR Property Manager about project planning, or the Friends Grant Manager for grant application and eligibility questions.
Friends Grant Program Manager:
P.O. Box 7921
Madison, WI 53707-7921
Learn more about supporting an individual property through Friends Groups of the Wisconsin State Park System.
Friends Groups that support one of the Wisconsin State Park System properties that have established an endowment may also be eligible for the State Parks and Forests Heritage Trust Fund Grant. The State Park and Forest Heritage Trust Fund specifies eligibility guidelines to support education, operational and maintenance projects.