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Grants for Friends Groups

Wisconsin State Park System

Several grant programs are available to Friends Groups projects that support the mission and activities at Wisconsin State Park System properties.

Knowles Nelson Stewardship Grant

The Knowles Nelson Stewardship Program provides grants for Friends Groups and nonprofit conservation organizations (NCOs) up to $20,000 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. Deadline: Nov. 15. 

Recreational Trails Program (RTP)

The Recreational Trails Program (RTP) is a federal program administered nationwide. Municipal governments and incorporated organizations are eligible to receive reimbursement for the development and maintenance of recreational trails and trail-related facilities for both motorized and non-motorized recreational trail uses. Funds may be used in conjunction with funds from the state snowmobile or ATV grant programs and Knowles-Nelson Stewardship development projects. Eligible projects include: Existing trail maintenance and restoration; Development and rehabilitation of trailside and trailhead facilities and trail linkages; Construction of new trails (some restrictions apply); and Acquisition of easements and fee simple title to property for recreational trails or recreational trail corridors (some restrictions apply). Deadline: May 1. 

Heritage Trust Fund

The Wisconsin Legislature created the State Park and Forest Heritage Trust Fund to provide grants to Friends Groups for the maintenance and operations of state parks, southern state forests, state trails or state recreation areas. A Friends Group must have established an endowment fund for the benefit of the property. Only interest generated by the endowment fund can be used as the applicant’s match. Deadline: Nov. 15. 

Environmental Education in Wisconsin 

The goal of Environmental Education in Wisconsin [exit DNR] is to assure that Wisconsin citizens have opportunities to learn about, participate in, and promote environmental education activities and resources. Deadline: Varies by grant.

Foundation Directory Online  

Foundation Directory Online [exit DNR] contains in-depth profiles of grant makers, plus their histories of grantmaking. An effective way to find potential funders. Some Wisconsin library systems carry the directory. A subscription is required to obtain online access. Deadline: Varies by grant.

Foundations of Wisconsin

Foundations of Wisconsin [exit DNR] is a directory of various foundations available in a book format or an online searchable catalog. Some Wisconsin library systems carry the directory. Fees are required to purchase the book or access the online version. Deadline: Varies by grant.

Friends of Wisconsin State Parks

The Friends of Wisconsin State Parks (FWSP) [exit DNR] provides two grant programs for Friends Groups.

Incentive Grant

This fund supports naturalist projects and programs at parks, forests, trails and recreation areas. Deadline: Spring

Trees and Flowers Grant

Designed for tree/plant beautification projects at parks, forests, trails and recreation areas. Deadline: Spring.

National Environmental Education Foundation

The National Environmental Education Foundation [exit DNR] grant provides Friends Groups with funds of up to $5,000 to help build capacity to serve public lands. If a group can better engage the public, it can attract more volunteers to grow its base of support. If it can gain more support, it can offer more volunteer events. Deadline: Rolling.

National Park Service

The National Park Service's Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program [exit DNR] supports community-led natural resource conservation and outdoor recreation initiatives. Guidance is provided to develop plans to preserve open space and develop trails and greenways. Deadline: June 30.

Natural Resources Foundation (NRF) of Wisconsin

The Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin [exit DNR] supports efforts that protect Wisconsin's natural resources through several grantmaking programs. 

Norma and Stanley DeBoer Quiet Trails Fund

The fund provides grants ranging from $500 to $1,000 to support the creation and maintenance of quiet trails (e.g. hiking, skiing, paddling, biking) in Wisconsin. Deadline: May 1. 

David and Joyce Weizenicker Endowment Fund for State Parks

The David and Joyce Weizenicker Endowment Fund [exit DNR] provides grants ranging from $500 to $5,000 to Wisconsin State Park System Friends Groups for the primary purpose of supporting projects that facilitate accessibility for senior citizens, especially trail development, maintenance and restoration, rest stops including benches, overlooks, and interpretive signage. Applicants must match the gift with cash or in-kind support on a 1:1 basis.  Contact NRF directly for details. Deadline: May 1. 

Teachers' Outdoor Environmental Education Fund

Grants up to $1,000 are awarded annually to public school teachers (K-12) for outdoor environmental education learning experiences (that can occur on a state property). Deadline: May 1. 

C.D. Besadny Conservation Fund

Grants up to $1,000 are awarded to projects for projects that benefit Wisconsin’s lands, waters, and wildlife and that connect people to Wisconsin’s natural resources. Deadline: Sept. 1.

Go Outside Fund

Grants up to $500 for projects that connect students and teachers with outdoor nature-based learning experiences. Deadline: Rolling - March 31, June 30, Sept. 30, Dec. 31.