Seining in a Stream with Partners. Credit: Brian Jonkers / USFWS


About Partnerships

Building Partnerships

Partnership Tools



Partnership Links









Types of Partnerships

A partnership is an agreement between two or more organizations, created to achieve or assist in reaching a common goal. Partnerships may involve one organization using another's unique abilities, equipment or services, or they can be a sharing of resources (money, time, knowledge, equipment, etc.), to accomplish short- or long-term objectives for one or all of the participating partners.

The Service engages in many types of formal and informal partnership arrangements including: grants and cooperative agreements, memoranda of understanding, donations to the Service, and statutory partnerships. These tools are available for use in structuring the partnership arrangements specific to the needs of, and to the mutual benefit of, the parties involved.

Grants and Cooperative Agreements
Grant are used by the Service when it is supporting a public purpose and does not anticipate any substantial involvement with the recipient after funds are transferred, for example, where an agency grants funds to an organization that will use the funds for a specified purpose. Cooperative agreements are similar to grant agreements but are used when the Service will be substantially involved in the activity for which the funding or in-kind service is being provided. Another type of grant arrangement is the challenge assistance or cost-sharing agreement, which requires the provision of matching funds to leverage the effectiveness of the grant funds. Criteria for when to use a grant or cooperative agreement are found in the Federal Grant and Cooperative Agreement Act at 31 U.S.C. §6305.

Memoranda of Understanding
Memoranda of understanding are useful when partnership arrangements do not involve the transfer of funding, property, services, or human resources by either party but instead are based on mutual agreement on processes, products, or outcomes accomplished by working cooperatively with other Federal or non-Federal partners on issues of mutual interest. Memoranda of understanding are based on the appropriate statutory authority for the formation of the partnership and should generally include the following elements: heading, background, statement of purpose, identification of statutory authorities, procedures to be followed and responsibilities of the parties, and administrative provisions.

Donations to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Although most partnerships do not involve a direct transfer of resources to the Service, there are certain situations in which an outside party may want to donate money, property, or services the Service. These donations are considered gifts and are generally defined as gratuitous conveyances of ownership in property without anything being given by the Service in return. Gifts can only be accepted if there is specific statutory authority to receive it. The Service has bureaus have gift acceptance authority; however each situation must be evaluated separately. Gifts must conform to ethics rules and must not create the appearance of impropriety.

Statutory Partnerships
A substantial number of general statutory (programmatic) authorities can be broadly thought of as partnership tools because they enable Service partnership action. Congress also often enacts legislation that authorizes specific partnerships or partnership activities.

These partnership tools often define a relationship in which the Service will work with other Federal or non-Federal entities, including State, local and Tribal governments. In these situations, Congress determines the scope of the partnership and usually provides specific authority in addition to the Service’s general statutory authorities. Legislation to implement a particular partnership activity may be proposed to Congress through appropriate official channels and through the Service’s congressional liaison office.

Return to Partnership Tools