Training Programs for Friends

Friends Academy 2011
Friends Academy 2011
Credit: Joanna Webb

NCTC Friends and Volunteer Training Waiver Program

This program enables official Friends members and/or USFWS volunteers the opportunity to take online and in-class training offered by the USFWS National Conservation Training Center (NCTC) for FREE. Tuition, meals and lodging waived and travel will be reimbursed. If you are seeking to build skills to support your refuge, hatchery and/or organization more effectively, start by browsing upcoming NCTC courses. You can also browse this illustrated Course Guide for planning your training needs and a quick view FY18 Schedule.

For more information about the training waiver program and/or to get started with signing up for a course, download the FY18 Waiver Program Announcement.


Friends Academy

National Wildlife Refuge System Friends Academy is an advanced training program for board members of refuge Friends organizations beyond the formative stages of development. The purpose of the week-long Academy is to cultivate emerging Friends leaders by providing a broader understanding of the National Wildlife Refuge System and enhancing nonprofit and partnership skills to increase the effectiveness of Friends/Service partnerships. Upon completion of this five-day course, you will be able to:  

  • Outline the basic organizational structure for the National Wildlife Refuge System and identify programs and staff working with Friends partnerships;
  • Employ three new strategies or skills to build effective relationships with Service staff and board members within the Friends/Service partnership;
  • Implement new strategies to enhance the sustainability of your board, and membership and volunteer programs;
  • Implement new strategies to build your organization's capacity;
  • Identify and utilize resources or tools, and where to locate them, that can help you increase the effectiveness of your Friends organization;
  • Utilize new Friend to Friend relationships for the purpose of sharing successes and increasing your effectiveness as a Friends leader; and
  • Describe broader roles Friends can play in protecting, enhancing and expanding the National Wildlife Refuge System.

Friends Academy Application
Friends Academy will be held August 6-10, 2018 at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Conservation Training Center (NCTC) in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.

Download application for more information

The application deadline is April 16, 2018.

Friends Partnership Mentoring Program

 The friends mentoring program is an outstanding partnership support program that offers peer-to-peer coaching for refuge and fisheries Friends organizations and their respective Service partners to help the partnership flourish and sustain success over time. Whether a group is just getting started and needs help to get organized, draft bylaws, and apply for 501(c)(3) status; is at a turning point and seeks guidance before taking on a significant new project; or needs help to keep from disbanding, the mentoring program is available as an impressive resource—free of charge for qualifying Friends organizations and their Service partners. 

There are two application cycles for the mentoring program each year:

  • Spring Cycle applications due March 31, with mentoring process taking place between May and October.
  • Fall Cycle applications due October 31, with mentoring process taking place between December and March.

If selected for mentoring, partnerships can have a pair of mentors travel to their station, at no cost to the station or Friends organization, for peer-to-peer coaching. 

Application, Friends Partnership Mentoring Program

Nonprofit Organizational Life Cycles


US Fish and Wildlife Service Friends Quarterly Webinar recordings can be found here:

Summary of 2017 Webinars
Smart Ways to Avoiding Burnout in Stressful Times
Friends Versus Volunteers - Answers to Your Top Questions Revealed
Special Events - Get Inspired