National Wildlife Refuge System

Peer-to-Peer Coaching Grants

Friends Forward February 2014

Friends helping friends: these fox pups were born and raised near the visitor contact station at Great Swamp Refuge, NJ.
Credit: Gail Petrillo/Friends of Great Swamp

The National Wildlife Refuge Friends Grant Program, offered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, now includes funds for peer-to-peer coaching.  The goal is to help Friends organizations expand their expertise, meet local refuge challenges, and build community recognition and support for both refuge and Friends.

Friends may apply for grants to offer coaching to at least four other Friends organizations on such issues as board development and management, developing community partnerships, planning, communication, working with the media, social media marketing, nature store basics, grant writing and more.  At least one coaching session must be led or co-led by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff.

Friends of Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey won the first grant and plans to host a two-day workshop for seven refuges in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. “We have had informal time together,” says Great Swamp Friends board member Kathy Woodward, “but with the grant we can do it on a scale that makes it worthwhile.” 

Up to 10 people will be invited from each refuge. The event will include workshops on communication, community partnerships, Friends boards and volunteers. At the conclusion, each group will be asked to present an action plan, with progress to be shared at a future New Jersey/Pennsylvania meeting.  With no recent national or regional Friends conferences, says Woodward, these smaller gatherings “give us new energy and new ideas and expand the possibilities for all of us.”

The application deadline for all spring NFWF grants (start-up, capacity building, project-specific) is April 14.

Fall Grant Winners
NFWF and the Service announced that $38,000 in grants was awarded to nine Friends organizations. Since 1998, the National Wildlife Refuge Friends Grant Program has provided over 370 awards totaling more than $1.6 million in federal funds to support Friends organizations around the country.


Friends of Great Swamp, NJ, worked together to restore a vernal pool on a refuge trail.
Credit: Laurel Gould/Friends of Great Swamp

In addition to the Friends of Great Swamp grant described above, the 2013 fall grantees include:

  • Friends of Horicon National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin will replace the existing visitor center landscaping with at least 60 species of native plants, providing a resource for education and demonstration while beautifying areas of interest for visitors.
  • Friends of Maine Seabird Islands in Maine will improve the visitor center by installing two new computers for visitor education and a series of photographs of the refuge, helping to attract more visitors and educate them about the refuge’s coastal ecosystems.  
  • Friends of Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge  in New York will create opportunities for bird watching and identification at the visitor center to build a diverse urban constituency supporting the wildlife of Long Island.
  • Rappahannock Wildlife Refuge Friends Group in Virginia will use "GoPro" and wildlife cameras to capture events, activities and wildlife on the refuge to be shared on Facebook and the Friends Web site. This project is intended to increase community awareness of the Friends group as well as enhance environmental education throughout the community.
  • Friends of the Great Falls Discovery Center in Massachusetts will create a Friends brochure with a tear-off membership form as well as a traveling exhibit box to distribute and share throughout the community. The project is intended to increase the Friends’ membership within and beyond its present area, thereby increasing the pool of volunteers available to help with Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge programs.
  • Friends of the Great Plains Nature Center in Kansas will develop a media relations and special event management plan to increase visitation to the Great Plains Nature Center. The goal is to increase the urban audience's awareness of the Refuge System's mission, conservation activities and education programs.
  • Friends of Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico will conduct strategic planning for the Friends' Board and key members. This project will enable the Friends of this new refuge to identify goals, objectives and action steps to support the refuge, foster a conservation ethic, provide education and outreach, and assist the Service in developing the new refuge site.



Back to Friends Forward Index

Last updated: February 13, 2014