Jun 2 2014


Policy Memorandum 14-04


To:                   All Employees


From:               Director


Subject:           Developing a New Framework for National Park Service Partnerships and Philanthropic Stewardship in the 21st Century


This Policy Memorandum does NOT supersede Director’s Order #21 (approved July 11, 2008), which remains in effect until it is officially superseded with approved revisions.



The National Park Service (NPS) is in the process of updating Director’s Order #21:  Donations and Fundraising.  The 2008 Director’s Order provides guidance to park managers in accepting donations and working with organizations who seek to raise money to benefit the national parks or programs of the NPS.  Our policy ensures that the welcome support we receive from the private sector is accepted and recognized in accordance with applicable laws, regulations and policy.  While the current policy has served the NPS well, there is clear and growing recognition within the NPS, and among our current and potential partners, that the existing Director’s Order limits the consideration and role of modern, mission-helpful, philanthropic options for NPS parks and programs.


New policy guidance is needed to:


·         Help the NPS connect with broader philanthropic communities;

·         Offer updated tools to help current partners engage new and more diversified philanthropic partners (for example, contemporary donor recognition options and plans, and partnership agreements);

·         Support more robust engagement of partners for the upcoming NPS Centennial in 2016; and

·         Provide the framework and standards for testing philanthropic practices that could be implemented more broadly.


The existing Director’s Order remains in effect and must be followed until a new, revised edition is approved.  The revised Director’s Order is anticipated to be completed by the end of 2014.



The NPS Office of Partnerships and Philanthropic Stewardship is updating Director’s Order #21.  I have asked the National Park System Advisory Board to support the NPS in its efforts to achieve these goals.  Board members have enthusiastically responded and have selected Board member Paul Bardacke to chair a committee on partnerships and philanthropy (the Committee).  The Committee represents a wide cross-section of corporate and nonprofit leaders, including existing partners as well as entities we have not previously engaged or consulted.  These individuals represent corporate America, universities, museums, park philanthropy, foundations, youth, concessioners, and outdoor recreation.


The Committee began work in April and will meet monthly through September 2014.  The Committee will receive briefings on key policy issues by subject-matter experts who are presently engaged with the NPS and with organizations with which the NPS has not yet engaged.  The Committee will use this information, along with the personal knowledge and experience of its members, to develop recommendations to be presented as white papers to the Board.  These recommendations, as adopted by the Board, will inform the revision of Director’s Order #21.  The goal is to complete the revision and release it for formal review and comment both within the Service and by the public.


The Committee’s work will help the NPS develop a new strategic vision and practice for partnerships and philanthropy Service-wide, and support the National Park Foundation (NPF) and others in their work to engage new audiences and develop new corporate and philanthropic alliances.



From the earliest days of America’s national parks, individual citizens and private sector companies and organizations have played vital roles in their development, support and promotion.


Director’s Order #21 was first issued in 1998 to provide guidance to park and program managers in accepting donations and working with organizations who seek to raise money to benefit the national parks or NPS programs.  This document was the first compilation of a series of policies on philanthropy that had been developed over the years.  The Order was substantially revised in 2006 to give managers greater flexibility and to encourage local stewardship and involvement.  The 2008 revision incorporated procedural changes directed by the Department of the Interior in the Departmental Manual (374 DM 6).


Philanthropic and partnership practices and opportunities have continued to evolve over the last decade, becoming more sophisticated and competitive.  The existing NPS framework for practices and policies on donations, fundraising, and partnerships is being reassessed to ensure that we are in sync with the best business practices in the philanthropic community.



Questions and issues raised over time can be grouped into several basic categories:  recognizing supporters; sharing and protecting the NPS brand; making partnership easier; and sharing risk.  Key points are found below.


1.      Recognizing Philanthropic and Promotional Support.  How can the NPS recognize the generosity of supporters, treating them equitably and appropriately while recognizing their contributions in ways that (1) are not seen as taking away from the parks’ values and purposes, and (2) do not detract from the visitor experience, create a sense of clutter, or come across as advertising in, or commercializing, the parks?


The existing policy favors recognition of donors outside of parks and allows a variety of in-park recognition.  However, the Order prohibits types of donor recognition offered by many institutions, such as recognition on benches, bins and other furnishings, on brick walkways, and the use of corporate logos or name script on items that will remain on site.  The policy also prohibits naming park facilities to recognize donations, and is not affirmatively supportive of other forms of naming, such as fellowships, internships, and the development of endowed or supported positions (e.g., an endowed chief historian).


Corporate support of nonprofits has significantly evolved in the last 15 years and now spans a wide range of collaborations from philanthropy to promotional partnerships.  Present policy (1) refers to information that is no longer relevant, e.g., the Proud Partner Program, and (2) is neither detailed nor flexible enough to provide guidance on this range of collaborations. Furthermore, the policy is not clear on the NPF’s role in “corporate marketing” in support of the NPS or specific parks or programs.


The NPS has a long history of prohibiting marketing campaigns and donations that would associate the parks, programs, or agency with alcohol or tobacco products.  There has been interest over the last few years in eliminating the prohibition on engaging in marketing campaigns associated with alcohol products.  Last year, the NPF—by means of a policy waiver—piloted a marketing campaign associated with a winery in an effort to evaluate how the public, our partners, and our employees would receive such a campaign.


2.      Protecting the NPS Brand.  NPS policies on accepting donations and engaging in collaborative work with corporations are based on a fundamental principle articulated in the 2007 DOI donations policy (374 DM 6):  all partnerships should be undertaken in such a way as to not undermine the public’s confidence in the integrity and impartiality of NPS and DOI people and programs.


This ethical principle forms the basis of two policy requirements that have proved to be controversial in their implementation:  (1) the requirement to evaluate the source of donations (donor vetting), and (2) the “default” requirement for NPS ownership of intellectual property created under the auspices of friends group and fundraising agreements.  The Committee will address these topics as it looks at how the NPS protects and shares its brand, based on Committee members’ expertise in fundraising and with intellectual property.


3.      Making Partnering Easier.  NPS partners have operated in various organizational niches for much of the agency’s history:  friends groups raised funds and advocated for parks; cooperating associations developed and sold interpretive media, provided visitor programs, and supported the work of the interpretive program generally; concessioners provided necessary and appropriate visitor services.  In recent years, the lines between the groups have blurred with cooperating associations and friends groups merging and concessioners providing programs.  The NPS has also seen the growth and development of different partnership models, such as residential environmental education, youth employment, program-specific philanthropic support organizations; as well as the increasing need to identify earned-income strategies.  These trends have challenged the NPS, raising questions and issues as the NPS attempts to fit existing policies and authorities into these new partnership paradigms:


·         When is a friends group agreement necessary?  Is there a need to create a partnership agreement template that authorizes fundraising within certain parameters as a parallel to the friends group agreement? 

·         When is a fundraising agreement necessary?  At what point is a group leveraging the NPS brand to raise funds?

·         Are the lines between philanthropy, program support, and advocacy important?

·         How does the NPS remain supportive of existing partners without discouraging new partnerships with organizations that may operate in the same space?

·         What tools are needed to make partnering easier?  How do cooperative agreements fit into the partnership world?

·         How does the NPS choose organizations with whom to partner, what standards should the agency have?


4.      Shared Risk.  Current NPS policy requires the partner to bear most of the financial and other risks in the relationship, and provisions in friends group and fundraising agreements—such as termination, insurance, indemnity, and intellectual property clauses—reflect that policy.  Should NPS policy and agreements modify all or some of these requirements to reflect a partner’s experience in the work contemplated and the precise nature of that work?



The existing Director’s Order #21 and its accompanying Reference Guide are found on the NPS Office of Policy web site, at http://www.nps.gov/applications/npspolicy/DOrders.cfm.  Again, these will remain in place until a revised Director’s Order #21 is approved.


Further Information

Please direct any questions to Reginald Chapple, Program Manager for Partnerships and Philanthropic Stewardship, at 202-354-2112 or Reginald_Chapple@nps.gov.


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