Reference Manual 21 -- Chapter 6

Note: This page contains Chapter 6 of Reference Manual 21 that accompanies Director's Order 21, Donations and Philanthropic Partnerships. Users of RM-21 are strongly encouraged to check this page for updates before utilizing previously viewed, printed, or downloaded materials.

Updated August 21, 2018

On this page:

6.0 Philanthropic Partnership Agreements

6.0 Philanthropic Partnership Agreements

The NPS will consider entering into a philanthropic partnership agreement with an interested entity, including nonprofit organizations, public sector agencies with tax-exempt status, for-profit corporations, and individuals to generate support on its behalf. There are three basic types of philanthropic agreements, based on the intent of the relationship, that are required when fundraising is expected to exceed $25,000 in donations.

Small scale fundraising events or activities that raise less than $25,000 for the NPS do not require written philanthropic agreements. However, if a park or program is entering into a fundraising partnership relationship that extends beyond an 18 month period, regardless of the amount expected to be raised each year, an agreement is necessary. An agreement protects the interests of both parties involved, documents the nature of the relationship, defines roles and responsibilities, and ensures compliance with all applicable sections and requirements of DO21. For these organizations raising less than $25,000 over the proposed term of their relationship, a park or program is encouraged to use the templates provided in this chapter and propose revisions to the template language to fit the scale of the effort. Your regional partnership coordinator can assist you in reviewing these edits.

See sections 6.1 - 6.3 below for agreement types, guidance selecting the appropriate agreement, and templates.

It is critical to note that partnership agreements officially establish a business relationship between the NPS, a Federal Bureau, and a partner. Philanthropic partnership agreements give partners the ability to fundraise on behalf of the NPS. This ability is governed by Federal law, authorities, regulations, and policies that must be followed and adhered to during the life of the agreement

For more support and guidance, national parks and programs should connect with their regional partnership coordinator. Partners, connect with your local national park and/or program or the Office of Partnerships and Philanthropic Stewardship to explore possibilities.

6.1 Philanthropic Partnership Agreement

This agreement is used to establish a long-term relationship between the NPS and its philanthropic partner and authorize the partner to solicit funds on behalf of the NPS. It is most commonly used with friends groups and similar organizations that intend to have a sustained philanthropic relationship with the NPS. Cooperating associations and other organizations that have a cooperative agreement or general agreement with the NPS may also enter into a philanthropic partnership agreement if they wish to develop a sustained philanthropic relationship with the NPS.

A Philanthropic Partnership Agreement is not used to authorize short-term philanthropic relationships or those limited to:

  • One-time fundraising for a specific project or program
  • Cause-marketing efforts
  • Corporate social responsibility and pro-bono relationships
  • Sponsorships; or
  • Partner Design and Construction projects


Philanthropic Partnership Agreements with individual parks are held in NPS regions. They are executed at the park-level by the Superintendent with approval from the Regional Office. The Regional Partnership Coordinator guides the park and partner through the development of the agreement and initial work plan. When the fundraising target for the initial work plan exceeds the delegation of authority for the Regional Director as described in Appendix 1 - Table: Delegations of Authority for Authorized Employees, then the agreement should route through the Regional Director to the Office of Partnerships and Philanthropic Stewardship for review and signature by the Deputy Director and/or Director.

When an agreement involves parks in two or more regions, then the agreement is elevated to the Office of Partnerships and Philanthropic Stewardship and becomes a national agreement.

The authorized employee (in many cases the superintendent) includes the proposed length of the agreement in the draft submitted to the regional office. When making this determination, the authorized employee should consider the following:

  • The years of service this partner has provided to the NPS or other public land management agency
  • The number of public/private partnership projects completed in previous years
  • The number of completed fundraising campaigns
  • The years of experience of the President/CEO and the capabilities of the organization and its Board of Directors
  • The amount of support provided to a park or program
    • Direct donations provided
    • Indirect donations provided
    • Volunteer service
    • Other forms of support
  • Other circumstances that may uniquely qualify this partner to provide support to program and projects

Templates and Other Documents

Appendix 1 - Table: Delegations of Authority for Authorized Employees

  • Attachments

Note: Some attachments may or may not be included at the time the agreement is executed. You may make a note of this in the agreement. Additionally, several of these attachments are partner provided.

Attachment A - Annual Work Plan (See 6.4.1 below for checklist of items to include)
Attachment B - Donor Review Process
Attachment C - Donor Recognition Plan(s) (See Section 8 of DO21)
Attachment D - Feasibility Study (See 6.4.3 below)
Attachment E - Philanthropic Partner(s) Articles of Incorporation or State Operating Agreement
Attachment F - Philanthropic Partner(s) By-laws
Attachment G - Philanthropic Partner(s) IRS Tax-Exemption Determination Letter
Attachment I - Property Use
Attachment J - Intellectual Property
Attachment K - Endowment and Investment Accounts

6.2 Partner Design & Construction Agreement

A Partner Design & Construction Agreement or a Donation Agreement is used when a Partner proposes to design, construct, or renovate facilities, structures or trails located on NPS property, and to donate all work to NPS. The Agreement provides the legal and policy framework for the partner’s services and the services of the partner’s consultants and contractors. Please see Section 7 of DO21 and RM-21 Chapter 7 for more information about Design and Construction projects and design competitions, as well as partner roles in the process.

Templates and Other Documents

Design and Construction Agreement Template

*Note: DCA V.2 differs from DCA V.1 only in that it removed the clause that partners and/or their contractors are subject to Davis-Bacon wage requirements in most cases. Consult with your Regional Partnership Coordinator for more details.

Attachments:

Attachment A – Project Description
Attachment B – Financial Contributions
Attachment C – Project Development Plan
Attachment D – Site Plan
Attachment E – Contractor Certification Form (*included within Design and Construction Agreement Template above)

Flow Chart - Design and Construction August 2015
Flow Chart - Design Competition and PCP


Donation Agreement (Template will be available by end of July 2018. Consult your Regional Partnership Coordinator for more information.)

6.3 Philanthropic Support Agreement

A Philanthropic Support Agreement is a formal agreement used to document a short-term or project-specific philanthropic relationship between the NPS and organizations or individuals. These agreements are for financial and/or in-kind support to the NPS for a specific park purpose/project/program or for a limited timeframe.

A Philanthropic Support Agreement authorizes the philanthropic partner(s) to undertake activities that will generate funds or other resources on behalf of or to benefit the NPS. This agreement is used to authorize:

  • One-time fundraising or in kind support initiative for a specific NPS project or program
  • Cause marketing efforts
  • Corporate social responsibility (CSR) and pro-bono relationships
  • Sponsorships
  • Donations from individuals greater than $25,000
  • In-park fundraising efforts, such as the checkout counter donation program (See RM-21 Chapter 4.5.3 for additional information and authorization required for this program)


In some instances, an individual or organization may make a one-time donation that does not seem to require the development of a philanthropic support agreement. In those instances, consult with your Regional Partnership Coordinator on the use of a donation acceptance letter.

Templates and Other Documents

Appendix 1 - Table: Delegations of Authority for Authorized Employees

  • Attachments

Note: Some attachments may or may not be included at the time the agreement is executed. You may make a note of this in the agreement. Additionally, several of these attachments are partner provided.

Attachment A - Annual Work Plan (See 6.4.1 below for checklist of items to include)
Attachment B - Donor Review Process
Attachment C - Donor Recognition Plan(s) (See Section 8 of DO21)
Attachment D - Feasibility Study (See 6.4.3 below)
Attachment E - Philanthropic Partner(s) Articles of Incorporation or State Operating Agreement
Attachment F - Philanthropic Partner(s) By-laws
Attachment G - Philanthropic Partner(s) IRS Tax-Exemption Determination Letter
Attachment I - Property Use
Attachment J - Intellectual Property
Attachment K - Endowment and Investment Accounts

6.4 Considerations in Agreements

6.4.1 Annual Work Plans

The NPS and the partner must approve an annual work plan for each year their agreement is active. The annual work plan lays out the projects and programs that a park or program and an authorized philanthropic partner agree to work on and fundraise for in a specific year. The plan is a collaborative work that aligns the identified needs of a park or program area with the authorized philanthropic partner’s assessment of philanthropic or sponsorship interest in those needs. The annual work plan may manifest itself in a variety of ways and come from other documents or processes. For example, for simplistic partnership portfolios, a work plan may be only a few pages. For larger portfolios, they might be several dozen pages long and, at times during the course of the agreement, may cover multiple years. A co-developed strategic plan may serve as the work plan, if it includes the content described below. If the Partner with a Philanthropic Partnership Agreement is planning or engaging in a major fundraising effort or campaign, or is planning to engage in cause-marketing and other corporate fundraising efforts, such efforts should be described in detail within or appended to the annual plan for their Philanthropic Partnership Agreement.

The following items, at a minimum where applicable, should be included in an annual work plan:

  • Projects and programs the park and partner agree to work on and fundraise for that year
    • Include budget provided by partner
    • Include NPS intent, if any, to utilize government funds or other support
  • Fundraising Activities
    • How does a partner raise funds?
    • What do they need from NPS?
  • Donor Cultivation Activities
    • Schedule of known or planned events or activities
    • Expectations of NPS subject matter expert and authorized employee participation
  • Checkout Counter Donation Program
  • Donation Boxes
    • NPS donation boxes utilized for partner projects and programs
    • Partner managed donation boxes
  • Electronic Giving
    • Partner intent for use of electronic giving
    • NPS website use
      • Partner link from NPS website
    • Crowdfunding
  • NPS Cause Marketing

6.4.3 Feasibility Studies

A feasibility study evaluates the readiness of an organization (both the park and the nonprofit support partner) to undertake the proposed fundraising effort, the willingness of potential donors to support it, and the likelihood of success. Fundraising feasibility studies are a best practice in the philanthropy sector. It is conducted by a consultant or campaign counsel (in most cases from an outside source) and can take three to six months to complete. The feasibility study typically includes an assessment of the following:

  • Credibility: Do prospective donors have confidence in the mission, programs and leadership of both organizations?
  • Case for support: Is there a clearly articulated reason for giving and do potential donors understand it?
  • Prospect base: How many prospective donors can be identified? Are these highly cultivated relationships that are eager to support the campaign? Are there enough prospects with the ability to give at the levels needed to reach the goal?
  • Campaign leadership: Is a group of highly influential and committed volunteers in place?
  • Institutional readiness: Are the organization’s systems in place to support the day-to-day business of running a fundraising effort? Is the park staffed to support the partnership?
  • Fundraising environment: What external factors might influence the campaign’s success?


Feasibility studies are required for projects over $1 million with the option for a partner to request a waiver submitted to the Authorized Employee or if required to the Director, through the Office of Partnerships and Philanthropic Stewardship. Assessment of waiver requests is based on the experience of the partner in fundraising efforts of the magnitude proposed and the experience of the superintendent and park staff in executing the type of project contemplated.

6.4.4 Intellectual Property

This area of the chapter will be added at a future date.

6.5 NPS Brand Management and Logo Licensing

Last updated: August 21, 2018