New NRPA Report, Park and Recreation Agency-Foundation Relationships: Partnering for the Future, Now Available

(September 29, 2020)

New report identifies benefits and challenges of agency-foundation relationships

Ashburn, Va. (Sept. 29, 2020) —  To better understand the characteristics and conditions that lead to effective and sustainable partnerships between park and recreation agencies and their partners, the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) commissioned a study led by Dr. Nicholas Pitas at the State University of New York-Brockport that focuses on evidence-based best practices that maximize the benefits of these valuable and strategic relationships. Through both a survey and a series of in-depth interviews with leaders of both public agencies and nonprofit foundations, Park and Recreation Agency-Foundation Relationships: Partnering for the Future provides a detailed snapshot of the benefits and challenges that exist between agency-foundation relationships, and why they are important.

The majority of the nation’s more than 10,000 park and recreation agencies rely on taxpayer support and revenue generated by agency activities (e.g., registration fees, sponsorships and concessions) as a primary source of funding. Unfortunately, the typical agency does not receive sufficient funding to fully deliver on its mission, and the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting recession are adding to the financial pressures. As a result, many park and recreation agencies partner with nonprofit park foundations or “friends groups” to help fill the gap and achieve these top five benefits, as outlined in the report:   

  • Extra fundraising capacity
  • Ability to serve beyond the scope of a traditional park and recreation agency
  • Advocacy for parks and recreation
  • Expertise and skills that complement agency staff
  • Flexibility as foundations are not government agencies

As renowned experts in their respective fields, park and recreation agency and nonprofit foundation leaders identified several characteristics of successful agency-foundation relationships. These include:

  • Clear roles and responsibilities
  • Community trust in both the agency and the foundation
  • Fundraising capacity
  • Aligned funding priorities

Finally, while the majority of park and recreation leaders agree that their agencies’ relationships are strong, close and effective, they report that there are challenges that can limit the effectiveness of an agency-foundation relationship. These include:

  • Organizational structure issues
  • Unproductive interpersonal relationships
  • Lack of key stakeholder understanding, buy-in and awareness
  • Competition for scarce resources
  • Equity and diversity deficiencies

“As a result of the Great Recession and the COVID-19 pandemic, many of our member agencies have had to cut the number of lifesaving programs and services they offer, despite the public’s desire to fund parks and recreation at the same level as other essential local government services,” said Kevin Roth, NRPA’s vice president of research, evaluation and technology. “In order to protect the future of parks and recreation, it’s imperative that we foster stronger relationships between agencies and nonprofit partners. This report takes the first step in that direction as it identifies ways in which we can strengthen and expand these partnerships to fill this resource gap.”   

The benefits of a well-funded park and recreation agency are clearly defined and include the advancement of community health and well-being, better preparedness for the impacts of a changing climate and natural disasters, along with equitable access to park and recreation infrastructure and their benefits. Furthermore, public support for parks and recreation is strong. More than 4 in 5 people agree parks and recreation is an essential local government service. In addition, 77 percent of U.S. adults consider high-quality park and recreation amenities important factors when choosing a new place to live.

To read the full report, click here.

To learn more about NRPA, visit   


About the National Recreation and Park Association
The National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) is the leading not-for-profit organization dedicated to building strong, vibrant and resilient communities through the power of parks and recreation. With more than 60,000 members, NRPA advances this mission by investing in and championing the work of park and recreation professionals and advocates — the catalysts for positive change in service of equity, climate-readiness, and overall health and well-being. For more information, visit For digital access to NRPA’s flagship publication, Parks & Recreation, visit