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Help Your Essential Friends: Suggestions On Contributing To National Park Friends Groups


Throughout the summer we've been celebrating the work of national park friends groups. While the summer is coming to an end, their good work continues throughout the year. And with that in mind, they could use your support to fund that work. Here's a look back at some of the park system's "essential friends" and how you can support them.

Friends of Acadia

* Join Friends of Acadia. Let them put your dues to work hiring ridgerunners for the summer, or underwriting the Acadia Youth Conservation Corps.

* If you can—emulate the park’s early 20th century blue-blooded supporters—and contribute cash or transfer stocks or other securities.

* If you can’t—then designate Friends of Acadia as a beneficiary of your IRA, 401(K), or other, more modest assets.

* Advocate on behalf of Friends of Acadia, or volunteer. You can be a docent at the Gardens at Sieur de Monts, or help groom trails in winter.

Friends of Big Bend

* A Friends of Big Bend membership or Annual Fund gift help ensure the friends group can continue to provide services and support to the park for years to come.

* Enter the Big Bend Ultra Run during Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, a race in which you can run 10 kilometers, 25 kilometers, or 50 kilometers. Proceeds fuel the organization’s Trails Fund.

* Make a planned gift.

* Give to the $1.1 million Fossil Discovery Trail campaign.

* Volunteer. “We could not provide funds or service to the park without the enthusiasm of our volunteers,” says Friends of Big Bend Executive Director Courtney Lyons-Garcia.

The Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation

* The Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation takes pride in being the only Blue Ridge Parkway partner organization that allows for maximum flexibility in the use of each donated dollar, regardless of donor interests. See all the options at

* Enjoy the Parkway—and help the Foundation too. Stay with a Foundation Parkway Plus partner.

* Purchase a North Carolina Blue Ridge Parkway Specialty Plate if you live in NC. $20 of your $30 fee goes directly to the Foundation for Parkway projects and programs.

* Join the Andre Michaux Society, the French explorer who thought he’d climbed the “highest peak in all North America” when he looked down across the future Parkway route in 1794.

* Give to the Foundation’s honors and memorials program. If you know a family member or friend with a deep personal connection to the Parkway—or just wonderful memories of a visit long ago—honor them. Gifts larger than $5,000 create an endowment fund.

* Claim your own special “Inch of the Parkway” at You’ll be able to share pictures and stories describing why this place is important to you, and share your story and special place with friends through Facebook, Twitter, email and more and invite others to claim their own virtual inch. Proceeds will be shared with the National Park Foundation and the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation.

The Glacier Fund

* Cash donations of any size are always welcome. The organization’s annual fund is based primarily on repeat donors who give $100 or less.

* Donate to avalanche research. These vital studies into slide paths improve safety for road crews clearing the Going-to-the-Sun Road, and build our knowledge of “avalanche path ecology.”

* Fall, or Spring, for the Glacier Fund. Attend either the Fall for Glacier or Spring for Glacier fundraising events the Glacier Fund hosts.

* Consider volunteering. Gardeners wanted! Trade your plot beside the driveway with a setting in Glacier and restore the park by pulling non-native weeds. The Glacier Fund could use help with that, as well as its Citizen Science program, at the Native Plant Nursery, and on trail crews.

Grand Teton National Park Foundation

* Cash donations are the best way to support the Foundation.

* In-kind gifts. Get creative and do what you can in the way of needed gear or services—a nice option in place of stocks and bonds.

* The Foundation has a planned giving program so you can make bequests or beneficiary designations, as well as gifts of stocks or other assets.

* Ask your employer to match your gift. It’s an easy way to boost your giving power!

* Spread word of the Foundation's work. Many people don’t understand how groups like the Foundation are improving national parks around the country.

Friends of the Smokies

* Find and fill a donation box. Voluntary donations are a key funding source for the Friends, and the easy-to-find boxes are located at many spots. Drop in a $20, or more, and call it the park entrance fee you didn’t have to pay.

* Become a Friend of the Smokies. Research shows that Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the nation’s number one park in generating economic impact, jobs, and income for area communities. Pay it forward! Join the Friends and enjoy reduced admission and other perks at local businesses (like Dollywood and Great Smoky Mountains Railroad)! Focus on our designated proceeds program and you can donate to a special project to benefit the park.

* Gifts in Kind. Donations of money are important, whether through stocks and securities, a bequest from your will—or in cash. But gifts in kind are welcome too. Think about how your business can help and give the gift of goods (for fundraising events) or services (that reduce the Foundation's costs).

* Volunteer. Lend your muscles and sweat by getting involved with trail crews. It’s a great way to help the Friends help the park, and you’ll meet others equally passionate for the Smokies.

Shenandoah National Park Trust

* Purchase a Shenandoah National Park license plate for your car or motorcycle.

* Check-in—at any of the classic park lodges. The lodging fee at Big Meadows Lodge, Skyland Resort, or Lewis Mountain’s historic cabins includes $1 per room per night for the Trust, unless you request to have that removed from your bill.

* Hike your way to higher impact for the park. Join the Trust and your membership includes automatic membership in the Hundred Mile Club. When you reach 25, 50, 75 and 100 miles, the Trust sends great gifts. To help you reach your hundred miles, the Trust has regularly scheduled, guided hikes and The Shenandoah Scramble on Saturday, September 22, 2012, is a hiker’s fundraising event that will bring hikers together for food and fun in Shenandoah National Park.

* Friend the Trust on Facebook and follow on Twitter —and encourage your friends and theirs to join and support the Trust.

* Engage the Trust in a diverse range of gifting options that include cash and stocks, a gift in your will, or in memory or in honor of someone special.

Yellowstone Park Foundation

* Cash contributions of all sizes are greatly appreciated.

* Include the Foundation in your will.

* Collar a wolf. For $2,500 or $5,000 you can put a VHF or GPS collar on one of the park’s wolves for tracking. For $50, you can help contribute to the purchase of a VHF or GPS collar.

* Join the 1872 Society. With annual giving of $1,000 or more your donation can make a long-running difference.

* Adopt some park wildlife. Through the Foundation’s adoption program, your dollars go towards wildlife research, and you get a plush animal in return.

These are just a few of the roughly 150 friends groups that help units of the National Park System make ends meet. Find one that supports your favorite park in the system and consider donating to them.


Thanks for pointing out the richest funds for the richest parks instead of maybe mentioning some of the friends groups for the parks that are in the most need of help and attention.

Friends of the Dunes at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in Colorado.

I'd vote for the International Mountain Bicycling Association ( It's helping the National Park Service expand its base of support to the millions of people who like to ride bicycles on trails—a quiet way to visit the national parks with almost no environmental impact.

C&O Canal Trust at Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park, 185 miles long from Washington, D.C. to Cumberland, Maryland.

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National Parks Traveler's Essential Park Guide