Today, the National Forest Foundation (NFF) is excited to announce changes to its flagship competitive grant program, the Matching Awards Program (MAP). The adjustments are the result of over two years of work by NFF staff, Board, and advisors to collect feedback from past and potential applicants and align the program with current National Forest System needs, and the NFF strategic plan.
The resulting program, MAP: Connecting People to Forests, focuses primarily on community engagement, while also completing appropriate stewardship activities. Program goals are to create lasting change that will allow all communities, especially underserved communities, opportunities to benefit from activities on National Forest System lands or adjacent public lands. For full program details, refer to the MAP webpage where the full Request for Proposals (RFP) is posted.
The NFF’s MAP program is a nationwide competitive grant program that has provided funding to benefit U.S. Forest Service lands for decades. MAP pairs federal funds provided through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Forest Service with non-federal dollars raised by award recipients, multiplying the resources available to benefit the National Forest System.
Since 2001, the program has provided over 1,160 grants and over $30.3 million in grant funding to organizations across the country. Over 400 distinct organizations have received funding through the program.
“The NFF is extremely proud of the results that partners have accomplished through the MAP program over the last twenty years,” commented NFF Board Member and Conservation Committee Chair Tom McHenry, “and I am eager to see how these changes will expand engagement on our National Forests.”
The NFF is extremely proud of the results that partners have accomplished through the MAP program over the last twenty years, and I am eager to see how these changes will expand engagement on our National Forests.
Over the years, the NFF has updated the focus of the MAP program several times, always with the intention of providing strategic and timely funding to partners across the country, and benefit to National Forest System lands. This most recent change brings the program in alignment with both internal growth at the NFF and changes in awareness and need for involvement in public lands.
“Twenty years ago, MAP was the NFF’s only funding program. Today, MAP constitutes only about 5 percent of the funding we give out – not because we’re giving less in MAP grants, but because our other programs have grown so much. With the NFF’s other funding programs now providing tens of millions of dollars every year in support for direct on-the-ground stewardship across the country, I am excited that we can shift and focus the Matching Awards Program to strategically advance our engagement goals,” commented Marcus Selig, NFF Chief Conservation Officer.
With the NFF’s other funding programs now providing tens of millions of dollars every year in support for direct on-the-ground stewardship across the country, I am excited that we can shift and focus the Matching Awards Program to strategically advance our engagement goals.
In addition to changes internally at the NFF, through MAP, the NFF is reaffirming its interest in expanding environmental and conservation work and who participates in this work, acknowledging that many underserved communities have historically not benefitted from investments on public lands. As an organization whose mission revolves around public lands, the NFF is committed to working tirelessly for diversity, equity, and inclusion. The NFF believes all members of the public deserve to access, learn about, enjoy, care for, and have meaningful and safe connections to National Forests and Grasslands.
“Over the past few years, the NFF – like many other institutions – has been learning the roles we need to play in supporting equity and inclusion in our country,” said NFF President and CEO, Mary Mitsos. “As a funder that has the power to select which projects and partners are funded, we have a role to play in supporting a greater diversity of projects and partners. The changes to MAP that we are announcing today are just one part of a larger effort within our organization to further equity and inclusion. It is going to be an adaptive process, and I know we will continue to learn as we go.”
As a funder that has the power to select which projects and partners are funded, we have a role to play in supporting a greater diversity of projects and partners. The changes to MAP that we are announcing today are just one part of a larger effort within our organization to further equity and inclusion.
An Adaptive Process
Since 2020, the NFF has worked to reexamine its grant programs and partner organizations. The NFF’s current phase of work to strategize and identify opportunities to diversify the beneficiaries of the MAP program started with a survey of its grant applicants in 2020, and development of the NFF strategic plan for 2022-2024. Based on these efforts, the NFF began working to expand the types of groups supported through MAP, and simultaneously focusing on supporting engagement opportunities on public lands with the potential to inspire long-term supporters.
After shaping the new program criteria with staff and Board Members, the NFF released a preview of the anticipated new program criteria for feedback from potential applicants. Between November 2022 and early February 2023, the NFF contacted a total of 5,000 individuals or organizations for comment, and nearly 375 provided responses.
To the extent possible, the feedback received during this listening period was incorporated into the final program design for the current application period as well as new resources to support applicants. Additional topics that could not be incorporated due to timing constraints have been identified for further discussion and potential future integration. Click here for a summary of feedback received, and how it was or may be incorporated.
“I’m proud of the careful work the NFF has done over several years to get to this point,” commented NFF Conservation Awards Manager Kerry Morse, who led the redesign of the program. “There are so many individuals who have helped get the program here – first and foremost the hundreds of past and potential applicant organizations that shared their time, expertise, and insight into their experience. Additionally, kudos go to the graduate students who completed our extensive feedback efforts as part of their Conservation Connect Fellowship, staff from various departments of the NFF who provided input, and the expertise and guidance of our Board Members.”
While the program priorities will remain constant for the foreseeable future, the NFF intends to continue to adapt the program details based on feedback from those it impacts. After the initial round of grants under the new program criteria are finalized, lessons learned and additional feedback will be incorporated prior to releasing guidance for future applicants.
How to Apply
Organizations interested in applying for MAP funding should visit the MAP webpage for basic information about the program, and a link to the Request for Proposals (RFP) that includes full program details. The page also includes applicant resources and a link to register for an informational webinar on April 25, 2023.
About the National Forest Foundation
The National Forest Foundation works on behalf of the American public to inspire personal and meaningful connections to our National Forests. By directly engaging Americans and leveraging private and public funding, the NFF leads forest conservation efforts and promotes responsible recreation. Each year the NFF restores fish and wildlife habitat, facilitates common ground, plants trees in areas affected by fires, insects and disease, and improves recreational opportunities. The NFF believes our National Forests and all they offer are an American treasure and are vital to the health of our communities. Learn more at nationalforests.org.