Nonprofit Notes: Truckee Meadows Parks Foundation
Contrary to popular belief, Truckee Meadows Parks Foundation does not receive any of our general operating funds from the City of Reno, City of Sparks, or Washoe County.
Granted, our office is in the center of Idlewild Park, and we are known for our in-park programs such as walks and hikes, so the misconception is understandable. But to be clear, the Parks Foundation is a private, independent, 501(c)(3) nonprofit that helps to support parks in Reno, Sparks, and Washoe County through programming focused on raising awareness, appreciation, and stewardship of our parks and open spaces.
How is the Foundation funded?
The Parks Foundation receives the vast majority of its funding through a mixture of federal and private foundation grants, as well as through membership contributions from around 200 civic-minded community members. These individuals believe that high-quality parks add enormous value to our economy, environment, and to our health and well-being, and demonstrate that belief through their investment in TMPF.
Because our revenue is not tied to the local municipalities or county, we are able to maintain an independent voice when advocating for our parks, which have seen up to 60 percent reductions in funding since the beginning of the Great Recession. Having said that, it is important to note that we work very closely with the local parks departments and greatly appreciate the incredible support and partnerships these agencies have shown us since we began operating three short years ago.
What does the Foundation do?
Perhaps the least well-known service the Parks Foundation is providing to our community is the Student Stewards Program. Funded by a grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service, we currently have five full-time AmeriCorps VISTA members who engage over 1,000 Title I students in Washoe County each year. The Student Stewards Program turns parks within walking distance of our most economically disadvantaged schools into learning laboratories. For many of these students, a walk to their local park to collect data as a citizen scientist is the only field trip they will take all year. It sounds hard to believe, but it’s true.
How is AmeriCorps impacting the organization?
The positive impact our AmeriCorps members are having on students’ interest and engagement in science is truly amazing. In addition to the Student Stewards Program, these members are helping us develop new programs such as our Discover Your Parks walks and Student Stewards Summer Camp, as well as exciting events such as our Quail Quest: Truckee Meadows Treasure Hunt. Many people have never heard of AmeriCorps, and of those who have, few realize that these individuals are doing a year or more of national service. Their commitment represents the best of American values and they should be commended for their service.
I hope this helps to clarify our partnerships and to shine a little light on the great things our AmeriCorps member are doing. If you would like to volunteer or become a TMPF member, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 775-453-0698. Thank you!
Nathan A. Daniel, M.S. is the executive director of Truckee Meadows Parks Foundation.