WDNR: Grants to Friends Groups

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

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Predicted Deadline
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Predicted deadline: Nov 15, 2024

Grant amount: Up to US $20,000

Fields of work: Habitat & Ecosystem Restoration Outdoor Recreation Playgrounds Snow Sports

Applicant type: Nonprofit

Funding uses: Project / Program

Location of project: Wisconsin

Location of residency: Wisconsin


About the DNR

In keeping with our mission, the DNR is dedicated to working with Wisconsinites while preserving and enhancing the natural resources of Wisconsin. In partnership with individuals and organizations, DNR staff manage fish, wildlife, forests, parks, air and water resources while promoting a healthy, sustainable environment and a full range of outdoor opportunities.

Grants to Friends Groups

Each year, $250,000 from the Stewardship program is set aside for grants to friends groups and nonprofit conservation organizations (NCOs) to improve facilities, build new recreation projects and restore habitat on state properties. The program recognizes the important role friends groups play in meeting the development and restoration needs of state properties.

You can learn more about this opportunity by visiting the funder's website.


  • Eligible friends groups must be nonstock, nonprofit corporations described under Section 501(c)(3) or (4) of the Internal Revenue Code and exempt from taxation under section 501(a) and in good standing with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions.
    • In addition, the group must have formed to raise funds for a state property and also have a written friends agreement with DNR.
  • Eligible NCOs must be nonprofit corporations, charitable trusts or other nonprofit associations described in Section 501 (c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and exempt from taxation under section 501 (a).
    • In addition, the purpose of the organization must include the acquisition of property for conservation purposes.
  • Projects must meet all of the following requirements as per s. NR 51.83, Wis. Admin. Code:
    • The project is for nature-based outdoor recreation as defined in s. NR 51.002(19) any activity where the primary focus or purpose is the appreciation or enjoyment of nature.
      • These activities may include but are not limited to: hiking, bicycling, wildlife or nature observation, camping, nature study, fishing, hunting, trapping, public shooting range, boating, picnicking, cross-country skiing, canoeing and multi-use trail activities.
      • Eligible support facilities for these activities may include but are not limited to: access roads, parking areas, utility, and sanitation systems, sanitary and shelter building, signs, interpretive items and other features that enhance nature-based outdoor recreation or improved disabled accessibility.
      • Playgrounds and playground facilities that supplement the appreciation of nature and occupy a minor portion of the property are also eligible. 
    • The project addresses unmet needs consistent with DNR approved plans for the property, unless the project is for a state trail managed and maintained by a governmental unit or other cooperator with a memorandum of agreement with DNR.
    • The project is identified in a property's plan, unless the project is habitat restoration project described in s. NR 51.84(2)(e) or the project is for a state trail managed and maintained by a governmental unit or other cooperator with a memorandum of agreement with DNR.
    • The project makes long-term capital improvements or installs durable equipment with an expected useful life of 20 years or more, unless it is a habitat restoration project [as described in s. NR 51.84(2)(e)] that is consistent with approved plans governing the management of the property.
    • The application has submitted required reports and returned any unused funds for all prior projects within the required timeframe.
    • The project is a stand-alone project, the first phase of a multi-phased project, or a multi-phased project for which DNR will have awarded $60,000 or less in Friends grants for all phases.
  • Grant funds may be spent on:
    • materials, supplies, services and labor;
    • salaries and fringe benefits, if directly related to the project;
    • rental or lease of equipment to perform the project;
    • building and land restoration, if project adds to the permanent inventory or resources of the property; and
    • furnishings (e.g., furniture) only if part of a larger development project and amounts to 6% or less of total project costs. Contact the Bureau of Parks and Recreation early in your planning process to verify that your furnishings will qualify.
  • Funding for large projects may be applied in three phases with a limit of $20,000 per year or a maximum of $60,000 per project.
    • There must be a usable component of the project at the end of each phase.
    • Depending on the number of applicants, there may be competition for available funds.
  • Grants are awarded for up to 50% of project costs.
  • The other 50% of project costs shall be provided by the project sponsor.
    • Up to 50% of the sponsor's share of project costs may be non-cash donations such as materials, equipment use, services and labor.


  •  Projects that meet the goal of the Friends Grant Program score the highest; projects are ranked based on score.
    • Funds are awarded beginning with the highest scored project until all funds are allocated.


  • Grant funds may not be spent on:
    • administrative overhead;
    • equipment such as bike repair stands, interior supplies (e.g., window blinds, furniture), computers, AV equipment, tools and shop equipment;
    • educational materials such as brochures, videos and books.
  • Ineligible activities include but are not limited to: extensively developed open space such as dedicated sports fields, swimming pools and tennis courts.

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This page was last reviewed September 18, 2023 and last updated September 18, 2023