A 2018 survey of New Yorks State parks and historic sites’ Friends organizations details the support and programs these groups provide to the state parks system. Among the findings, is that Friends groups raised more than $17 million in private funds, and contributed nearly 132,000 hours of volunteer labor.
A Friends group is a group of individuals who work to support, steward and promote a park or historic site or multiple sites. They come in a variety of sizes and approaches from all-volunteer groups, to those with paid staff responsible for generating funds for operations and renovations.
Parks & Trails New York (PTNY), a statewide not-for-profit advocacy organization, conducted the survey. PTNY conducted a similar survey in 2015 and the most recent data shows a dramatic acceleration in the activities and impact of these Friends groups.
Key findings for 2018 include:
• Friends groups raised more than $17 million for the state park system through a combination of efforts, including individual and corporate contributions, grants, programs, special events, and merchandise sales.
• Friends groups harnessed the power of 5,192 volunteers for a total of 131,798 hours of volunteer time and an estimated $3.2 million in volunteer labor.
• Friends groups hosted on average 35 programs annually which brought in nearly 700,000 visitors – up from just 18 programs in 2015
• 62% of Friends groups host programs specifically for youth – including a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics summer camp; field trips; nature journaling; snowshoeing; movie nights; scavenger hunts; story hours; and animal tracking.
• The state park system boasts 76 Friends groups – and 21 of those have formed since 2000
The survey also shows Friends groups accomplish these results on shoe-string budgets with few paid employees. More than half of Friends groups have no staff at all.
Official New York State historic site and park Friends groups are registered as charities with the New York State Attorney General’s Office and have a current Memorandum of Agreement with OPRHP. They are classified by the IRS as 501(c)(3) organizations or have a Memorandum of Understanding with a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt fiscal agent.