Overview of Updated Friends Policy

  • Post category:USFWS Policies
  • Reading time:1 mins read

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s updated Friends Policy was finalized on July 12, 2021. This summer the Service has presented two webinars that provided overviews of the Policy. The Service provided the same content for each webinar however since the audience was different and therefore some of the questions differ. In addition to the recordings of the webinars held on July 28th and August 18th other materials from and mentioned during the webinar are available below.

We thank our amazing and knowledgeable presenters:

  • Linda Schnee, USFWS— NWRS, National Friends Program Coordinator
  • Maggie O’Connell, USFWS— NWRS, Branch Chief for Visitor Services

Continue ReadingOverview of Updated Friends Policy

The Link — Summer 2021 Newsletter

  • Post category:News
  • Reading time:5 mins read

The Link is a quarterly newsletter produced in coordination between the National Wildlife Refuge Association and Coalition of Refuge Friends & Advocates.


As we enter mid-summer, we are so excited to be focusing this edition of The Link on the sustainability of our organizations! At its very heart, sustainability is all about long-term planning—why does your organization exist and how are you going to accomplish your goals? 

The mission of the Refuge Association is to “protect, promote, and enhance America’s wildlife heritage through strategic programs that serve the System and wildlife beyond its boundaries.” In order to be a sustainable organization so that we can achieve that goal, we rely on fundraising from partners, major donors, grants, foundations, and corporate sponsors. This support allows us to hire expert, professional staff who understand the Refuge System, understand Friends groups and their importance to the Refuge System, and care deeply about the success of these programs and the sustainability of wildlife habitat and public lands. 

We hope you enjoy this edition of The Link and that it helps your Friends group as we continue to work together to build up all of our organizations so that we can support, defend, and protect our nation’s National Wildlife Refuge System.

Caroline Brouwer
National Wildlife Refuge Association
cbrouwer@refugeassociation.org


From the Editor

In mid-April on a beautiful spring day, our Friends of Sherburne NWR treasurer of 14 years passed away suddenly while doing volunteer gardening at a local hospice. Carol was both a Friend and friend, so those of us who had worked closely with her felt her loss keenly. To make matters worse, not only did she handle our Friends banking, prepare monthly financial statements, and manage our budget, but she also served as our Friends membership chair, manager of our member/donor database, organizer of our silent auctions, and willing volunteer for all kinds of other small, but essential, duties. Ironically, at a Zoom meeting just a few days before her death, we had joked that, when it came to Friends like Carol, we were truly vulnerable, or “truck-sensitive” as we termed it. That is, we had good-naturedly warned her to beware of any speeding trucks that might come her way. At least we had let her know how much we appreciated her, but that was small consolation when we learned of her passing.

Into the lurch stepped our immediate past president. After all, someone had to process deposits, pay bills, and handle essential correspondence; however, this could be only a temporary fix. We would need to recruit a qualified treasurer, continue work in progress to select and convert to a “constituent relationship management” (CRM) system, separate the membership duties from the financial work and recruit someone to take these on, etc., etc. The good news was that Carol’s work was up to date and her records were organized and complete. Related processes and procedures were documented and had been recently reviewed. It could’ve been worse. Today we can report that we have used our member network to recruit a new, highly qualified treasurer; we are about to commit to a CRM system provider; we have qualified board members who have agreed to convert and help to maintain our database; and we have other essential tasks covered, at least for the immediate future.  

Friends of Sherburne will survive our loss, but it has illustrated how vulnerable all Friends organizations may be, especially those with all-volunteer leadership and administrative management. With that in mind, for this issue we have invited three Friends organizations to tell us what they have done or are doing to attract, train, retain, and sustain effective leadership and otherwise maintain their organizations as challenges inevitably arise. Their hard work and persistence, combined with the support of their USFWS partners, Friends mentors, or consultants, enabled these Friends to survive and thrive. We invite you to read and be inspired by their stories. I think Carol would appreciate our adding this to her legacy. 

Sue Hix
Editor


Read About Sustaining Your Friends Organization And Its Leadership:

Other Features In This Issues:


Read All Of the Stories!


Credits

The Summer 2021 version of The Link has been a coordinated effort between the National Wildlife Refuge Association and Coalition of Refuge Friends & Advocates. 

To receive the next issue of The Link, complete the form at the bottom of this page https://www.refugeassociation.org/friends. And please add refugeassociation.org to the safe list for your email account.

You’re invited to join the CORFA Facebook group, a place to connect with other amazing members of the Friends community to share information, insights, and experiences concerning nonprofit governance, management, and advocacy. Go to  https://www.facebook.com/groups/coalitionofrefugefriends/ and request to join this private group.

  • Sue Hix (Editor) – Friends of Sherburne NWR
  • Joan Patterson (Co-editor)—Coalition of Refuge Friends and Advocates 
  • Caroline Brouwer—NWRA VP of Government Affairs 
  • Eden Taylor (designer)— NWRA Communications Associate 
  • Friends Editorial Staff: Cheryl Hart—NWRA Board, Board member of Friends of Tualatin River NWR 
  • Kathy Woodward—Former NWRA Board Member, Board member of Friends of Great Swamp NWR 
  • Jim Stone– NWRA Board, Board member of Friends of the Wichitas

Continue ReadingThe Link — Summer 2021 Newsletter

Updated Friends Policy

  • Post category:USFWS Policies
  • Reading time:2 mins read
child and adults looking at reptile at a Friends of Brazoria NWR festival.

Dear Friends Community-  

We are pleased to announce that the updated Friends Policy (633 FW 1- 4) has just been finalized and uploaded to the Service’s policy website and is effective immediately.  The policy is a tool to help the Service and Friends work together for the shared goals of protecting the resource and engaging communities. The policy is the last deliverable from the Department of the Interior Office of the Inspector General (OIG) audit and the culmination of a multi-year process. 

Policy revisions began several years ago and included discussions among the Service, NWRA and the Solicitor’s Office. Since receiving the audit report in September 2020, we have involved as many stakeholders as possible, both internal and external, to create a well-rounded, straightforward policy that addresses both longstanding concerns and issues raised by the OIG. We received more than 550 comments from within the Service, as well as an additional 550+ comments from the Friends community. We appreciate the concerns we have heard from the Friends Community about both the content of the policy and the process by which it was updated. Each and every comment received was carefully evaluated and changes were made wherever possible, taking into consideration the real-world implications both for Friends and Service staff.  

We know there will be a lot of questions and we are committed to providing both Service employees and the Friends community with the necessary tools and information.  We’ve created a communications and training plan to highlight changes and address questions, including FAQs, handouts on Ethics Guidelines for Service staff when working with Friends, and webinars, among other tools. We look forward to working with the Friends community to ensure we provide the necessary resources to help implement the policy. 

We will be rolling this information out to you starting next week including a timeline for sharing these materials and training opportunities. Please contact Linda Schnee with any questions.  

Thank you for your input and patience during this process. Friends partnerships are invaluable to the Service, and we hope this new policy reflects the appreciation and respect we have for our Friends groups. We look forward to working with you as partners to implement this new policy; ultimately strengthening our shared commitment to supporting conservation.    

Thank you,
Cynthia
Chief
National Wildlife Refuge System

Photo credit: Friends of Brazoria Wildlife Refuges

Continue ReadingUpdated Friends Policy

FWS Draft Friends Policy for Review

  • Post category:USFWS Policies
  • Reading time:2 mins read

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is in the process of updating the Friends policy including the Friends Partnership Agreement. To date, FWS drafted initial revisions to the 2014 policy. Those revisions were shared with FWS staff through an internal review process and their comments were incorporated in the second draft of the policy.

Friends, as the key partner of FWS, your input is now needed on the second draft of the Friends policy. The policy will impact your organization therefore your comments are vital.

FWS has provided the “clean” second draft of the policy and a redline version that shows the changes to the policy that was released in 2014. The documentation includes:

  • The four chapters of the policy and for each chapter there is a “clean” and redline version
  • Two exhibits:
    • New exhibit on financial reporting
    • Friends Partnership Agreement with a “clean” and redline version.

All of these documents are on the Coalition of Refuge Friends and Advocates (CORFA) Google drive. Please review them.

To help FWS with the collection and review of your comments they are providing a form for you to submit comments. To ensure that FWS will see every comment they request that you to fill out a separate form for each comment.

The deadline for comments is Monday, February 8, 2021

Please provide FWS with your comments on the policy and Agreement because they will help shape the partnership between the Friends and FWS.

More information on submitting comments are available at:

Continue ReadingFWS Draft Friends Policy for Review

Submit Comments on Federal Register Notice

  • Post category:USFWS Policies
  • Reading time:3 mins read
owl

Coalition of Refuge Friends and Advocates (CORFA) and the National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA) urge Friends to respond to the notice in the Federal Register about collecting documentation from their organizations. Friends input is necessary to guide the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in the collection of information in support of our mutual goals and objectives. They may also influence revisions to the Friends policy and Friends Partnership Agreement (FPA).

These revisions would be the result of the Office of Inspector General (OIG) audit report of the USFWS Friends program. A finding of the OIG implies that FWS does not know if Friends are using donations appropriately. FWS agreed to take corrective actions to improve oversight of the program. These actions will include revising the policy and FPA to:

  • Establish accountability with respect to donations, revenues, and expenditures to ensure they benefit the applicable refuge or hatchery;
  • Require Friends to provide an annual performance report including donations, revenues, and expenditures, and
  • Periodically review the FPA and evidence of nonprofit status.

The revisions to the policies and FPA have the potential of impacting Friends organization’s practices and procedures.

Please review the notice in the Federal Register and craft comments that:

  • Reflect your understanding of the documentation FWS is requesting,
  • List documentation Friends can provide FWS to assure them that funds raised for the benefit of your site are being properly accounted for,
  • Indicate how Friends would document the value to your refuge/hatchery of your programs and activities,
  • Assess the accuracy of FWS’ estimate of the time it will take to collect the documentation,
  • Describe ways to enhance the quality of the information, and
  • Suggest how to minimize the burden of providing the information.

The CORFA and NWRA have drafted comments to submit and Friends are welcome to review and borrow them. We do, however, want any comments submitted by Friends groups and members to be unique and particular to your specific refuge or hatchery—comments submitted through Federal Register requests are ore highly ranked if they are not the same as the other comments.

The deadline to comment is January 8, 2021.

Reference OMB Control Number “1018-Friends” in the subject line of your comments. The easiest and most direct way to submit your comments is to email comments directly to: Info_Coll@fws.gov

You can also mail your comments to the Service Information Collection Clearance Officer, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, MS: PRB (JAO/3W), 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041-3803 (mail)

*There is a direct link to submit comments in the Federal Register announcement, but this link does NOT work.*

We urge Friends groups and members of their board to submit comments. Every Friends group, FWS site, and partnership in the Friends community is unique. Your comments need to represent your unique circumstance. FWS wants to hear from you!

Regards,
Coalition of Refuge Friends and Advocates
National Wildlife Refuge Association

P.S. Should you need any assistance contact Caroline Brouwer, NWRA, or Joan Patterson, CORFA. If you want to share your comments with the Friends community, please send them to Joan and they will be posted on the Coalition of Refuge Friends and Advocates website.

Comments Submitted by Friends:
Willem Stoeller, TRNWR






Continue ReadingSubmit Comments on Federal Register Notice