Open Access Open Access  Restricted Access Subscription Access

Understanding the Agency-Foundation Relationship: The Role of Nonprofit Foundations in Delivering Local Park and Recreation Services

Nicholas Andrew Pitas, Samantha Powers, Andrew Justin Mowen


Inadequate funding is a common and longstanding concern for local public park and recreation agencies. Traditionally, these services are funded predominantly through tax-based allocations, supplemented by other streams such as earned revenue, dedicated levies, and sponsorship agreements. Cost-cutting measures such as outsourcing, overall staffing reductions, and an increasing reliance on a parttime workforce have also become increasingly common in the context of local park and recreation service delivery.

Partnership with nonprofit organizations represents another potential strategy to adequately fund local park and recreation services.Partnerships between local park and recreation agencies and nonprofit park and recreation foundations have a long history, and help support local park and recreation agencies in a variety of capacities. Their importance may also be growing as a function of the decline in tax-based support and earned revenue due to both the Great Recession and the global COVID-19 pandemic. Such partnerships are not unique to local parks and recreation however, and are common—and widely studied—at the national and transnational level.

Despite their importance to local park and recreation service delivery, and the established body of knowledge examining these partnerships at the national and transnational level, the local agency-foundation relationship remains understudied. In this manuscript we begin to address this gap by providing a clearer picture of the agency-foundation relationship, and identifying strategies for how local park and recreation agencies can most effectively leverage these partnerships. To do so, we employ a qualitative research method, interviewing leaders from both local public park and recreation agencies and nonprofit park foundations.

Results illustrate a variety of motivations for initiating an agency-foundation relationship (funding/capacity, deteriorating conditions, and equity), as well as a number of distinct benefits of such a partnership (increased operational capacity, advocacy and outreach, expertise, and non-governmental status). Respondents also identified various characteristics of a successful agency-foundation relationship (effective communication, clear roles and responsibilities, strong connections, and flexibility/responsiveness), and challenges to success (competition for scarce resources, and equity). Based on these results, we propose several strategies to help local park and recreation agencies maximize these partnerships (communicate frequently and with purpose, build relationships, formalize ties, and strive for equitable outcomes).

Subscribe to JPRA


Local parks and recreation; funding; public-private-partnership; non-profit organization; neoliberalism

Full Text:




  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2021 Sagamore Publishing LLC