National Trails Fund Frequently Asked Questions

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GENERAL FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What is the National Trails Fund?

American Hiking Society’s National Trails Fund is the only privately funded, national grants program dedicated solely to building and protecting hiking trails. To date, the National Trails Fund has awarded over $679,000 to more than 170 grassroots organizations (209 projects) all over the nation working to establish, protect and maintain foot trails in America. Awards range from $500 to $3,000 per project.

Many of our favorite trails need major repairs due to an enormous backlog of badly needed maintenance. National Trails Fund grants help give local organizations the resources they need to secure access, volunteers, tools, and materials to protect America’s cherished hiking trails.

Who sponsors the National Trails Fund?

National Trails Fund awards are made possible by generous support from L.L.Bean the program’s charter sponsor.

How much money is available to give away in grants?

We do not disclose the amount of money available, as it may vary from year to year depending on funding sources.

How many applications do you typically receive?

We do not disclose this information, as the amount varies from year to year.

What is the overall timeline for the National Trails Fund?

January  – Application goes live January 16th, 2017 at https://americanhiking.org/gear-resources/grant-opportunities/national-trails-fund-application/.

February – Applications are due by 4:00 pm EST on February 17th, 2017, no exceptions.

Mid February-April – Judging period.

May – Grant awardees announced.

June – Grant awardees receive grant checks.

Who received a grant last year?

For past winners and project descriptions, please go back to the main National Trails Fund page, here, and scroll to the bottom.

Who do I contact with more questions?

Please use our contact form to ask questions related to the National Trails Fund or the Alliance of Hiking Organizations.

 

ELIGIBILITY

Which projects are eligible for a National Trails Fund grant?

  • Those that have hikers as the primary constituency, though multipurpose human-powered trail uses are eligible.
  • Those that secure trail lands, including acquisition of trails and trail corridors and the costs associated with acquiring conservation easements.
  • Projects that will result in visible and substantial ease of access, improved hiker safety and/or avoidance of environmental damage. Higher preference is often given to projects with volunteer labor.
  • Projects that promote constituency building surrounding specific trail projects – including volunteer recruitment and support.

Grants will not be awarded to (a) religious organizations for religious purposes, (b) private foundations or (c) political causes, candidates or legislative lobbying efforts.

Who can apply for a National Trails Fund grant?

  • Organizations who are members of American Hiking Society’s Alliance of Hiking Organizations are eligible to apply.  If you are NOT a member of the Alliance of Hiking Organizations, you may NOT apply.  To become an Alliance Member, sign up here – https://americanhiking.org/join-donate/alliance-organizations/ 
  • Any recipient of a National Trails Fund grant must be a non-profit with a 501(c)3 designation*.
    • *PLEASE NOTE:  Alliance Members that are not 501(c)3 non-profits may still apply, but they are required to have a 501(c)3 non-profit fiscal agent willing to accept the grant check on the applicant organization’s behalf.  For more details view the possible application scenarios below**.
    • PLEASE NOTE:  ONLY 501(c)3 designated non-profits may be in receipt of a grant check.  Other non-profit designations are ineligible.

 

**Possible Application Scenarios.  CAN MY ORGANIZATION APPLY?:

1) An organization is an Alliance Member and a 501(c)3 nonprofit. YES, this organization may submit a project proposal for grant funding.

2) An organization is an Alliance Member, but is not a 501(c)3 nonprofit.  POSSIBLY.  This organization may submit a project proposal for grant funding IF there is a 501(c)3 nonprofit that has agreed to act as a fiscal agent and accept the grant check on the applicant’s behalf.  Scroll down to read more about the use of a fiscal agent.

3) An organization is NOT an Alliance member, but is a 501(c)3 nonprofit.  NO, this organization is NOT ALLOWED to submit a project proposal to the National Trails Fund.  To be involved in the project, the organization can partner with an Alliance member, but the Alliance member must apply for the grant themselves.  Again, only Alliance Members are allowed to submit National Trails Fund applications.

4) An organization is NOT an Alliance Member nor a 501(c)3 nonprofit.  NO, this organization is NOT ALLOWED to submit a project proposal to the National Trails Fund.  To be involved in the project, the organization can partner with an Alliance member, but the Alliance member must apply for the grant themselves.  Again, only Alliance Members are allowed to submit National Trails Fund applications.

 

My organization is NOT a member of the Alliance of Hiking Organizations – Can I submit a National Trails Fund application?

No, only members of the Alliance of Hiking Organizations are allowed to submit an application for a National Trails Fund grant.

My organization is a government entity – can I apply for a National Trails Fund Grant?

Possibly.  Since government entities are not registered 501(c)3 organizations, they are not legally allowed to receive a National Trails Fund grant check.  If the government entity is an Alliance Member AND has a 501(c)3 fiscal agent that is willing to accept the grant check on their behalf, the government entity may apply for project funding (see possible application scenario #2 above).  Alternatively, if the government entity partners with an Alliance Member that is a 501(c)3, that Alliance Member may apply for a grant and list the government entity in the “project partners” section of the application.

My organization is currently in the process of obtaining our 501(c)3 certification – can I still apply for a National Trails Fund Grant?

If your organization is an Alliance Member, you may apply, but you will still need a fiscal agent to accept funding on your behalf.  Only fully accredited 501(c)3 organizations may receive National Trails Fund grant funding.

My organization’s Alliance membership expires during the judging period – will my application still be eligible for a National Trails Fund Grant?

As long as you renew membership before it expires, your application will still be eligible. If you allow your Alliance membership to lapse, your application will become ineligible.

If you are unsure as to the status of your Alliance membership, email us or call Dara Zaleski at 301-565-6704 ext. 702.

 

FISCAL AGENTS vs. PROJECT PARTNERS

In instances related to the National Trails Fund, a proper fiscal agent is an accredited 501(c)3 non-profit organization that has agreed to accept a grant check on behalf of an Alliance Member that lacks 501(c)3 accreditation. Contact information for the fiscal agent must be provided in the NTF project application.

In instances related to the National Trails Fund, a project partner is any organization that supports the completion of the project.  Project partners can be recognized in the NTF application and are not required to be members of the Alliance.  Partnering with an Alliance Organization is an acceptable way to receive project funding.  BEAR IN MIND: the Alliance Organization must submit the application and will be recognized as the grant recipient should the project be one of the final selections.

 

APPLYING

How do I apply for a National Trails Fund grant?

The application goes live on our website January 16th, 2017, and is due February 17th, 2017. The documents you will need to download from our website include the Application, Guidelines, and Checklist. Read the Guidelines and use the Checklist to make sure you have all of the necessary documents on hand. Grants will then be announced in May. All National Trails Fund applicants are required to be members of the Alliance of Hiking Organizations.  If you are currently not an Alliance member, learn more and join the Alliance today!

Will my Sales & Use Tax Exemption Certificate suffice in lieu of an IRS letter confirming my 501(c)3 status?

No. Many entities can qualify for a Sales Use & Tax Exemption Certificate (including government offices and entities), but not all of those are eligible to receive a grant. With your application, you must provide the digital copy of the IRS letter confirming the 501(c)3 status of your organization or of your fiscal agent.

Which file formats are acceptable?

All documents (such as the required Application, Budget, Timeline, & IRS 501(c)3 documentation) may be submitted in Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, and/or PDF.   Images may be submitted in standard photo formats. JPEG is preferred.

What amount of grant funding may I request?

You may request an amount between $500 and $3,000.

Can my organization submit more than one grant request (i.e. apply for multiple grants) per year?

No. Each organization may only submit one grant request per year. If multiple grant requests are received from an organization, only the first one received will be considered.

An Alliance Member may only apply for 1 grant per year of dues paid. If you signed up as a member mid-application cycle, then you will have to renew your membership before you may apply again the following year.

Can I send my application after the deadline? What if I am in a different time zone?

NO applications will be accepted after the deadline date and time. NO additions, substitutions, or changes to an existing application be accepted after the deadline date and time. The deadline is always in Eastern Standard Time (EST). If you live in a different time zone, you are still required to submit your application by the deadline in EST.

Can I send additional materials or make changes to an existing application after the deadline?

NO additions, substitutions, or changes to an existing application will be accepted after the deadline date and time. The deadline is always in Eastern Standard Time (EST). If you live in a different time zone, you are still required to submit your application by the deadline in EST.

What are some tips for applying?

Use the Checklist provided! Many applications each year are received without required documentation, and with required fields empty on the application.

Read the questions carefully. Make sure you are answering each question with the appropriate information, and limiting your responses according to the directions (i.e. if an answer is required in 250 words or less, do not exceed 250 words).
Be detailed. The more detailed you are with your application (especially your Budget document), the more helpful it is to us. In some cases, we cannot fund an entire project, but with a detailed Budget we can provide some funds for a portion of your project.  Use the example budget as a reference for the minimum amount of information that should be supplied in a budget – https://americanhiking.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/ntf_budget_example-1.pdf

The amount of funds available for distribution varies year to year, depending on sponsorship revenue and Alliance donations.  It is recommended applicants apply for an amount less than $3,000, giving American Hiking Society the opportunity to fund a greater number of projects.

Contact us with questions. If you have questions during the application process, contact us via email or phone at 301-565-6704 ext. 700. We are more than happy to help.

 

JUDGING & NOTIFICATION

What is the judging process?

Applications go through 3 rounds of extensive judging by staff, members of our Board of Directors, and others, which is why the judging period takes several months. We evaluate each application individually.

When are awardees notified?

Grant awardees are notified in early May, at the conclusion of our judging period.

If I am awarded a grant, when might I expect the funds?

Grant awardees are notified in early May, and receive their funds via check 6-8 weeks after notification.

What are my responsibilities as an awardee?

All grant awardees are required to complete a Final Report with pictures and other required documentation by November 30th, after receiving the grant funds (e.g. if you were awarded in May 2017, your Final Report is due Nov 30, 2017). Click to fill out a final report.