Please refer to this page often: We will continue to add frequently asked questions as they are identified.
A1. What is a partnership?
A partnership is a mutually beneficial relationship that builds synergistically on the time, talent and resources of participants to achieve common goals and measurable outcomes, and where all partners share in the decision-making process and responsibility for outcomes. The goal of a community-based partnership is to build a strong place-based, collaborative process, when people of different interests sit down together to seek common ground. It is an effective strategy for creating solutions that will benefit the whole community and accomplishing community-based landscape stewardship efforts.
A2. What does it mean to partner?
Partnering means to work together to create a common vision and implementation strategy to collectively solve problems. It involves pooling of resources (labor, money, information, etc.) and developing collaborative relationships among various stakeholders using a consensual decision making process. Historically, partnerships have been driven by a field-level response to a pressing management problem. Today, partnerships are the way we do business. They are important tools to achieving community stewardship, showcasing the BLM management philosophy of achieving conservation through cooperation, communication, and consultation.
A3. What skills are needed to build partnerships?
Building Trust: dynamic listening, understanding, being able to stop and reflect, communication skills, understanding values, understanding dialogue, respect, high creativity
Information Sharing: understanding informal networks, collaborative learning, communication
Understanding Conflict Styles: skills in negotiation, meeting management, facilitation, conflict resolution, mediation, search skills - finding embedded issues that frame current conflict
Understanding Communities and Social Processes: human geography - space scale, design, pathways; community descriptive skills; comfort in unstructured, open-ended environments; knowledge of natural social boundaries; interpretation of social indicators
Interpersonal Skills: leadership, teamwork, cultural sensitivity, empathy
A4. What authorities permit BLM to develop partnerships?
Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA) Sec. 307(c) as amended (43 USC 1737). Sec 307 (c) authorizes contributions or donations of money, services, and property, real, personal, or mixed for the management, protection, development, acquisition, and conveying of public lands, including the acquisition of rights-of-way for such purposes. In addition, Sec 307 (c) authorizes the volunteer program.
Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA) Sec. 307(b) authorizes the Secretary to enter into contracts and cooperative agreements for the management, protection, development, and sale of public lands. (This is the only section if FLPMA that authorizes cooperative agreements and it must tie in with management, protection, and development or sale of "public lands."
While the Federal Grants and Cooperative Agreement Act of 1977 (31 USC 6301-6308) as amended P.L.95-224 is not an authority, it contains the definitions of contract, grants, and cooperative agreements.
The Economy Act (31 USC 1535) authority is used between Federal agencies when more specific statutory authority does not exist.
A5. Are volunteers considered partners?
Yes. Voluntary collaboration among organizations and individuals exists in virtually every partnership. Volunteers are a valuable asset and help make projects and programs happen. They model the important principle of citizen stewardship, helping BLM maintain the health of our public lands, participating in community-based planning, and planning and executing implementation projects. The number of volunteers continues to grow each year and, with the baby boom generation coming into retirement, many skilled and experienced volunteers will be offering their time.
A6. Are there obstacles to partnering with non-profits and other partners?
Yes. The majority of the obstacles are administrative in nature relating to agency culture, internal policies, staffing, training, budgeting and reporting systems. There are some legislative obstacles to working with non-profits and others, e.g., serving as a member of the board of directors. However, these obstacles have not prevented BLM from entering into hundreds of very successful partnerships with outside entities over the years. To seek improvement in the way the agency works with communities of place and communities of interest, BLM is establishing a work team to identify and address these obstacles. If you have a specific question, contact your ethics officer.
A7. What are the differences between a formal and informal partnership?
Even the simplest of partnerships requires agreement among the partners at the outset of the process on a shared goal, or set of solutions to work toward. An informal partnership is a relationship based upon a shared vision, concern or need that interests two or more parties but does not have a written agreement defining the goals, roles, and responsibilities of each party. A partnership is formalized by the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding, or a financial assistance agreement. A financial assistance agreement is either a cooperative agreement or a grant agreement.
An agency's role in a partnership determines which mechanism for collaboration is best suited. Whatever mechanism is chosen, it should clearly define the goals, objectives, and specific short-term targets. Assistance agreements have a 5-year lifespan, at which time it can, upon agreement by both parties, be rewritten.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is most commonly used to establish a partnership and comments and specific responsibilities; signatories agree to work toward mutual goals, perform joint work, or share research results, but no obligation of funds, supplies, equipment, or services. It is not intended to be a detailed working document, but rather confirmation of a "handshake" agreement to work together to achieve a common goal.
A Cooperative Agreement (CA) is the legal instrument used to reflect a relationship between the BLM and a recipient whenever the principal purpose of the relationship is the transfer of money, property, services, or anything of value to the recipient to accomplish a public purpose of support or stimulation authorized by Federal law, and substantial involvement is anticipated between the BLM and the recipient. It allows an agency to transfer money, property, services or anything of value to an outside group for a project of mutual interest where substantial agency involvement is anticipated.
A Cooperative Agreement with an Interpretive Association is used when the requirements of a cooperative agreement are met and BLM and the Interpretive Association jointly provide education and interpretive services, including the production and sale of interpretive and educational materials to enhance the knowledge and appreciation of BLM's role in the management of public lands.
Interagency Agreements are used when a Federal agency needing supplies or services (the requesting agency) obtains them from another Federal agency (the servicing agency). Each interagency agreement must be supported by a Determination and Finding that states that the use of an agency acquisition is in the best interest of the Government and the supplies or services cannot be obtained as conveniently or economically by contracting directly with a private source.
Having a shared vision or definition of objectives at the beginning -it's the engine that drives the success;
Recognizing the need for collaboration and a consensual decision-making process;
Have the building of trust among diverse stakeholders as a goal;
A strong leader who champions the partnership projects and goals with vision, energy and enthusiasm;
Having people at the table who have the authority to make decisions, so timely decisions can be made and flexibility in meeting objectives is available;
Participants committed to making the partnership work;
Everybody sitting at the table has equal power;
Understanding clearly what each partner brings to the table and expects from the partnership;
Once established, good communication, including listening skills, with all parties to strengthen commitment as well as build trust and foster mutual respect; and
Having a BLM liaison(s) to the partner organization(s) who can help facilitate agreements, financial documents, annual plans, etc.
A9. What are the characteristics of a dysfunctional partnership?
Lack of understanding and trust for each other;
Lack of accomplishments;
Lack of program consistency;
Lack of adequate administration of agreements;
Lack of commitment by partners;
Complexity and large workloads; and
Sometimes, the existence of "a sense of threat". Is the partner organization taking away government jobs by using volunteers?
A10. In the partnership, does one organization have the 'lead'?
No. Partners work cooperatively, build upon mutual interests, and share resources to work toward shared objectives to accomplish work. They work together to find appropriate solutions to complex and interrelated social, economic and ecological challenges. Those who were leaders in forming the partnership may not necessarily be as active in project implementation and management. Different partners bring different strengths to the partnership and these are applied at different times in the life of a partnership, e.g., the management of the project may require that different partners assume leadership roles at different times in the life of the partnership. It is important, however, that the non-profit Executive Director(s), the local BLM partnership representative, and the procurement/grants and agreement coordinator have a good working relationship.
A11. How do we build trust and respect between the partners?
There is no magic formula that participants can take that will immediately dissolve years of distrust. Trust is a quality that is earned through the collaborative process. The process of building trust and respect is slow and requires patience and regular communication between the group and agency staff. Each party should understand and accept the goals and objectives of the partnership, of the other partners, and the role they each are to play in accomplishing the objectives. It is very helpful if BLM staff/managers let their staff know what the partner organization does and how this partner organization can help BLM get their work accomplished. People tend to follow the leader and, if the leader trusts the partner, others will follow suit.
A12. What happens when trust is breached?
Unless the collaborative process includes trust, the results will not last long because one party will try to win more for its side outside the process, through litigation or legislation. Uncertainty and conflicts arise with possible reduction or loss of money, time, and political and social support. Smooth flowing and productive relationships become at risk and affect the management of public resources. Sometimes, a mediated meeting is recommended. If at that point, issues are irresolvable, the agreement should allow the termination of the partnership by either party with 60 days written notice.
A13. What happens if the partnership hits roadblocks?
Take a pause to evaluate where you've been, where you are, and where you want to go. What is causing the roadblock? Do current activities support the original goals and objectives? Did you complete a thorough planning process to ensure successful project implementation? Did your planning process include a realistic action plan, complete with funding strategies? Emphasize the things you have in common. Expand your thinking about the possibilities. Real successes are built by going slow.
(Ref: USFS Partnership Conference Notes “Understanding Collaboration and Working with Support Organizations”, January 20-22, 1999, Salt Lake City, Utah)
A14. Are there partnership models that can give us insight into what it means to be partners?
There are conceptual models or typologies that are helpful in developing a working definition of collaboration, identifying when collaboration is needed, and determining what actions constitute a collaborative effort. Below are three examples from the US Forest Service that provide a general framework.
Model A: In this model, a continuum is used which provides measures with which to determine the kind of relationship needed to accomplish a particular goal. Some issues require only increased communication; others may demand much stronger interaction. The different relationship outcomes measured on the collaboration continuum range from mild interaction, communication, and progressively advance through cooperation, coordination, collaboration, and integration, to the strongest interaction called consolidation.
Model B: This framework treats collaboration as a discreet step in a multi-stakeholder, problem solving process. The process is directional and is comprised of four phases: scoping-negotiation-collaboration-partnering. In this model, a partnership is the end goal. Collaboration is necessary to obtain that partnership, but it requires the prior steps of scoping, e.g., defining and researching the problem, and negotiation between the conflicting parties. It differs from the model in example A in that it suggests a process rather than a continuum.
Model C: A third model defines collaboration as a suite of activities, including teaming, consensus and cooperation, in the middle of a range of progressively structured decision-making tools.
B. PARTNERSHIPS TRAINING AND RESOURCES
B1. Is partnership training available at a reasonable cost for BLM employees?
B4. Is there policy or guidance on seeking potential partners?
Yes. There is a considerable amount of information available on seeking potential partners. The resources and websites noted above in #B3 reference available policy and guidance.
B5. Is non-profit training something both the non-profit and the BLM need?
Yes. Training for non-profits and BLM is essential to facilitate collaborative efforts and improve communication, coordination and consultation between the partners.
B6. What should be included in non-profit board training?
Training should be based upon the needs and experience of the individual board members. Using collaborative processes requires a diverse array of tools, skills and abilities. Collaborative training requires developing personal skills in leadership, management, communication, facilitation, conflict resolution, and negotiation, as well as learning proven strategies and methodologies to bring diverse interests together to make decisions. There are a number of good organizations that have board assessment tools to determine appropriate level of training needed, i.e., Board Source, the Association of Partners for Public Lands, etc.
B7. What training does staff need?
Staff should receive training for those skills required by their position. If their position requires participation in partnership work, they would profit from collaborative training as well.
Most volunteers are matched to the appropriate position by their interest and skill level. A volunteer position description should detail the skills required to do the job. If the volunteer selected does not have all the necessary skills, training options are available. On-the-job training may provide some or all of the required skills to perform the job. BLM volunteers may participate in any training offered to BLM staff as long as it relates to their job responsibilities. They should also receive training in the rights and responsibilities of serving as a BLM volunteer. In addition, partner organizations generally offer a volunteer training specific to the program, which includes a job description, and safety training.
B9. Can BLM employees be reimbursed for travel expenses by foundations for participation in training or conferences?
Yes. They can also claim government reimbursement for any expenses that are not covered by the foundation if the travel has been approved by the agency. Reference official government travel regulations through the BLM website or contact the BLM travel clerk in the local BLM office for details and specific requirements. NOTE: BLM employees CAN’T accept any compensation other than their federal salary for official duty services they provide to partner organizations unless that compensation is from a Federal agency. In other words, only the United States can pay them for work that they do as a Federal employee.
B10. Can BLM pay for representatives of a non-federal entity, non-profits or other partners to attend conferences or meetings?
Yes. But only if asked by BLM to be a part of the meeting or conference to accomplish a task for the BLM (e.g., to staff a booth, represent a BLM program or initiative, gain information, or give a presentation). You can sign up the non-federal representative as a BLM volunteer and cover travel costs through a volunteer travel authorization.
C. PARTNERSHIPS BETWEEN BLM AND NON-PROFITS / AGREEMENTS AND LEGALITIES
C1. What is BLM's role in establishing a partnership?
The agency has two roles in establishing a partnership. The first is to participate in open and honest dialogue and negotiations with potential partners on: (a) what resources the agency is willing and able to commit to the partnership, and (b) clarify the terms and conditions under which the agency can participate. If the partnership desires or requires a formal agreement, the second role of the agency representative is to work with the procurement and agreements officer and the solicitor's office to either (a) draft the appropriate agreement for the partnership or (b) provide review and comments on agreements drafted by a partner. It is very important to provide a clear message to our partners about what BLM needs or wants and ask the same of the partner organization.
C2. Are there BLM directives for forming partnerships?
The Secretary of the Interior's 4C's agenda to promote citizen stewardship (conservation through cooperation, communication and consultation) stresses the nation's commitment to a new relationship between citizens and their public lands. Place-based partnerships are envisioned as the means to implement the 4C's agenda. The Director of BLM, the Secretary of the Interior, and the President have emphasized partnering or partnerships along with volunteers as a more efficient and responsible way to accomplish the work of the federal government. Through annual appropriation bills, Congress allocates millions of federal dollars for partnership activities on the condition that the federal dollars are matched by non-federal partner dollars (these programs are called Challenge Cost-Share and the Cooperative Conservation Initiative).
C3. Is there legislative authority for establishing partnerships or cooperating with non-federal entities? What are the controlling documents that give the BLM the authority to associate with cooperating associations (i.e. non-profits) and/or unincorporated friends groups?
Yes. Section 307(b) of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA), as amended, PL 94-579, and subsequent amendments (43 U.S.C. 1732 and 1737), authorize the use of contracts and cooperative agreements for the management, protection, development, and sale of public lands. Section 307 (a) authorizes the Secretary to conduct investigations, studies, and experiments, on his own initiative or in cooperation with others, involving the management, protection, develop, acquisition, and conveying of the public land. Section 307 (c) allows BLM to accept contributions or donations of money, services, and property, real, personal, or mixed, for the management, protection, development, acquisition, and conveying of the public land. Section 307 (d) allows BLM to recruit the services of individuals contributed without compensation as volunteers for aiding in or facilitating the activities administered by the Secretary through the BLM.
C4. Is a written agreement necessary for a cooperative effort/relationship to be considered a partnership?
No. A written agreement is not necessary for a cooperative effort to be considered a partnership. However, it is highly recommended that some type of formal agreement be drafted to outline and define partnerships with clearly defined missions, goals, objectives, and partner commitments. If no funds or other resources will be exchanged, usually a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is sufficient. If funds or other resources are going to be exchanged, an assistance agreement, contract, contributed funds agreement, or reimbursable agreement will be required. When in doubt, check with your Field Office or State's Procurement Analyst or State Budget Officer.
C5. What are the key roles and responsibilities of the partners, including the BLM, in working through partnerships?
Partnerships are built on shared visions, resources and responsibilities. Partners have a responsibility in shaping, directing, and promoting the goals, objectives and work of the partnership and maintaining open and honest communication with each other. When funds for goods or services are part of the agreement, partners need to maintain accurate records and provide adequate billings or reports for reimbursement or payment in a timely manner. If formal agreements for BLM funding commitments are in place, an agency representative must regularly review obligations for delivering commitments and see that financial commitments to the partnership are processed in a timely manner.
C6. Who has the authority to sign a assistance agreement?
If you think that the partnership requires an assistance agreement (AA), contact your State Procurement Analyst or Assistance Office. They will have you complete a Statement of Programmatic Involvement (SPI) to determine if an AA is the appropriate instrument to use for your purposes and ensure that the legislative authority to execute the agreement exists. The Assistance Officer and partner (recipient) sign the AA. If the agreement is for more than $100,000, the Washington Office Procurement Analyst must approve it.
C7. Should the BLM actively be seeking to enter into partnerships with non-profits?
Yes. BLM should partner with nonprofits if the project serves the needs and purposes of the agency AND the work has a clear benefit to the public.
C8. What criteria do you use for selecting a non-profit partner?
If you know people with mutual interests, you know potential partners. If you can identify benefits for the potential partners as well as for yourself, you have the basis for a partnership.
What non-profits share the same or complimentary purpose, values, and vision as yours?
What non-profits serve a similar clientele?
What is the purpose of the project or service you want to develop, and what resources and expertise are needed?
How will both the agency and the non-profit benefit from the partnership?
Does the non-profit have a compatible image?
Evaluate the capabilities of the non-profit's board of directors, fiduciary management, staffing, etc. to determine if the non-profit has the capacity or can develop additional capacity to take on the new responsibilities of the partnership?
Do you or your agency have past experience with the non-profit, and if yes, is there an existing agreement in place? It is often easier to build upon a current relationship than to build a new relationship from scratch.
If there is no existing organization that can function as the desired partner, should a new nonprofit be established? If so, what is the appropriate structure? Will an informal organization serve the purpose over a short term, or should a “friends” organization, cooperating association, or foundation be established as a long-term partnership?
Does the nonprofit have the ability to leverage federal funding either through private foundation grant money, program income, membership dollars, or volunteer hours?
C9. Is there a directory or list of BLM partners at local, state and or national levels?
The Washington Office has a list of national partners for which BLM has WO level MOU's and agreements. The list, which is updated periodically, is posted on the BLM web site. BLM State Offices maintain a list of their partners and have their partnerships listed on their webpage. Recreation partnership information is contained in the Recreation Management Information System (RMIS) database. See your Recreation Planner (RMIS specialist) for a list of current partners or to provide them new information.
C10. If a national agreement exists between BLM and a non-profit organization, can a state or local office use the same agreement?
There are two types of agreements at the national level: memorandums of understanding (MOU) and assistance agreements (AA). Most of the agreements at the national level are MOUs. The MOUs can be referenced when initiating a local MOU at the state or local level. A more detailed MOU might be drafted when the mission of the partnership or project is similar to the national MOU, but the specifics of the understanding need to be clearly defined and explained.
There are very few national-level AAs. Assistance Officers may authorize, in their master cooperative agreement, other Assistance Officers to award task orders for projects described in the master agreement. The Assistance Officers authorized to award these task orders are called Assistance Ordering Officers. For example, the Environmental Careers Organization has such an agreement at the WO level that allows AOOs to award task orders for associates to work on local projects. When a task order is awarded by the AOO, it is funded at the local level by submitting a requisition to the AOO.
C11. Can BLM give non-federal partners money to contract services for BLM sites or projects?
Generally, the answer is no. but there are exceptions. Contracts are an outright purchase to buy or lease property, supplies or services (including construction) required by the government. They directly benefit the BLM and do not have a public benefit aspect. Contact your Assistance Officer for a determination on your specific situation.
C12. How will the new Competitive Sourcing directive from the Secretary of the Interior affect working with cooperating associations, foundations, and other non-federal partners?
This directive will not affect BLM's partnerships with cooperating associations or partners directly. Positions within the government are being reviewed to determine if the work being done can be accomplished more effectively by contracting with the private sector. New opportunities for partners could emerge if jobs are eliminated, but the work remains.
C13. How does the BLM foster community networking that might result in the formulation of a non-profit?
BLM has a number of programs that promote collaboration and cooperation with local communities. The National Training Center's Partnership series offers courses in building community- based partnerships. BLM planning efforts are using this approach to engage community residents in planning and implementing resource management plans. Other efforts focus on activity plans for specific recreational activity areas or wildlife management areas, etc. Prior to thinking about creating a new non-profit, it would be advantageous for local BLM offices to look at partnering with a non-profit organization with a similar mission that currently exists.
C14. What are some characteristics of good communication between non-profits and the BLM?
Good communication includes:
Learning about the partner's organization
Sharing a vision and common goals
Sharing skills and expertise help make/create a common language
Understanding and agreement about roles and responsibilities
Granting mutual respect
Constant, constant, constant communication
Creating a strategic plan, with joint veto power
Knowing when to take the back seat
Setting realistic expectations about what each partner can accomplish
C15. Are there legal meeting rules that may apply to organizing community members for the purpose of forming a non-profit?
As a potential partner, BLM can take an active role in facilitating such efforts. Once the organization is established it is subject to Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) guidelines if the group is established with the intent to advise the BLM. Otherwise there are few restrictions. Remember, Federal employees are public servants. Because of this, laws, regulations and policies are developed to assure the public that Federal employees will not engage in any actions that create or appear to create an impropriety.
C16. What does it mean to set up a non-profit?
Establishing a non-profit means (1) determining a purpose/mission for the public interest and common good, (2) recruiting a board of directors to assume fiduciary and oversight responsibility, and (3) developing and filing the necessary documentation. This documentation includes:
Obtaining a unique name and filing it with proper state authorities
Writing articles of incorporation and filing with appropriate state authorities
Filing for a Federal Employer Identification Number with the IRS (IRS Form SS-4)
Filing for Federal Tax Exemption as a 501(c)(3) (IRS publication 557, IRS form 1023 and Form 8718)
Applying for sales tax exemption from the state
Receiving a tax identification number, if the organization will sell products or services subject to state sales tax
Registering and reporting with the appropriate state office
Annually reporting to the IRS by filing IRS Form 990
C17. What does it mean to have 501(c)(3) status? Why is that important?
Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code provides for the exemption from Federal income tax of corporations organized and operated exclusively for charitable, scientific, research, or educational purposes. It is important because it enables an organization to accept tax-deductible donations. Many non-profit foundations are required by law to give their money only to 501(c)(3) organizations.
C18. What are the legal documents necessary to file for 501(c)(3) status?
There are two steps involved in filing for 501(c)(3) status. First, you must apply for and receive non-profit status from your state. Upon receiving this status, you can then apply for the federal 501(c)(3) status. As noted above, a copy of IRS Publication 557 explains the federal laws regulating tax-exempt organizations. IRS form 1023 and Form 8718 are required to be filed.
C19. Can a community group support BLM land without having 501(c)(3) status?
Yes. The community group may directly lobby Congressional delegates and work collaboratively with the Bureau to support public lands. Many community groups do not request money from national non-profit foundations. Rather, they raise the necessary resources to complete projects through their partnership, grassroots funding efforts, or applying for money at the state level.
C20. What limitations and advantages are there to having a community support group without 501(c)(3) status?
The reporting and record keeping requirements for nonprofits represent substantial time and financial requirements for people who want to spend their time serving the natural resources. An informal organization is a viable option for groups with annual revenues under $25,000 and no employees. However, donations to an informal organization are not tax-deductible. An incident involving an unincorporated organization may put personal assets of board members, volunteers, or other, at risk. By incorporating, the organization becomes a legal entity and can only be liable for the assets of the organization. (Minnesota Council for Nonprofits)
C21. What are the advantages and limitations of 501(c)(3) status?
The advantages are:
Ability to receive private tax-deductible contributions,
Ability to receive funds from the government,
Ability to receive funds from some private foundations that fund only those groups with 501(c)(3) status, and
Potential legal protection in the case of litigation.
The disadvantages include:
Restrictions on lobbying, inability to campaign or fund political candidates,
Accountability to follow state laws managing the organization, and
Annual paperwork filing requirements.
(Ref: Taking Flight, USFWS)
C22. Who has the legal authority in a non-profit to sign legal agreements?
The legal authority rests with the board of directors who may designate a staff member, such as their executive director, to sign legal agreements.
C23. Who has the legal authority in BLM to sign agreements?
State Directors may delegate authority to sign MOUs to the Field Office/District Manager. For cooperative agreements in the BLM, only Assistance Officers who have attended required training and been delegated authority are authorized to award assistance agreements up to their delegated dollar authority. Before an assistance agreement may be awarded, the Statement of Programmatic Involvement (SPI) and Instrument Selection Determination (ISD) must be approved by the Chief of the Contracting Office (usually this is the State Procurement Analyst. If the agreement will exceed $100,000 over the life of the agreement, approval by the Washington Office (WO-850) is also required.
C24. Some of the activities BLM would like a non-profit partner to perform may be currently contracted out. If the non-profit partner becomes a successful contractor, what can be expected from this new relationship?
The resource management or activity plan should help guide the partnership in determining what is appropriate to contract out commercially versus what is appropriate for a nonprofit to manage in keeping within its mission. A contract must be used when the supplies or services are for the direct benefit of the Government. If the former partner-now-contractor continues as a active member of the partnership, it would be important that they recuse themselves from participating in partnership activities, including financial, that have the appearance of a conflict of interest.
C25. When we negotiate an agreement with the non-profit, is it better to have an open-ended agreement or should it be confined to a narrow project description?
The type of agreement used depends on the nature of the services being provided/exchanged, the level of trust in the partnership, and the partner's history with each other. In general, agreements should be fairly broad and flexible but clearly state the goals and objectives of the partnership and what resources each partnership will provide to achieve the goal. It is highly recommended that if several or more tasks are required to accomplish the goal, assistance agreements allow for the issuing of task orders to implement specific actions and services.
C26. What constitutes a well-defined partnership objective?
Good objectives are specific in terms of measurable outcomes, measuring how much desired change will occur over time from an established base line. The words "increase," "decrease," or "maintain" are often used in wording good objectives. All objectives should focus on the benefits to the public and not the agency or the partnering organization.
C27. How can the non-profit and BLM mutually agree on roles and responsibilities?
Agreement on roles and responsibilities should be outlined in the strategic planning process, the work plan, and project implementation objectives, and documented in writing. In a true partnership, there will be an exchange of value. A written agreement should help to define and document how each of the partners can expect to benefit and what resources each party is committing. If there is no exchange of monetary funding or resources, a memorandum of understanding is sufficient. An assistance agreement is used when the exchange of value includes property, services or direct funds.
C28. How will the partners monitor the partnership?
Closely! The key to any monitoring efforts is to have criteria upon which you can base discussions, decisions and actions. This criterion is usually laid out in an MOU or an assistance agreement in the form of goals and objectives with definitive outcomes. These agreements might spell out the roles and responsibilities of the partners and how tasks will be assigned and accomplished. Regular partnership meetings should then occur to review the progress of activities laid out in the annual work plans. With larger and more complex partnerships and with a greater number of projects, more meetings will be necessary to keep the partnership on track. Most partners are required to submit a year-end report to the agencies detailing what was accomplished.
C29. How do we get past the differences in the 'corporate culture' of the non-profit and the BLM federal agency?
It is more of an issue of getting in "touch with and understanding the corporate cultures" than trying to find a way around the differences. Making an effort to know each other's mission, management issues and idiosyncrasies is the first step. This can be done through some formal training programs or some informal short details to the partner's office. The key is getting to know the individuals who are managing the partnership and establishing a trusting relationship and good communication with them. Partners can then gain access to the information they need or get clarification on unwritten policies and procedures by discussing it directly with their partner. In some instances, co-location of offices, where the non-profit has their office in the same building with BLM, helps with the understanding of both "cultures." The San Juan Mountain Associations says that "We always say we get more done in the halls during informal conversations with agency employees then in scheduled meetings - creativity tends to flow well in this environment."
C30. How do we write the agreement to allow for flexibility yet achieve concrete results?
A certain amount of flexibility is necessary in all partnerships. However, when assistance agreements are being used to outline performance, things have to be clearly spelled out in task orders or in a list of expected outcomes. All agreements should have a clause that allows for modifications to be added in unforeseen circumstances, such as lack of funding, personnel shortages, etc. Within the agreement, or a partnerships annual work plan, a great amount of flexibility can also be provided on due dates for reports or products.
D. ROLE OF BLM EMPLOYEES IN WORKING WITH PARTNERS
D1. As a BLM employee, how do I encourage community members to set up a non-profit?
Prospective partners have two characteristics: interest and the ability to participate. To find prospective partners, first identify local organizations likely to be interested in the project. Learn and understand what is important to these partners so you can explain how the partnership can/will address their needs. Usually, some form of collaborative/partnering activities with a core group of community leaders occurs before a discussion regarding the setting up a non-profit. Explain how establishing a non-profit organization benefits the entire community and how it can increase the capacity of your current partnership. This may motivate community members to get involved.
D2. What is FACA? How does it impact public involvement?
FACA is short for the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), 5 U.S.C.A App. 2 (86 Stat.770, as amended) which was enacted by Congress on October 6, 1972. FACA was enacted to promote good government values, such as openness, accountability and balance of viewpoints consistent with administrative efficiency and cost-containment. FACA is not just about decision making-it is about obtaining advice or recommendations on any matter. When the group gets into a decision-making mode with the agency, FACA is involved.
FACA regulates the use of advisory committees by the President and federal agencies for the purpose of obtaining advice and recommendations. In passing FACA, Congress had three broad goals:
Reducing the influence of special interest groups in the policy-making process,
Providing the public equal access to the policy-making process, and
Controlling costs of advisory committees.
There are several ways the federal agencies can practice good public involvement and still uphold the law:
Have non-federal entities initiate and conduct meetings.
Have open meetings (town halls, hearings, county commissioner-style meetings, etc.) where the meeting is publicly announced and open to all.
Use any method of communication that is open to anyone - computer bulletin boards, fax-back telephone systems
D3. As a BLM professional, may I facilitate the establishment of a non-profit?
This is not a simple question, but the answer is Yes. A BLM employee can facilitate activities that lead up to the creation of a non-profit. Check with your Ethics Counselor.
D4. May a BLM staff member call a meeting to organize a non-profit?
Yes. A BLM staff member may call a meeting to facilitate the organization of a non-profit organization.
D5. May a BLM employee be on the board of the non-profit? May a BLM manager?
When official time is granted to an employee (including managers) for service in a private sector organization, especially service as an officer, the primary beneficiary of the employee's service must be the DOI programs and operations and not the individual employee or the outside organization. Employees may serve in outside organizations under three different circumstances:
The employee is participating in the outside organization in his or her private capacity and not on government time. The outside organization has no relationship with the Department of the Interior or its programs.
A supervisor may allow official time for an employee to attend outside functions, such as meetings or conventions, when it is in the best interest of the government.
The Bureau or Office requires that the employee participate in the outside organization in his or her official capacity, as a representative of the Department of the Interior.
Employees who are required to or wish to serve, as an officer in a private sector organization, while on official Government duty time must:
Have a written Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) or Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the employee's Bureau and the organization in which the employee desires to serve as an officer.
Have a waiver of conflict of interest signed by the Director of the Bureau or Office.
Obtain prior permission from the Bureau Ethics or Deputy Counselor, and
Receive ethics training from their Bureau Ethics Counselor prior to accepting the appointment.
To avoid the perception of conflict of interest, it is best to serve in an advisory capacity.
For more information, go to www.doi.gov/ethics/officer and read “Serving as an Officer in an Outside Organization”. This website also has a copy of the appropriate MOU format and memorandum to be used when requesting a waiver to serve as an officer in an outside organization.
D6. May a BLM employee volunteer with the non-profit?
Yes. BLM employee may volunteer with a non-profit. The outside work or activities must not prevent an employee from devoting their primary interest, talents, and energies to the accomplishment of their work for the BLM, or create a conflict or an apparent conflict between the employee's private interest and their official duties. (5 CFR 2635 Subpart H)
D7. May a BLM employee manage non-profit volunteers?
Yes. BLM employees may manage non-profit volunteers if they are signed up on a Volunteer Agreement.
D8. May a BLM employee supervise non-profit employees?
No. BLM may be involved in developing policy and guidance regarding the employment work practices of a non-profit employee. BLM can provide technical assistance and other support, but cannot directly participate in the day-to-day operations or supervision of the non-profit organization.
D9. May BLM employees sit on association or foundation boards in an advisory capacity or other representation?
Yes. BLM employees may serve in an advisory capacity to a non-profit organization.
D10. How are the efforts or contributions of BLM employees to a partnership recognized? How are partners recognized?
Give public recognition to all partners, including BLM, (unless, for some reason, you are specifically requested not to).
Ask your partners (internal and external) what kind of recognition they desire (i.e., thank you letters, media coverage, awards).
Recognition should be consistent with the level of involvement, and should be given fairly across the board for all partners.
BLM has a national award program to recognize exemplary and innovative partnership efforts.
D11. As a BLM representative, how do I convey to the non-profit the legal parameters under which I have to operate?
As part of your initial discussions with partners regarding the benefits each partner hopes to gain by working together and leveraging resources, clearly state what BLM can and can't do regarding the proposed project. You might want to invite your ethics and procurement officer to attend the meeting.
D12. How can the BLM staff member "control" the non-profit?
If it is a true collaborative partnership, no one partner, including BLM, controls the other partners. Unless the partnership is the beginning stages and it is appropriate that BLM assume the role of facilitator, BLM's role is not to control, but rather to be an "equal player."
D13. May I, as a federal employee, help raise money for the non-profit organization?
No. You are prohibited from using appropriated funds to lobby a member of Congress on matters of personal or BLM interest. You may not use your official position to further your personal views by promoting or opposing legislation relative to programs of the Department. All Congressional activities, e.g., letters of support, request for funding, working through a third party to approach Congress for support, must be coordinated with the WO BLM Legislative Affairs Office or, in the case of appropriations, all activities must be cleared with the Washington Budget Office.
D14. May we provide outside groups with information about funding BLM activities? At what point does providing information become solicitation for funding?
Departmental employees should not actively approach persons or entities requesting donations. Employees of Departmental agencies authorized to accept donations may inform the public that the agency can accept donations for its program. As part of this informational activity, the agency may develop "wish lists" of particular programs or activities that it could undertake with donated funds. An employee may mention such a "wish list" in a speech or article and state that the agency may accept donations for these purposes. Departmental guidelines are not intended to preclude outreach and partnership agreements between agencies and outside organizations that conduct programs on agency property and further the programs and activities of the agency. Refer to the Department of the Interior May 21, 1996 “Donation Activity Guidelines”.
D15. What should the coordinator of volunteers know? Does it make a difference if the coordinator is a volunteer or a paid position?
The volunteer coordinator should understand the elements of a successful volunteer program and how to apply these essentials. Volunteer Coordinators should also understand partnership principles. Whether paid staff or volunteer, volunteer coordinators need to understand the federal regulations and guidance governing the management of the BLM Volunteer Program. BLM's National Training Center offers courses on volunteer program management.
E. NON-PROFIT STRUCTURE
E1. What is the purpose of a well-defined vision to the non-profit?
Without vision, there is no destination - no rallying purpose for the organization. Vision defines where the organization is going and what kind of a difference it will make. Vision gives the volunteers, staff, donors, and partners a reason to be involved and to work toward achieving goals.
E2. How does the non-profit vision differ from the project vision?
The non-profit vision is the overall reason for the nonprofit's existence. The project vision should align with the organizational vision and thus becomes one step toward achieving the organization's purpose.
E3. Why is a strategic plan important for the non-profit? Who designs the plan?
A strategic plan defines vision, mission, organizational values, strategies, and action steps. It is a guiding document against which the organization determines how it will deploy its human and financial resources. Strategic plans guide budgeting and revenue development, annual planning, and staffing and volunteer decisions. Strategic plans also form the basis from which funding proposals, partnership strategies, and communications about the organization are developed.
The strategic plan is developed by the nonprofit's board of directors and staff, with input from stakeholders and partners. Ideally an outside facilitator is used during planning meetings to ensure full involvement and impartial capturing of ideas and recommendations.
E4. What is the usual structure of a non-profit?
The structure depends on the purpose and type of nonprofit organization and the IRS designation. Nonprofits are governed by a board of directors that is voluntary in nature, whose members have no conflict of interest (i.e., opportunity for personal gain) with the organization. While the number of board members can vary, no fewer than five members is recommended, with a maximum number that is not so large as to hamper the decision making process.
E5. Why is it important that the non-profit partner maintain independence?
In a true partnership, each organization maintains its own identity and independence but shares in decision making based on common goals, objectives, and future benefits. Both nonprofit organizations and government agencies must comply with legal guidelines and policies that govern their status and partnership involvement.
E6. What are the roles and responsibilities of the different parts of the non-profit structure - board, staff, and volunteers?
The board of directors is legally, fiscally, and ethically responsible for establishing the nonprofit's policies-ensuring that the organization remains true to its stated purposes, protecting the association's assets, and preserving its independence. The board of directors should have a finance committee that provides financial oversight. The board hires and evaluates the organization's executive director, who in turn is responsible for managing the remainder of the nonprofit's staff and the day-to-day operations of the organization. Additional staff and volunteers are involved and managed as appropriate to the organization's circumstances and purpose.
In addition to serving on the board of directors, volunteers can play a wide range of roles in a nonprofit. In the early stages of an organization volunteers may take on the operation roles of managing the day-to-day operations. As the organization grows and develops, staff is hired to manage operations and oversee the efforts of volunteers. Just as in an agency, volunteers serve a variety of creative, technical, communication, outreach, clerical, educational, and "hands-on" tasks that augment the work of the nonprofit.
E7. What are the qualities of a well functioning non-profit?
An established board of directors whose members have a passion for the cause, represent community interests, bring special skills needed by the organization, and have credibility, expertise and linkages to others for funding and resources development.
Board participation with term limits.
Staff who likewise are passionate about the cause, and who have the capabilities and skills appropriate for their positions.
Effective communications, internal and external.
A clearly articulated vision, mission and values.
A strategic plan that has been developed or updated within the past three years.
Sound financial practices and policies, and appropriate operating reserves.
Bylaws and operating policies (ethics, human resources, fiduciary management, risk (management) are developed, reviewed annually, and updated as necessary.
E8. What are the attributes of a dysfunctional non-profit?
Some of the warning signs that a nonprofit is having difficulty include:
Board terms are not recognized, thus there is no new generation of perspectives and ideas.
Board is too heavily involved in day-to-day operations, or roles of staff and board are not clearly delineated.
Inadequate operating reserves, fiduciary planning, or financial management.
Activities undertaken that are too widely removed from central mission.
Lack of adherence to bylaws, non-profit policies and procedures, federal and state reporting, etc.
Poor communication, internally and externally, appearance that decisions are made in secrecy, or decisions not well documented.
E9. What is the standard of ethics that govern non-profits?
In addition to federal IRS and state requirements, a number of professional associations have developed standards and codes of ethics for aspects of nonprofit work such as board governance (Boardsource), fund raising ethics (Association of Fund Raising Professionals), etc.
E10. What are the legal governing authorities that control how the non-profit does business?
Each state has authorities, as well as the IRS, as noted above
F. COOPERATING ASSOCIATIONS AND FRIENDS GROUPS
F1. What is a cooperating association? How does it differ from a non-profit organization? A concessionaire?
Cooperating associations, also referred to as interpretive associations, are non-profit 501(c)(3) organizations that may have a cooperative agreement with a federal public land agency to support the interpretive, educational, and/or scientific programs. The organizations are authorized to sell interpretive and educational materials in outlets on public lands - their revenues must be used toward fulfillment of this mission, with the proceeds supporting educational and interpretive.
Concessions are for-profit commercial enterprises, operating under contractual agreement with BLM. They do not have a 501(c)(3). Non-profits can apply for concessions permits in certain circumstances to meet visitor needs.
F2. What is a Friends Group? How does it differ from a cooperating association?
There is no specific legal definition for "friends" groups. In general these are largely local volunteer groups of citizens organized for a specific purpose or interest in a particular geographical area. Friends groups are not limited to functions that are interpretive or educational in nature, and they do not operate sales facilities on public lands - unless they also qualify as a cooperating association by getting their 501(c)(3).
F3. Can a friends group be a cooperating association?
Yes, only if it meets all of the requirements for being a cooperating association noted above.
F4. Does the BLM have a national cooperating association that it works through?
No. The BLM has a cooperative agreement with the Association of Partners for Public Lands (APPL), a nonprofit umbrella organization of cooperating associations and friends groups. APPL provides professional development and training, information, and representation for its members and public lands agency partners, but does not function as a cooperating association.
F5. How does BLM share proceeds from activities involving cooperating associations?
The cooperating association, working with the BLM to determine priorities and needs as identified in the land use planning process, determines how proceeds from activities will be shared. This negotiation occurs at the time of the awarding of the assistance agreement and the outcome is included in the body of the assistance agreement. The board of directors of the cooperating association approves distribution of proceeds for projects in alignment with the association's mission.
F6. What are the advantages of working through non-profits or cooperating associations?
The advantages are: credibility, ability to receive private tax-deductible contributions, ability to receive funds from the government, and ability to receive funds from some private non-profit foundations that fund only groups with 501(c)(3) status. Cooperating associations are formed to augment the interpretive and educational mission of the public lands agency, and they can operate interpretive sales outlets on public lands. (Cf C.23)
F7. Can funds generated through joint activities be used for publications or other outreach?
Yes. As approved by the board of directors, and as appropriate to the educational and interpretive mission.
G1. What is a charitable foundation?
Charitable foundations are organized to receive and distribute funds for specific philanthropic purposes. They are legally required to give away an amount equal to at least five percent of their assets annually, in order to maintain their tax-exempt status. They are differentiated by the source of their funding, i.e. corporate foundations, community foundations, family foundations, and congressionally chartered foundations. They may also be organized to raise funds and distribute resources for a specific purpose or place. A board of trustees governs each foundation. Occasionally, non-profit 501(c)(3) organizations carry the word "foundation" in their name, and while they may raise funds, they are not truly grant-making bodies.
G2. Does the BLM have a BLM foundation?
No. The BLM does not have a separate quasi government foundation like the Forest Service, Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Through a partnership with the BLM, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation accepts money from BLM, which it distributes for BLM projects through a competitive Challenge Grant program. BLM partners with other organizations to develop foundations. For example, the National Wild Horse and Burro Foundation is a 501(c)(3) charitable, nonprofit organization working in partnership with the BLM to find loving homes for America’s excess horses and burros.
G3. Are cooperating associations and non-profit charitable foundations the same?
No. Cooperating associations are non-profit organizations with interpretive and educational missions who work under an agreement with one or more public lands agencies. Cooperating associations earn revenues through such activities as book sales, membership programs, interpretive programs, and fund raising. While the cooperating association may provide grants to the agency or to support specific projects, they are not considered to be foundations. Cooperating associations must have the 501(c)(3) IRS designation, while philanthropic foundations have a 509(a) IRS non-profit designation.
G4. How do you set up a charitable, non-profit foundation? What paperwork is needed and how is the accounting set up? How do our partners contribute or donate funds to the foundation?
Foundations that serve as a non-profit are established in the same way as a non-profit organization (see section C. 19). A non-profit that is incorporated as a philanthropic foundation under IRS 509(a) must have a board of trustees and follow the appropriate state and federal incorporation and reporting guidelines. Visit the IRS or the Foundation Center websites for specific information, guidelines, and forms. Once established as a tax-exempt non-profit, partners can contribute unrestricted funding or funding designated for a specific purpose or project.
G5. Who benefits from a non-profit foundation?
The mission of the foundation determines who will benefit. The mission and grant guidelines guide the purpose, constituency and geographic region that can benefit from the foundation's initiatives and grant making. The grant guidelines also tell you what kind of activities the foundation funds, i.e., research, project implementation, operating costs. If BLM is the recipient of these funds, they are usually deposited in a 7122 contributed funds account. Your budget office and procurement analyst will help you decide the appropriate tool to use to deposit foundation monies.
G6. How are non-profit foundations related to our partnerships?
It depends upon your relationship with the foundation. You and your partners may be grantees of a foundation, a partner with a foundation for a specific project, or you may elect to establish your own site specific or regional non-profit foundation that benefits BLM and its partners.
G7. How do we advertise that we have a charitable, non-profit foundation?
It depends upon what audience you want to reach with your message and what actions you want the audience to take. To build donors, begin with those individuals and groups with whom you already have a relationship, for example, an organization's volunteers are twice as likely to give financially to the cause for which they are already enthusiastically involved. There are numerous fundraising resources on the Internet that have excellent suggestions for promoting your fundraising opportunities, from carrying information in newsletters, to building named endowments, to orchestrating special events.
G8. How are foundation proceeds distributed to the project or site?
The foundation's board of trustees approves all funding, according to the intent of the foundation's donors. This money is distributed to individual recipients based upon the awarding of grant proposals that have been approved for funding by the foundation. Once the foundation has approved funding, a contract is sent to the grant recipient. Upon signature and return of the contract to the foundation, the money is either forwarded in whole to the grant recipient or disbursed as reimbursements for actual expenditures.
G9. What kind of assurance is there for donations received to be allocated to a specific site and not spent for other purposes?
Donations that are not designated by the donor are considered to be "unrestricted." Hence, the use of such funding is at the discretion of the board of trustees. Donations solicited for a specific purpose (such as a building campaign, a program, or a specific location) are considered to be designated for that purpose and should be tracked in the foundation's accounting system as such.
H. FUNDRAISING, GRANTS AND DONATIONS
H1. May the BLM receive donations from external sources?
Yes. BLM has been authorized by Congress to accept donations, either to further the mission of the agency or more limited purposes. Congress has not expressly provided BLM with the authority to solicit gifts. The agency's role with respect to donations is generally restricted to educating the public about the existence of the gift acceptance authority and the specific gift needs of the bureau. These guidelines are not intended to preclude outreach and partnership agreements between agencies or organizations that further the programs and activities of the agencies. Refer to the Department of the Interior memorandum, dated May 21, 1996 “Donation Activity Guidelines”.
H2. Should identifying and securing grant monies begin at the field office or local level?
The origin of identifying and securing grant monies begins when and where the project is identified. The scope of the project, i.e., whether it has local vs. state vs. national impact, will help determine what kind of funding strategy is necessary to secure monies for project implementation.
H3. What is the BLM's role in applying for grants for community led projects?
For some grants, BLM is the appropriate grant sponsor, i.e., the Bureau would be the appropriate partner to directly apply for the grant monies. When BLM is ineligible to directly apply for grant funds, then an appropriate partner may be selected to be the grant sponsor. In the latter case, BLM staff may assist or actually write the grant proposal.
H4. What is the BLM's policy on applying for grants?
Applying for grants from public or private entities on behalf of the BLM is an appropriate activity in which BLM can participate.
H5. Can BLM contract outside grant writers and technical specialists for projects?
Yes. BLM can hire or contract for a grant writer for projects. However, BLM’s partner cannot use money received from the BLM to contract for or hire a grant writer. It is not an allowable cost under OMB Cost Principles for Assistance Agreements. However, BLM and partners can use Federal funds to contract for or hire a technical specialist for projects.
H6. Can non-federal partners manage projects and grant funds?
Yes. Non-federal partners can manage projects and grant funds. Typically, when they are the grant sponsors, the agency that applied for the funding for a project in which BLM is a partner, the non-federal partner is the appropriate grant manager and is responsible for financial accountability.
H7. Can non-federal partners conduct fundraising and seek donations for BLM sites?
Yes. Non-federal partners can fundraise and seek donations for BLM projects and sites. These fundraising efforts are usually done within the context of a work plan where all partners contribute to the leveraging of funds for project implementation.
H8. Does BLM have to administer the grant awarded from a non-profit entity?
Yes. If BLM is the entity that submitted the grant to a foundation for funding, the grant sponsor, BLM is fiscally responsible for the funds received. However, another partner may manage the grant under supervision by BLM.
H9. Can a non-federal partner apply for grants and list the BLM as a partner without the BLM's prior involvement or approval?
No. A non-federal partner cannot list the BLM as a partner on a grant application without BLM’s prior involvement or approval. No one can be listed as a partner on a grant application with getting prior approval from that partner.
H10. Is there a list of non-profit grant sources for federal agencies to access?
There are many lists and references available that provide information on non-profit grant sources. A good starting place would be The Foundation Centers Cooperating Collections. These are free funding information centers in libraries or non-profit centers that provide fundraising information and other funding related technical assistance. Another source is the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance that lists all the Federal Government available grants.
H11. Is funding available to match grant dollars if needed?
Partner contributions, both cash and in-kind, are used to match grant dollars. You can use one grant from a non-profit foundation to serve as match dollars for a second grant. However, you must meet requirements regarding the matching of federal funds to non-federal dollars. For instance, the Federal Challenge Cost Share program requires that the federal funds be matched in a 1:1 ratio with non-federal funds.
H12. What is management's commitment to providing matching resources, including funding, for successful grants?
There is no formal policy or guidelines directing management to commit to providing matching dollars for grants. Management’s decision is usually based upon a complex set of factors and upon a project-by-project basis. Some factors to consider are availability of budget dollars, the priority of the project as indicated in the land use plan, and length of partnership. You are encouraged to obtain as much matching funds as possible from external sources. There may be more commitment between the partners when matching funds are a part of the agreement. If there are no matching funds or resources, we have to ask why are we doing this.
H13. How do we measure BLM's contribution to a partnership when applying for a grant?
BLM’s contribution can be measured in actual dollars or the dollar value placed upon in-kind contributions, such as salary, equipment, and/or materials.
H14. What happens if BLM does not agree with the foundations’ reporting requirements?
Grant managing entities develop reporting criteria aimed at reassuring their donors that the money is being spent according to foundation guidelines. Do your research on the foundation’s reporting requirements before applying for the grant. If you believe there are unreasonable or very demanding administrative clauses in the awarding agreement, do not apply for the grant. Keep in mind the size of the grant and the proportion of administrative headaches that might be tied to it – is it worth it?
H15. If the project to be funded is on BLM land, should the BLM be involved in the grant writing process?
Yes. BLM is not required to participate in the actual grant writing process. However, collaboration with the partner pursuing the grant is very important to ensure that the project description supports priorities identified in the land use plan and implementation strategy. Avoid getting unwanted or unmanageable products as the result of well-meaning partners.
H16. If a grant that the non-profit applies for requires matching funds, can the BLM contribute the needed money?
The first question to ask is whether the match funds must come from the federal or non-federal sector. If the match can come from the federal sector, these funds would have to come out of appropriated funds related to the project or another federal partner. Check with the funder to see if labor, equipment and material resource contributed to the project by any federal partner can be counted as an in-kind match.
H17. What are some best practices when it comes to grant writing?
Good grant writing is based upon good planning. Conduct a need analysis and make sure that the grant will address a high priority need as identified in the land use plans and implementation strategy. Know the objectives and priorities of the granting organization and clearly address them in your proposal. Show "bang" for the bucks and a strong list of partners and expertise to accomplish the work. Write clear measurable objectives and methods. Always show how the funding need will be met in the future or the project or services will be maintained without the funding.
H18. Why is it important for the BLM to understand the grant writing process if the BLM cannot write the grant?
The BLM has, can and does write grant proposals - hundreds of them! If BLM is not writing the grant but the project is occurring on public land, understanding the grant writing process allows the agency to have input into the development of the problem statement, objectives, methods, evaluation, and budget sections. The BLM must make sure that the project description fits with in the current land use plan and implementation strategy and administrative regulations. BLM's National Training Center offers a course on grant writing. Other organizations offer Grant writing courses, e.g., U.S. F&W Service, the National Park Service, and the Grantsmanship Center.
I1. Can the BLM give start-up funds to a friends group that does not have nonprofit status?
I2. Where can the non-profit get its funds? Can it come out of the BLM budget?
Healthy nonprofits have diversified revenue streams. Funding may come in the form of loans from other non-profit organizations or community foundations, grants and gifts, individual contributions and memberships dues, sales of mission-related programs, products and services, and grass roots fund raising efforts. Non-profits may be reimbursed for some project expenses through an assistance agreement with BLM if the project is funded.
I3. Is there distinction between start-up funds and project funds?
Yes. Start-up funds provide operating support until the organization can begin to realize a return on its operations. Project funds are dedicated to a specific activity.
I4. If the non-profit makes money and they partner with the BLM, are they obligated to donate it to the federal partner?
No. The money belongs to the non-profit and not to the federal partner. However, money contributed by a donor for a particular project is considered to be restricted for that project.
I5. What are the responsibilities of the non-profit if it receives funding for a joint project with the BLM?
The responsibilities of the non-profit are to honor the intent of the agreement for the project and the intent of the donor in contributing funding dedicated to that project.
I6. If the non-profit receives funding from an outside source to complete a project on BLM land, who is responsible for reporting progress to the funder?
The outside source awarded the money to the non-profit. Therefore, It is the non-profits responsibility to fulfill the reporting requirements outlined in their contract with the funder.
I7. If the non-profit acquires outside funding who controls those funds?
The non-profit controls the outside funding that it receives. The board of directors has fiduciary responsibility.
J1. How do the partners agree on a 'common vision' for the project?
Getting consensus on a common vision and objectives is very important in developing and maintaining a healthy, working partnership. The outcomes will likely be diverse, yet complimentary to BLM’s land use plan, implementation strategies, and budget initiatives. Be flexible. Think big. To encourage continued partnership participation, the common vision should consist of realistic and rewarding objectives.
J2. How do the partners formulate work plans?
Once the common vision is identified and aligned with the land use plan and implementation strategies, partners work together to agree upon a work plan that outlines how and when activities will occur to make the project. The plan states the intended goals, timetable, and budget at the outset. All partnership members must accept the plan. Be mindful that people’s reasons for wanting to get involved in the partnership often result in unequal commitments among partners; this should be recognized and accepted at the outset. In writing the work plan, simplicity and brevity are important.
J3. What would a well-defined project objective look like?
A well-defined project objective will measure the amount of expected change from a known baseline of data in a given time period.
J4. What defines good project management?
Good project management guides the successful completion of the project according to the objectives and budget set out in the work plan, which is tied to the common vision. The work plan is the key to ensuring that the appropriate people do things at the appropriate time. Your partner is expected to have more than enough experience to implement its projects. If your partner lacks experience or capacity, you should seek additional partners or, as appropriate, possibly contract out the management of the project. Two aspects of project management can be different for a partnership: momentum and scheduling. These may be more difficult in a partnership because no one person has full control over the other participants. Partners are usually volunteers and their participation is dependent upon their level of involvement and personal life. There are many good books and training courses available on project management.
J5. Can the BLM partner control the project?
No. In a successful partnership, project implementation is a shared responsibility: no one person has full control over the other participants.
J6. How will the partners know if the project is successful?
The work-plan should have the project descriptions and a timetable, which can be compared against progress and final reports to assess the actual results of the partnership project. Partnership success may also be measured by the benefits received from the partnership process itself. These include social, economic and personal benefits. A successful partnership creates a sense of accomplishment because people have worked together and achieved a result.
J7. Should the methods to evaluate the project be defined when formulating work plans?
Yes. A good working plan is an objective way to evaluate the progress of the project. Clearly defined objectives become the criteria upon which you measure the success or lack of success of your project. The plan states the intended goals, timetable, and budget at the outset. The work-in-progress can periodically be checked against these projections to ensure that the project is moving forward in a timely manner.
J8. How does the BLM get beyond assigning the non-profit to “picking up the trash”?
It is the people that make partnerships capable of achieving results. Every community- based partnership forms around a goal or project. Therefore, what is important to the community becomes important to BLM. Sometimes, the top priority of a community-based partnership is “picking up the trash” in their community. Participating in these activities can instill the values of good public land stewardship and allow all partners to share in the responsibility for caring for their land. Various states have “Clean and Beautiful” non-profit organizations whose single goal is “picking up trash.” Successful partnerships utilize the skills and time of non-profit participants to accomplish BLM’s and the non-profit’s high priority projects.
J9. What does empowerment look like? What is project empowerment? How does the BLM empower the non-profit when it comes to projects on BLM land or using BLM property?
Empowerment is when a person/group has the authority to carry out a project or tasks for which they have been given responsibility. Project empowerment occurs when the partnership has the appropriate tools and resources to successfully complete the project. The partnership documentation (Memorandum of Understanding [MOU], financial assistance agreements, etc.) and work plan describes the work to be accomplished by each partner. BLM management and staff have to make a commitment to help the non-profit work with BLM to achieve priority management goals and objectives that are outlined in the land use plan and implementation strategies. If these strategies are well developed, our work with non-profits will be better empowered.
J10. What is the BLM's responsibility to the non-profit? What is the non-profit's responsibility to the BLM?
The mutual responsibilities of BLM and the non-profit partner(s) are outlined in the partnership documentation (MOU, financial assistance agreements, etc.) and the work plan.
J11. Who holds the legal liability for non-profit workers on BLM lands? Are there documents that describe the liability relationship?
The non-profit holds the legal liability for their employees, volunteers and projects. The non-profit should have documents outlining their own liability insurance policies. Liability is discussed in the non-profit's Articles of Incorporation.
J12. How will the partners negotiate differences as the project progresses?
How partners will make decisions (consensus, modified consensus, voting) should be agreed upon at the beginning of the partnership. When a difference arises, the agreed upon decision making process would be applied. In Getting to Yes (Fisher et al. 1983) four general criteria are outlines which can be applied for reaching wise and fair agreements: separate the people from the problem; focus on interests, not positions; invent options for mutual gain, and insist that any agreement be based on some objective standard. Sometimes, a facilitator can and should be used to make the partnership run more smoothly. BLM uses a process called Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) to help reduce conflicts between the agency and our publics.
J13. How does the non-profit instill in their volunteers the parameters of their role in contributing to the project? What happens when a volunteer "takes over"? Who corrects the situation?
A structured non-profit should have position descriptions and guidelines for working with volunteers. The Executive Director or Volunteer Manager for the non-profit should deal with situations when one of their volunteers takes over.
J14. What happens when a non-profit volunteer moves beyond the BLM/non-profit agreement area, i.e. charts new (unwanted) territory in the relationship?
Periodic review of the agreements, work plans, and progress of the partnership will highlight changes in level of partner participation. This situation should be brought to the attention of the partnership and dealt with by the entire group.
J15. Does the end of a successful project mean the end of the partnership?
No. Partners often realize they share other common goals. This commonality creates a desire for each to continue the collaboration. From working together, some partners will have built a solid relationship that will deepen, leading to increased collaboration.
K. MULTIPLE PARTNERS / MULTIPLE PROJECTS
K1. What would be a good first project? I have always heard it's best to start small and build. Does small mean unimportant?
Small does not mean unimportant. Often, small successes motivate the partnership to take on larger projects in the future. Several small successes, either independently or on the same project, help build the important trust among the partners. An easy first project might be a clean-up day at a small recreational site where agency staff, community representatives, local schools, youth groups and others can come together to improve a site's appearance for the enjoyment of all. This will provide an opportunity for relationship building, face-to-face contact with people in the community and increase the possibilities for future collaborative projects.
K2. Our partnership has successfully built relationships and successfully completed small-scale projects. What are the pitfalls to be aware of when scaling up?
As a partnership grows, the structure evolves and the need to define roles, responsibilities, tasks and accountabilities increase. Joint activities and communication are more intensive and far reaching. There may be an increase in assistance to agencies, groups or individuals to engage in joint planning, synchronization of schedules, activities, goals, objectives and events. Establishing timeframes that focus on resources and efforts and move the timeframe in a systematic manner becomes more important. Develop a budget that will accomplish the partnership goals and objectives and establish a clear concept of the steps needed to accomplish these goals.
K3. If the non-profit decided to partner with additional federal agencies or other outside organizations, is that permitted?
Yes. Partnerships may include other federal and civilian agencies, military organizations, regional organizations, state agencies, local governments and others. The common mission of the participating agencies needs to be identified before beginning the partnership. The involved agencies must understand each other's goals as well as the scope of the official mission. Intergovernmental partnerships should be approached democratically. Allow each agency equal opportunity to accomplish its own goals, while making progress toward the common mission.
K4. The BLM has two projects with the same partner; does there need to be two agreements or can the original agreement be modified?
Assistance Agreements are the most flexible assistance agreement accommodating multiple projects with the same partners. These agreements contain language that authorizes individual project work based upon the issuance of task orders. If the Assistance Officer did not authorize issuing task orders in the original agreement, they can modify the original agreement to allow for task orders.
K5. What does it mean to have multiple organizations partnering? Multiple partners - one project vs. multiple partners - multiple projects?
Partnering with multiple organizations expands the partnerships' funding base, maximizes resources, eliminates duplication, and increases capabilities to accomplish more in less time. It can bring improved communication and resource management, and increased public involvement. The size and duration of the partnership and diversity of the partner representation is driven by the scope of the project. Multiple partners working together over a period of time can be invaluable in helping the agency accomplish its priorities and objectives.
K6. How do multiple partners in the partnership affect the success and complexity of a partnership?
As a partnership evolves, recognize constraining factors and limitations. While some factors may limit creativity, they may be necessary to define the scope of the partnership. Clarify expectations and stay realistic. Do not expect all partners to contribute at the same level of participation in every project undertaken by the partnership. Realize that there may be different levels of commitment to the partnership itself by different partners.
K7. If there are multiple partners doing one project, do all of the other partners have to be non-profit? Can one of the partners be a for-profit business? Can one of the partners be 501(c)(3) friends group?
If your goals are to develop or implement land use/activity plans, you can have several groups working together or independently to help you accomplish long-term goals. In partnerships with multiple partners, the limiting factor for partnership selection is not based upon legal structure, but rather commitment to a common vision and willingness to participate. Your partnership can be as diverse as the representation in your community. If the original partnership does not have 501(c) (3) status, you might choose to seek out a partner who has this federal non-profit status to enjoy the ensuing benefits.
K8. If the BLM has multiple partners, is it necessary to define the relationship between the projects/partners?
Yes. Common goals and objectives should be identified through a formal or informal process and evolve and strengthen as people and institutions work together to achieve a shared vision. Agreed upon roles and responsibilities of each partner should be specified in a written agreement. The agreement should define the primary purpose and benefits to the agency and/or partners.
K9. What are the advantages of partnering with different partners on different projects?
Actual changes occur in agency, group or individual behavior, operations, policies, budgets, staff and resources to work together to support collective goals or ideals. Relationships evolve from collaboration to actual restructuring of services, programs, memberships, budgets, missions, objectives and staffs. Missions, target populations, functions, and power are shared so that the individual "parts" make up a stronger "whole." Agency, group or individual behavior, operations, policies, budgets, staff and power are united and harmonized.
L. DISSOLVING PARTNERSHIPS
L1. Why is it important to discuss dissolution when initiating partnerships? Is that a negative way to begin?
No. Closure of a partnership does not imply failure. Many successful partnerships have included sunset clauses – language to end the partnership on or before a given date. As partnership projects are completed, it’s a good idea for members to look back over the project to assess the partnership’s strengths and accomplishments, and look forward to determine the next steps.
L2. Is there a trouble-shooting chart for partnerships?
The trouble shooting guide in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s “Conservation Partnerships: A Field Guide to Public-Private Partnering for Natural Resource Conservation lists the following challenges:
Differences in individual mission or mandate may make if difficult to understand the incentives in working with each other.
Competition. Agencies compete with each other for budgets and publicity. Agencies may be unwilling to allow others to be involved in their budgetary process if this might be perceived as feeding back into the appropriation process. Non-profits may feel that a partnership threatens their unique niche for fund raising.
Geography. Lack of jurisdictional overlap among agencies and regional offices may contribute to lack of participation in a project.
Purpose. Partnership goals must be within the scope of the agency and organizational mandates. As missions of agencies and organizations evolve, may allow for more cooperation than current partners are comfortable with.
Semantics. The word partner has a legal definition in each of the fifty states. Other words involved in partnership agreements can mean more than one thing to some people.
Interested Parties. Agency or organization may fear been seen as receiving or providing improper or questionable assistance.
Use of Public Funds. Barriers can arise due to spending public money in conjunction with private participation in the partnership.
Procurement Regulations. Distrust from partners became agency has to go through formal procurement procedures to accept goods or services that give an agency direct benefit.
Personnel Regulations and Labor Laws. Agencies have regulations concerning minimum wages and other personnel issues that can affect manpower assistance from non-profits or corporations.
Advertising and Logos. Agencies must not appear to endorse corporations or products or serve as a marketing channel. May cause problems because many participants join partnerships with public relations as a principle objective.
Early meetings may be awkward. Where a history of contention exists, some members may be waiting to attack their long-time enemies-or may fear such an attack. Be aware that some venting of pent-up anger may occur. Don’t try to stop it, but focus attention on commonalities of all interests.
Facilitators work with participating organizations to make the partnership run more smoothly.
L3. Is there a difference between a project ending and a partnership ending?
Yes. A project is completed when the goals and objectives stated in the work plan have been reached. A long-term partnership may commit to completing a number of projects within the life of the partnership. A partnership ending is reached when the participants agree that the work they have done together is over and/or they do not wish to continue functioning as a partnership.
L4. Who is responsible for an incomplete project if the partnership is dissolved? What happens to project equipment, etc.?
Individual partners may be responsible for the completion of a piece of the project. This will be spelled out in the work plan. Often, one partner is assigned responsibility for project management. However, they carry out the task at the direction of the full partnership. But ultimately, the total partnership is responsible for the completion of the project and the disposition of the equipment.
L5. Does legal paperwork need to be completed to dissolve a partnership?
Informal partnerships, which have not established formal assistance agreements, do not need paperwork to end the partnership. Often a written notice with 60 days advance notification of the intention to dissolve the partnership suffices. However, assistance agreement awards may be terminated by the Assistance Officer, in whole or in part, only if (1) a recipient materially fails to comply with the terms and conditions of an award; or (2) by the Federal awarding agency with the consent of the recipient, in which case the two parties shall agree upon the termination conditions, including the effective date; or (3) by the recipient upon sending to the Federal awarding agency written notification setting forth the reasons for such termination, the effective date, and, in the case of partial termination, the portion to be terminated.
Fisher, Roger, William Ury, and Bruce Patton
Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In. Second Edition. Penguin Books, New York.
Partnering Strategy for Fish and Wildlife Agencies. USFWS Federal Aid and the Minnesota DNR, Division of Fish and Wildlife
Kitchell, Kate, and Joe Kraayenbrink
The Power of Partnerships: A Guide to Developing and Maintaining Successful Cost-Sharing Partnerships, U.S.D.I. Bureau of Land Management, Colorado State Office, The Management and Leadership Program, August 1992.
Loucks, Andrea Bedell, and J. Peter Kostishack
Partnership with the USDA Forest Service: Improving Opportunities and Enhancing Existing Relationships: A Summary of Issues and Recommendations from Forest Service Partners. Pinchot Institute for Conservation Discussion Paper 08-01
Strengthening the Ties That Bind: A joint workshop between community-based forestry groups and the USDA Forest Service, Washington, DC – June 3-5, 2002. Pinchot Institute for Conservation Discussion Paper 16-02.
Management Institute for Environment and Business (MEB)
Environmental Partnerships: A Business Handbook. Dryden Press, Fort Worth, Texas.
Environmental Partnerships: A Field Guide for Government Agencies. Dryden Press , Fort Worth, Texas.
Management Institute for Environment and Business (MEB) and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
Conservation Partnerships: A Field Guide to Public-Private Partnering for Natural Resource Conservation. National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Washington, D.C.
National Wildlife Refuge Association
Taking Flight: An Introduction to Building Refuge Friends Organizations. National Wildlife Refuge Association and US Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington D.C.
Sample, V. Alaric
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Schene, Michael G., and Marie B. Zanowick
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United States Department of Agriculture, U.S. Forest Service
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United States Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management
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United States Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, Montana/Dakotas