Kids rowing a boat

Restoration & Resilience COVID Recovery Fund


Thanks to major support from Toyota Motor North America, International Paper (IP), and the Hilton Effect Foundation, the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) is pleased to announce $203,000 in grant funding to support public lands that have been impacted by increased use during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With social distancing regulations in place, people are turning to the outdoors more than ever for exercise and rejuvenation. At the same time, the agencies and organizations responsible for maintaining public lands are hampered by reductions in staff, volunteers, and resources, leaving them ill-equipped to keep up with increased human presence in these delicate ecosystems on top of existing maintenance backlogs.

In response, NEEF has established the Restoration & Resilience COVID Recovery Fund to help restore these special places by distributing resources and mobilizing volunteers.

NEEF Funding Priorities

Through this funding, NEEF will sponsor public lands sites in order to:

  • Demonstrate the need for volunteer service to restore public lands that have been impacted by increased use during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Engage volunteers in restoration and conservation projects that address the impacts of the pandemic.
  • Contribute to improvement of the sponsored public land sites through community engagement, as evidenced by volunteer participation numbers, types of projects, value of volunteer service, and conservation outputs.


  • Open to nonprofit 501(c)(3) organizations, state or federal government agencies, federally recognized tribes and local governments, and educational institutions.
  • Must have been in existence for at least two (2) years.
  • Private, for-profit firms and individuals are not eligible to apply.
  • Grant funding may not be used to support political advocacy, fundraising, lobbying, litigation, terrorist activities, or Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations.
  • Must meet the funding criteria (see below).

Award process

The Restoration & Resilience COVID Recovery Fund will be open for seven (7) months, starting in November.  Sponsorships will be awarded on a rolling basis to allow flexibility in the timing of projects and compliance with local regulations related to the pandemic. NEEF will review applications on a bimonthly basis and select up to 15 projects for sponsorship.


Application opens November 2, 2020. Period of performance for sponsorships will be six months from the date of award.

  • Award notifications will be made on:
    • January 15, 2021
      • Applications must be submitted by 11:59 pm on December 1 to be considered
    • March 15, 2021
      • Applications must be submitted by 11:59 pm on February 1, 2021 to be considered
    • May 15, 2021
      • Applications must be submitted by 11:59 pm on April 1, 2021 to be considered           
    • July 15, 2021
      • Applications submitted by 11:59 pm on June 1, 2021 to be considered

Only ONE application can be submitted per submission period. Entities that oversee multiple landsites can submit one application per landsite, per submission period.

Strong Applications Will Include the Following

  • Applicants can request up to $2,500 to be spent over six (6) months.
  • Applicants must clearly describe the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the public land site (e.g., wear and tear on trails due to increased public use, increased litter, postponed projects such as planting/invasive species removal, etc.)*
  • Applicants must clearly describe a project (or projects) they will implement to address the impact of the pandemic.

*"Public lands" includes parks, nature areas, and other green spaces that are publicly accessible. Publicly accessible property means public or private property to which the public or patrons have a reasonable expectation of relatively unrestricted access.

The following are the types of projects NEEF will support:

Conservation Projects

Conservation projects are designed to address environmental concerns. Projects in this category should aim to help to protect biodiversity, wildlife, wild places, or endangered species. Projects may include specific activities such as tree planting, invasive species removal, data collection, and/or environmental monitoring. These types of projects typically produce conservation outcomes such as area of invasive species removed, number of native plants planted, or area of habitat created or enhanced.

Accessibility Projects

These are projects that are designed to increase access to public lands. This project type may seek to increase access for the general public or for a specific population, such as people with physical disabilities. Projects can focus on increasing access to public lands via the built environment such as trails, boat ramps, and other public access points, as well as inclusive programming designed to break down social barriers to access.

Maintenance Projects

Maintenance projects restore or enhance park infrastructure. Park infrastructure includes any of the basic facilities (e.g., buildings, fences) and physical amenities (e.g., restrooms, picnic tables) utilized on the public land space. Specific activities include repairs or maintenance on roads and buildings, and/or enhancements to facilities such as nature centers, pavilions, etc.

Cultural and Historical Preservation Projects

Projects that are focused on preserving public land sites that hold historic and/or cultural value. Preservation projects include a wide range of activities from brick-and-mortar rehabilitation to neighborhood surveys and documentation efforts.

If the project will include volunteers, applicants must describe the following:

  • How will volunteers be recruited? (PLEASE NOTE: Staff members and program-funded AmeriCorps members do not count as volunteers).
  • How applicants will ensure the safety of volunteers (social distancing, providing instructions for solo service projects, etc.)
    • Applicants will need to review and approve a disclaimer in the application related to in-person volunteer activities.
  • How the project will benefit visitors and the surrounding community when complete.

If the project will not include volunteers, please explain why.

If funds are going to a Friends Group/community nonprofit, official documentation of the partnership with the public land served is required (e.g., letter, MOU, etc.). Applicants must also present an appropriate and detailed project budget.

If Selected for Funding

If your proposal is selected for funding, your organization (or fiscal agent) will need to provide the following within a week.

  • Required financials:
    • Conflict of interest policy
    • A list of the Board of Directors
    • Annual organizational budget
    • Audit for the 2019 fiscal year, or if an audit is not available, a Balance Sheet and Profit and Loss Statement for prior fiscal year

Expectations if Funded

  • Commitment to collect and report on relevant key performance indicators (KPIs).
  • As needed, collaborate with NEEF’s Marketing & Communications team on press releases, stories, and other external communications related to funded projects.

All applications must be submitted through our online system. If you have any questions related to the fund, please consult our FAQ page.


For all other questions or problems, please contact us at Please do not call the main line or the Grants Director if you have a question. Only emails will receive responses.