Who We Are
Physical activity and outdoor education are our strategic priorities for Impact and Special Grants, with at least 80% of those grant dollars targeted to these strategic priorities.
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NRF Equity Statement
The National Recreation Foundation (NRF) seeks more just and equitable access to recreation programs for youth living in the United States and its territories. NRF recognizes that implicit and explicit disparities exist for some populations due to historical and systematic barriers to equality. NRF is committed to providing opportunities for youth to build life skills and healthy futures by elevating positive models of youth development through recreation that lead to real change. We believe that organizations that celebrate and engage a wide variety of perspectives in their work are better situated to accomplish positive, lasting change.
As stewards of the NRF’s mission, its Board of Trustees and staff embrace and celebrate our common humanity and the inherent worth of all people. We are committed to modeling diversity and inclusion in our programs and to maintaining an inclusive environment within our organization.
We respect and value a wide spectrum of life experiences and heritages as evidenced by NRF’s Trustees and staff, who encompass a mix of identities in terms of ethnicity, gender, race, religion and sexual orientation. NRF is committed to effecting positive change by supporting programs that provide inclusive and equitable opportunities for youth from disadvantaged communities to get active and outdoors.
Adopted by NRF's Board of Trustees on March 10, 2020.
NRF engages in partnerships to leverage NRF expertise and funds to create more youth recreational opportunities for America's underserved communities.
Recent successes include:
NRF Officers, Trustees & Advisors
We regularly ask ourselves this question: "We know that we are changing and that the world around us is changing. What methods of doing business should we consider modifying, if any, so that we operate most effectively in this changing environment?"
Consequently, we explore new ways of achieving our mission, including the following:
- Employing new philanthropic strategies and models that focus Foundation resources in certain areas, such as connecting youth to the outdoors, thereby increasing impact.
- Forming new partnerships with other foundations and organizations that share National Recreation Foundation's mission and values.
- Developing clear performance measures that validate the return on investment and inform future grant-making.
- Documenting and publicizing, via this website as well as printed materials, effective and creative models funded by the Foundation that capitalize on the transformative nature of recreation.
- Facilitating the replication of effective models that the Foundation has funded.
- Creating a learning community with Foundation grantees and partners that will enhance the field, foster collaboration and encourage collective problem-solving.
- Creating a nimble and opportunistic culture within the Foundation that identifies and capitalizes on opportunities that can help advance the Foundation's mission and strategic priorities.
National Recreation Foundation invests in programs promoting physical activity because we believe that participation in physical activity opportunities leads to many health, social, emotional and educational benefits that can last through adulthood. Because research shows that certain populations are in greater need of physical activity opportunities, we look favorably on programs that serve girls, youth from low income families, African American and Hispanic youth, American Indian youth, children with physical and developmental disabilities and youth living in the South.
Roots Dating Back to WWI
World War I had a galvanizing effect on many American communities. As the United States answered its Allies' call for support by sending thousands of young men into military service, those left at home banded together to support the war effort. War Camp Community Services (WCCS), Inc. was established in 1919 to provide funds for recreation and other services for the "homefront." By the end of World War I, the WCCS fund contained nearly $1.5 million which was placed in an investment portfolio.
Endicott P. Davison, Jr.
Myron F. Floyd
|R. Thayer Tutt, Jr.
The National Recreation Foundation is dedicated to enhancing the role of recreation as a positive force in improving the quality of life of youth. We do this by investing in recreation programs serving those who are economically, physically or mentally disadvantaged.
President and CEO: Sophie Twichell
Carmelo Anthony Foundation
Collaboration with the Carmelo Anthony Foundation to nearly double NRF's emergency disaster relief support to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Puerto Rico.
Engagement with Nature
Over the past three decades, childhood has moved indoors, leaving kids disconnected from the natural world. This trend has profound implications for children’s healthy development, as science increasingly tells us that children need regular time in nature to reach their full potential. For the first time in history, the majority of children live in cities, often without equitable access to nature. Additionally, children in suburban, urban and rural areas are spending less time outdoors than ever before. For these reasons, we invest in organizations working to reconnect children with nature. We acknowledge the need for increased programming and opportunities for communities of color to engage with nature.
One of the most unique things about the Foundation is the fact that the members of the Board of Trustees themselves seek out and develop funding opportunities rather than relying on grant request submissions. The Trustees are able to recommend two types of grants each year. The first is a “Trustee Grant” of up to $30,000 for a program typically in the region of the country where they live. The second is a “Special Grant” that may be as large as $100,000. While the smaller Trustee Grants in some ways can be considered venture capital that allow an organization to try something new, the larger Special Grants are typically given to more mature programs with real growth potential.
The Foundation continues to explore new and innovative ways of achieving our mission. Our "Impact Grant" program is reserved for special circumstances where our Board of Trustees sees the potential for profound change. These grants are advanced by the full board and may exceed $100,000. Grant criteria, outcomes and expectations are more comprehensive with Impact Grants, as these programs launched and supported with Foundation funds are expected to significantly move the needle within the community served.
Sophie joined the National Recreation Foundation in 2014 after spending 25 years in the nonprofit sector. She served as the executive director of Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods in Riverwoods, Illinois for over ten years. There she identified which segments of the community were not users of public open space, and then launched a series of successful programs to engage these populations with the outdoors, thereby affording access to the myriad of health benefits derived by time in nature. Prior to that, she managed international conservation programs for The Field Museum in Chicago and served as assistant director of the Lake Michigan Federation, today’s Alliance for the Great Lakes.
Active in her community, she serves on several nonprofit boards and advisory committees. Sophie is a member of the Lake County Health Department’s Live Well Lake County Steering Committee and the Woman's Board of the Chicago Horticultural Society. She serves as First Vice President of the Garden Club of America's National Affairs & Legislation Committee.
Sophie graduated summa cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania with a BA in cultural anthropology. She earned her law degree with honors from the Chicago-Kent College of Law with a certificate in Environmental & Energy Law. Email Sophie.
Board of Trustees
|Joseph B. Anderson, Jr.
|Kim Moore Bailey
|Lynne M. O. Brickner
|Robert W. Crawford, Jr.
|Endicott P. Davison, Jr.
|Myron F. Floyd
|José G. González
|Elsie McCabe Thompson
|John W. McCarter, Jr.
|J. James Pearce, Jr.
|Nicholas G. Penniman IV
|Jonathan D. Scott
|Lee A. Storey
|Robert A. Stuart, Jr.
|Darryl L. Taylor
|R. Thayer Tutt, Jr.
|Alfred A. Valenzuela
|Nadja Y. West
How Our Mission Translates Into Action
One indicator is dollars and cents. Over the past decade, the National Recreation Foundation has distributed over $17 million to more than 180 grantees across the country. Today, the National Recreation Foundation grants more than twice as much as it did 15 years ago.
But action requires focus. That’s why we actively seek programs that fulfill our mission. We do not solicit grant requests but rather rely on our Trustees to seek out programs in their communities to fulfill our mission.
Good Sports is a national nonprofit that increases access to new sports and physical activity for children in need by providing brand-new equipment, apparel, and footwear to youth organizations in high-need communities. NRF's partnership allows grantees to apply for these donations to improve programming, reduce costs for participants and ultimately serve more youth.
National Recreation School
Recognizing the need for highly qualified staff for the growing number of recreation programs across the country, the funds were dedicated to providing graduate training for recreation leaders through the creation of the National Recreation School. With the emergence of recreation curricula at universities, the school discontinued its graduate program in 1935. School staff worked with the federal government to improve cooperation among the many federal agencies concerned with recreation. Later, the National Recreation School began to support a wide range of recreation-related programs, such as leadership training courses, research, public education and more.
The National Recreation Foundation accepts no unsolicited proposals.
Grant applications are by invitation only.
Director of Partnerships: Tim Richardson
Creation of National Recreation Foundation
In January 1965, the Board of Trustees of the National Recreation School voted to establish the National Recreation Foundation to receive and administer the assets held by the School.
National Recreation Foundation was officially incorporated on January 23, 1965 and held its first meeting on February 1 of that year. The assets received from the School had a market value of approximately $5 million in 1965.
With assets over $50 million, the National Recreation Foundation today operates as a non-profit charitable foundation dedicated to increasing access to recreational opportunities and to using recreation as a tool for improving mental, physical, and social health.
Laureus Sport for Good Foundation
A multi-year partnership with Laureus Sport for Good Foundation allowed the organization to expand its sport-based youth development model to serve 12,000 youth annually on Atlanta's resource-challenged Westside. This model was refined in Atlanta and rolled out to serve youth in challenged sections of New York and Chicago with no additional NRF funds.
Teresa H. Horton
Board of Trustees
The National Recreation Foundation Board of Trustees has historically represented diverse geographic areas of the U.S. in order to engage with the different facets of American life. Nonetheless, Board members have always shared three common bonds: a love of recreation, a deep respect for its value in all our lives, and the belief that high quality recreation programs are vital in fostering social stability and healthy lifestyles in our communities.
With over 40 years of experience in youth development, sponsor relations, military relations, partnership negotiations, program development and resource development, Tim’s focus is on improving the lives of youth living in under-resourced communities. After serving as a National Recreation Foundation trustee for 13 years, Tim changed roles in 2019. As NRF's Director of Partnerships, Tim assists the Foundation in increasing its impact by building partnerships and grantee capacity.
Tim founded Legacy International in 2009 to help not-for-profit agencies in the U.S. and abroad maximize existing resources and reach their stretch goals. Recent clients include: U.S. Tennis Association Foundation, C.A.R.E., The First Tee, U.S. State Department, Behind the Bench (NBA Wives Association), Bridge to Cross (South Africa), General Organization for Youth and Sports (Kingdom of Bahrain), Connor Sport Court and Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals. Tim currently serves on the board of the Maynard Jackson Youth Foundation.
Prior to launching Legacy International, Tim's professional career spanned 28 years with Boys & Girls Clubs of America with his final position being Vice President of Military Services and International Projects.
Richardson earned his BS degree in business administration and marketing at Chapman University in Orange, California. Email Tim.
Harold M. & Adeline S. Morrison Family Foundation
With compatible missions around the benefits of engaging youth in outdoor education, the Morrison Family Foundation has jointly sponsored grantee capacity building workshops with NRF. It’s been terrific to bring our grantees together to learn, network and share best practices.
Grants Manager: Megan Michael
National Football League Alumni, Inc
Cooperation with the National Football League Alumni, Inc. to support and enhance programming in Catherine ABC Park which serves youth from Baltimore’s Mill Hill and Carrollton Ridge neighborhoods. This investment paved the way for the formal creation of the Friends of ABC Park organization, as well as a major redevelopment of the park.
As the National Recreation Foundation’s Grants Manager, Megan enjoys learning about and connecting with the many nonprofit organizations and programs throughout the United States whose impactful work encourage all youth to be active and outdoors. Her own love of nature and outdoor recreation bloomed many years ago as a college student interning for the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation & Natural Resources, where she spent summers immersed in Pennsylvania’s state parks.
Megan previously held marketing communications roles with the University of Maryland’s Office of Technology Commercialization and the Biotechnology Industry Organization in Washington, DC. She is an active participant in her community, volunteering for the Lake Bluff 4th of July Committee, working on the communications and grants committees for the Lake Forest High School Foundation, and serving as the Village of Lake Bluff’s Clerk (2019-2021).
Megan received a BA Communications/Public Relations from Elizabethtown College (Pennsylvania) and a MS Management/Non-Profit Management from the University of Maryland, Global Campus. Email Megan.
Charles E. Hartsoe Fellow: Caitlin Reilly
The REI Foundation
Over the course of decades, REI Co-op and the REI Foundation, together, have provided more than $100M to support nonprofits that connect people to the outdoors and that increase access to natural places. The REI Foundation is proud to partner with NRF in backing programs that increase outdoor recreation equity and access to outdoor recreation programs for children from historically underserved communities. The initial NRF/REI collaboration is the support of the YMCA’s Boys & Girls Outdoor Leadership Development programs across the country. Through Y BOLD & GOLD, young people from diverse backgrounds are introduced to outdoor adventuring, but also the leadership, resilience and community-building skills that are essential both to time outdoors and in life.
Sport Court is the largest manufacturer and installer of sports surfaces in the world. A partnership with this full service manufacturer allows NRF grantees to receive special discounts on new and refurbishment projects.
Caitlin works in outdoor education at Davidson College. She holds an MS in Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management and a BS in Environmental Studies. Her research as a graduate student focused on intergenerational environmental education and youth agricultural literacy. She now enjoys working with college students as they seek to be thoughtful outdoor leaders and engaged community members. Caitlin grew up in Charlottesville, Virginia and has worked as an outdoor recreation and environmental education practitioner in the Carolinas, Iceland, and Australia. In her free time, Caitlin loves spending time running, biking, camping, and relaxing outside, preferably with good friends and good food. Email Caitlin.
Tom's of Maine
NRF is collaborating with Tom’s of Maine, a certified B Corp, to advance equitable access to life-changing outdoor recreation experiences for young people across the country as part of its Get Into Nature campaign.
The Turner Foundation, Inc.
NRF and The Turner Foundation are collaborating to support programs across the country that get kids outside, actively exploring the outdoors and learning about the natural world. Our partnership supports projects in South Dakota, Nebraska, Florida, Georgia and New Mexico.