NPF “Hill Day”

NPF “Hill Day”


National Park Foundation “Hill Day”

February 7-8, 2023

Jonathan Burton, Director of Development




The National Park Foundation’s annual “Hill Day” provides a tremendous experience and learning opportunity about how the Foundation educates and advocates Congressional members and staff about the important work of the National Park Foundation (NPF) and its partners throughout the national park system. I’ve been the director of development for the Independence Historical Trust (formerly the Friends of Independence National Historical Park) for just under a year. Fundraising for a national park is relatively new to me, especially the approach needed to ask members of Congress to continue to help fund the NPF, or better yet, increase the appropriations in key areas that will support our national parks.

NPF provided the partner organizations with a briefing packet a week in advance of Hill Day. The packet included baseline information about meeting with elected officials, preparation tips, a map of Capitol Hill, and most importantly, information about NPF’s main asks and talking points.

The first ask also included a thank you to the congressional members and staff. We thanked them for voting for the NPF Reauthorization Act passed in the FY 23 Omnibus package. This legislation ensured that the NPF will be authorized to receive appropriations through the fiscal year 2030, at an annual amount of up to $15 million! The legislation also included $10 million in FY23 for NPF. This federal appropriation must be matched dollar-for-dollar with private philanthropic dollars to receive government funding. These funds cannot be utilized by the NPF for administrative, travel, or internal staff expenses and therefore ensures the government money goes directly back into national parks. My approach was to open with a thank you, explain why this legislation is vital for the success of national parks, and then ask to maximize the FY 24 appropriations so the NPF receives the full allotment of $15 million. Not only do the parks benefit from leveraging private dollars, but this strategy is a benefit to the federal budget, as it allows the operations budget of NPS to stretch further. I love win-win opportunities.

The next legislative ask pertained to finding federal funding to improve the National Park Service employee housing. Unbeknownst to me, the NPS housing program includes over 5,500 housing units in 214 parks throughout the country. Affordable housing for NPS staff is an issue of importance along with upgrading the condition of the existing housing units. The NPF identified the LODGE Act that was introduced last Congress by Reps. Moore and Panetta in the House as a possible solution to improve and grow NPS housing.

Finally, the next ask was extremely relevant to my organization, the Great American Outdoors Act. Independence National Historical Park just received $30.1 million from the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) for the rehabilitation of the First Bank of the United States. The Independence Historical Trust (Trust) raised the initial $4.5 million to fund the “soft costs” for the Bank project. This included hiring an architectural firm to complete the analysis and construction documents, a project manager, and an exhibit design firm to design dynamic exhibits that will tell the story of the early American economy. The Trust still needs to raise an additional $5.6 million to fabricate and install the exhibits when the construction is complete in 2025. This will ensure the First Bank Museum is open and ready for America’s 250th birthday in 2026. After all, all eyes will be on Philadelphia for the year-long celebration.

Advocating for the GAOA and thanking the congressional staffers were easy talking points for me. I also wanted the staffers to know that this bill will need to be reauthorized again in FY25 to continue the historic investment in the deferred maintenance of our national parks. I first met with PA Rep. Boyle’s staff and updated them on our First Bank project and invited the Congressman to a 75th-anniversary celebration at Independence National Historical Park (INHP). I then met with VA Sen. Kaine’s team and finally with PA Sen. Casey’s team. By the time my third meeting approached, I felt like I nailed my pitch of support on behalf of the National Park Foundation. I also invited Senator Casey to a groundbreaking event for the First Bank project in the spring.

The National Park Foundation bookended the Hill Day visits with two events, a meet and greet in their headquarters the day before, and a lovely reception at the United States Botanic Gardens following Hill Day. These events provided me the opportunity to meet NPF staff, explain our needs at INHP, and begin discussions about how the NPF can help the Trust make INHP the best that it can be as we lead up to the semiquincentennial celebrations in 2026. These interactions were invaluable for me as I learn more about the Foundation and the work it does to enhance and improve our national parks. Every conversation I had with NPF staff involved the topic of collaboration and teamwork with friends’ groups and partner organizations. This was music to my ears. I highly recommend experiencing Hill Day with the NPF. One of the bulleted points in their briefing packet reminded us to have fun. Having fun was exactly what I accomplished, but I also learned a great deal, expanded my mind and network with like-minded people and organizations, and gained a broader perspective about how to help make Independence National Historical Park and all national parks the best that they can be.


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