Environmental Quality Protection, Beautification

Friends of Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Preserve. Protect. Provide.

aka Friends of the Smokies

Kodak, TN


While the National Park Service is charged with taking care of the core needs of the park's natural, cultural, and visitor resources, Friends of the Smokies helps the park do even more, catalyzing efforts to study, protect, and restore our cultural and natural heritage; expanding programs that benefit schoolchildren in surrounding communities; improving opportunities for safe recreation in the backcountry; and acting on other timely opportunities to preserve and protect the Great Smoky Mountains. Working together, we make the Smokies even greater. Friends of Great Smoky Mountains National Park assists the National Park Service in its mission to preserve and protect Great Smoky Mountains National Park by raising funds and public awareness, and providing volunteers for needed projects.

Ruling Year



Mr. James Hart

Main Address

PO Box 1660

Kodak, TN 37764 USA


friends, smokies, smoky, park, conservation, education, recreation, historic preservation, wildlife, environment, trails, outdoors





Cause Area (NTEE Code)

Fund Raising and/or Fund Distribution (C12)

Natural Resource Conservation and Protection (C30)

Environmental Quality, Protection, and Beautification N.E.C. (C99)

IRS Filing Requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Social Media


Programs + Results

What we aim to solve New!

Congressional appropriations continue to fall below the amount necessary to preserve and protect Great Smoky Mountains National Park as a crown jewel of the National Park Service. With more than 11 million visitors annually, park staff is having to manage more and more with less and less.

Our programs

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

2017 Parks as Classrooms Support

2017 Suppress Hemlock Woolly Adelgid Infestation

2017 Black Bear Conservation Programs

2017 Support Appalachian Trail Ridgerunner Program

2017 Trails Forever Rehabilitation of Rainbow Falls Trail (Phase 1)

Where we workNew!

Our Results

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one. These quantitative program results are self-reported by the organization, illustrating their committment to transparency, learning, and interest in helping the whole sector learn and grow.

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Total disbursements to Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Population(s) served


Context notes

The annual Park Support List, in addition to special and urgent requests from the Park gives the total disbursement. Discrepancies between requests and disbursements are generally unfinished projects.

Total Park support requested from Friends of the Smokies

Population(s) served


Context notes

Each year, Great Smoky Mountains National Park submits a "Park Support List" to Friends of the Smokies. This is a request to fund critical projects and programs in the park.

Charting Impact

Five powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What is the organization aiming to accomplish?

What are the organization's key strategies for making this happen?

What are the organization's capabilities for doing this?

How will they know if they are making progress?

What have and haven't they accomplished so far?

Each year the management team at Great Smoky Mountains National Park complies a list of identified program priorities which is then submitted to our Board of Directors for approval. These projects are in accordance with Friends' mission to preserve and protect Great Smoky Mountains National Park by raising funds and providing volunteers for needed projects.

On an annual basis the Park's list contains approximately $1 million of projects for which funding is requested, and Friends of the Smokies' official members, event patrons, corporate sponsors, foundation grantors, and specialty license plate owners (in Tennessee and North Carolina) make it possible to fulfill the Park's request.

Each year, these projects and programs fall into several broad categories- Resource Management, Resource Education, Facilities Management, Resource & Visitor Protection, and Parkwide Volunteer-in-Park Program.

Meeting the Park's needs consistently and reliably every year ensure that one of America's greatest natural treasures is preserved unimpaired for future generations.

The funds that we provide to Great Smoky Mountains National Park each year come from a variety of sources, including the following:

- Annual memberships;
- Special events such as January's Evergreen Ball, the summertime Greenbrier Barn Party, and the August Friends Across the Mountains Telethon;
- Corporate sponsorships and gifts, including major donations for programs like Trails Forever, Parks as Classrooms, and more;
- Foundation grants for specific projects on the annual Park Needs List;
- Donations collected from our in-park donation boxes in places like Cades Cove and Cataloochee;
- Residents purchase our state-issued specialty license plates for their vehicles in Tennessee and North Carolina.

To raise awareness of the need for support for Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where there is no entrance fee charged to park visitors, we communicate with our members via a print newsletter as well as email communications. We issue press releases, host special events, and are active on social media.

We have a small staff of seven people who work together to raise the funds necessary to fulfill our annual commitment to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, as well as a board of directors comprised of fifteen community leaders from Tennessee and North Carolina. Additionally, we benefit from the gifts of time from an active volunteer corps who assist us with daily office administrative tasks and help our special events run smoothly.

Our more than 4500 members, our 30,000 specialty license plate owners each year, our faithful corporate and foundation funders, and our special participants have made it possible for us to consistently contribute about $1 million to Great Smoky Mountains National Park for the last ten years, and we anticipate being able to continue and grow that level of support into the future.

Generous and committed board members, as well as other Park lovers, have given generously of their time and resources to make efforts such as Parks As Classrooms, Trails Forever, the Southern Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center, Twin Creeks Science Center, the new Oconaluftee Visitor Center, and hundreds of other Park needs a reality. Thankfully for Friends, many of these good people are still involved today. They started a program that has given literally millions of Park visitors from around the world a more rewarding experience.

In our outreach efforts through digital and print communications as well as social media and traditional media channels we emphasize the Park's needs, our ability to meet those needs with help from the Park's more than 9 million visitors annually, and the impact financial support to Friends makes for one of America's greatest natural treasures.

Our board of directors provides the staff with the tools and resources it needs to accomplish the organization's mission each year. A strong relationship with the Park leadership ensures that our staff has the information required to communicate with the public about Friends of the Smokies' effectiveness.

At present, the key objective of Friends of the Smokies each year is to meet its annual funding commitment to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In 2016, our goal is $844,600

The variety of programs and projects made possible by Friends funds is long and diverse. In the last 10 years, the Park has asked for more than $2 million to support the Parks as Classrooms program, making it our top parkwide funded project. The return on this investment has been outstanding. Nearly 250,000 schoolchildren have participated in this rich learning experience over the years.

Other top funded programs include-
- Cades Cove restoration projects have received more than $1 million
- Hemlock woolly adelgid fight has received over $1 million
- Trail shelter restorations along the Appalachian Trail in the Smokies, along with funding for work on the A.T. and Ridgerunner program has exceeded $871,000
- Funding for interactive, interpretive exhibits at the Park's new Oconaluftee Visitor Center topped $500,000

A few years ago Friends was asked by the park leadership to purchase 20 acres of land that was in private hands, but surrounded on three sides by Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Nearly $800,000 was needed to secure that property which held the Soak Ash Creek wetlands, the largest wetland reserve in the park's 500,000+ acres. That money was available in restricted reserves thanks to strong organizational leadership.

External Reviews



Friends of Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Fiscal year: Jan 01 - Dec 31

Need more info on this nonprofit?

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  • Address, phone, website and contact information
  • Forms 990 for 2017, 2016 and 2015
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The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

Need more info?

FREE: Gain immediate access to the following:

  • Address, phone, website and contact information
  • Forms 990 for 2017, 2016 and 2015
A Pro report is also available for this organization for $125.
Click here to see what's included.

Board Leadership Practices

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section, which enables organizations and donors to transparently share information about essential board leadership practices.

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization


Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations?



Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year?



Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year?



Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership?



Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years?