Cooperating associations are official nonprofit education partners of the NPS. Working side-by-side with NPS staff, nearly 70 associations curate and manage park stores across the National Park System. Through NPS-approved products, programs, and events, they help people better understand and connect with the meanings and themes of a park. Effective interpretive programs ignite curiosity. Cooperating associations help satisfy that curiosity with engaging educational products that allow visitors to take a tangible piece of the experience home with them.

An Association is defined as a private nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation established under State law, with which the NPS has a signed standard Cooperating Association Agreement. Director’s Order and Resource Manual 32 provide guidance for those activities performed under a signed standard Agreement. As part of their standard agreement with the NPS, Associations donate proceeds from their sales to support the park’s interpretation, education, and research activities.

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What you need to know

The strength of the partnership is derived from its primary purpose, the support of the educational, scientific, historical, and interpretive activities of the National Park Service mainly through the retail sales of educational products and services to national park visitors. The hallmarks of a successful partnership include:

  1. a shared vision and common goals,
  2. clear, transparent, and open communications,
  3. and mutually agreed upon expectations.

The affirmation and analysis of the cooperating association program is documented in a report approved by the National Leadership Council (NLC) titled Envisioning A Desired Future. The NLC affirmed that the NPS has an obligation to provide for a sustainable business environment for the association to the greatest extent possible.

If you need additional support please reach out to Regional Coordinators who are available to assist National Park Service staff and Cooperating Association partners.

Additional Resources and Updates for NPS employees and partners:

Intellectual Property Information for Standard Cooperating Association Agreements

Cooperating Associations: Partnering to Inspire Webinar Training Series

NPS Communications Toolkit for Partners

Director’s Order 32 and Resource Manual 32

Cooperating Association Directory

Additional Ethics Guidance

All About Agreements

Founding Documents and Legislation

Redstone-Park Partners Report 09/2020

Visitor Center Futures Work Group

Conflict De-Escalation Toolkit

Responding and Moving Forward from Events of Jan. 6, 2021

Public Health Information for the Park Partner Community

See educational resources by the NPS Cooperating Associations and Partnerships content team

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