How The NALP Foundation Serves the Lawn and Landscape Industry - The Edge from the National Association of Landscape Professionals

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How The NALP Foundation Serves the Lawn and Landscape Industry

The NALP Foundation awards nearly 100 scholarships annually to students enrolled in horticulture and related areas of studies at our nation’s universities.
Photo: NALP/Philippe Nobile Photography

If you’re new to the National Association of Landscape Professionals, you may not know that the NALP Foundation is a 501 (c) (3) organization that operates exclusively for the benefit of NALP.

Originally started by NALP’s legacy organization, the Associated Landscape Contractors of America (ALCA), the Foundation was created to provide scholarships for green industry students. Since then, the Foundation has expanded its scope to include additional projects and fundraising efforts.

To date, the NALP Foundation has raised over $4 million and has provided direct investment and support of numerous efforts to communicate the value of healthy landscapes and the landscape industry to the public.

The NALP Foundation board of directors operates autonomously to select and implement projects, manage investments, execute scholarship and education programs and raise funds for the continued operations of the Foundation. Much of the Foundation’s impact is attributed to the generous support, time and donations from past and current NALP members.     

To help shed light on the NALP Foundation and what it does, NALP Foundation board member Paul Fraynd answered some questions about this organization and how landscape professionals can get more involved.

What are some of the main goals of the NALP Foundation?

The NALPF’s role is to select projects that are in the best interest of the public that are related to the lawn and landscape industry. The Foundation Board assists staff in raising funds to support these selected projects. Our vision is that the public understands the value of healthy landscapes and the professionals that make them possible. We hope to strengthen the lawn and landscape industry through education, scholarships and research for the benefit of the nation’s green spaces.

These goals come down to 1) attracting people to our great industry, from young children interested in plants to college students deciding on their first career; 2) funding research to improve the sustainability and appreciation of our natural world and outdoor spaces; 3) providing tools for our industry members to provide great careers to their teams and uphold the profession of caring for lawns and landscapes; and 4) educating the public on the many benefits of green spaces including: mental and physical health, social connection, environmental sustainability, economic improvements and opportunities for careers.  

How does the NALP Foundation help support the industry?

The NALPF provides nearly 100 scholarships annually to students enrolled in horticulture and related areas of studies at our nation’s universities. It’s worth mentioning our appreciation for all of those that have laid of foundation (pun intended) of giving back to our industry through these scholarships and related funds: The Kevin Kehoe Foundation, the Rorie family, the McCutcheon family, the Grover family, CNA Insurance, John Deere, STIHL, Toro/Exmark and TruGreen to name a few. It’s motivating to see so many of our industry members and partners give for the betterment of our industry and the belief that managed landscapes matter to society.

The NALP Foundation is led by executive director Jenn Myers.
Photo: NALP/Philippe Nobile Photography

The other current project of the Foundation include:

The Diversity and Inclusion Taskforce has developed four toolkits aimed at 1) studying industry demographic data and 2) providing tools to attract, retain and cultivate a diverse workforce and new generation of leaders. The Taskforce set several goals of increasing diversity in our industry with plans to follow up in the coming years. You can download these toolkits here and join in these efforts.

The Benefits of Healthy Landscapes Taskforce is working with Project EverGreen, Davey Tree, The Arbor Day Foundation, US Forest Service and others to develop tools that will help the industry and the public measure the impact of healthy landscapes in a site-specific and peer-reviewed fashion. This will help to shed light on the need for investments and protection in building, maintaining and cultivating green spaces in our local communities across the nation. Knowing the impact a healthy tree or plot of turf has will help to create momentum in infrastructure investments and planning/designing our nation’s green spaces.

Our Student Engagement program was developed to help spread the word about this great industry and encourage students from K-12 to pursue and learn more about working in the green industry and all the benefits and opportunities that exist.

The first program is developing a SkillsUSA Competition for high school age students. Modeled after the highly successful National Collegiate Landscape Competition, the high school program is gaining traction, with 11 states currently participating. Over 12,000 students attend the National Competition, and we will also have a landscape horticulture competition once we grow to the 15 minimum states required to participate. The competition is fun, engaging and has received great feedback from educators and students alike.

The second program is virtual K-12 education platform called Pathful Connect that allows industry professionals to virtually connect with classrooms across the country to talk about our industry and the benefits of healthy landscapes. In the two years since its inception, close to 2,000 students and 74 classrooms have participated.

After working on certain initiatives, how does the NALP Foundation select its next project or focus?

We are currently working on what’s next. Ideas can come from board members, staff or any industry participants with a great idea to help fulfill our mission. We are currently discussing programs in the technology space that will connect to a younger audience. The Foundation welcomes ideas, connections and collaborations to spread the word of the great work we do in our industry. The NALPF also has a grant writer on retainer that looks for grant opportunities related to the green industry to participate in.  

What is one offering of the NALP Foundation you’d want more in the industry to be aware of?

Our industry is filled with passionate folks from across the country that love what they do and the impact of the outdoor spaces we maintain. We need your help to spread the word to your local communities and across the country. I would love to see industry members become involved with the Pathful Connect platform and share their stories with aspiring students. It’s easy to sign up and you can shoot your video with your cell phone. In 30-60 minutes, you could change the path of one student and help your industry grow.  

How long have you been involved in supporting the NALP Foundation?

I have been involved with the Foundation for six years. I was drawn to the energy of fellow board members and my passion to spread the benefits of our work to the world. The power of the great outdoors is felt by all of us, young or old. What an honor to serve our communities and our industry by not only building and maintaining healthy landscapes, but providing a public good through our work.

Volunteering with NALP and NALPF is really just my way of saying “thank you” to those that helped me in my life and my career. I feel that what we do is a noble calling and it’s worth my effort to spread the word and help to make our industry better. The work of the Foundation will leave a lasting impact on children, students, our team members and our communities. You never know what small thing you may do that could end up changing someone’s life experience or trajectory.

How can landscape professionals support the NALP Foundation?

The Ultimate Green Battle was the NALP Foundation’s fundraiser at ELEVATE last year.
Photo: NALP/Philippe Nobile Photography

Landscape professionals can support the Foundation in many ways. Participating in Foundation-led programs like downloading and putting to use the excellent D&I Toolkits, contacting your state SkillsUSA Advisor to invite them to learn more about the landscape competition and hosting a virtual classroom session with Pathful Connect.

The Foundation could not exist without the generous financial support of landscape professionals. Whether you contribute by attending the fundraiser at ELEVATE, bidding on auction items or donating a sustaining scholarship, every little bit helps to fund our mission and create a culture of giving back in our industry. My hope is that we can continue to build on the great work that those that came before us have laid out. What an opportunity to make an impact on the world!

Aside from serving on the NALP Foundation board, are there other ways to volunteer with the Foundation? 

Participating in the programs mentioned above, giving financially to the Foundation, bringing ideas, connections and opportunities to the Foundation and sharing the work of what we do with your communities. As a parting note, I would invite all NALP members to raise their hand and volunteer in the organization.

We need your ideas, your energy and your perspective. You can make a real impact in the lives of others and make some lifelong friendships in our association. Start small and you can make a big difference over time. I always get more than I put in when volunteering with NALP.  

Jill Odom

Jill Odom is the senior content manager for NALP.