Issue Brief

Private Funding of Public Parks: Assessing the Role of Philanthropy

Jan 16, 2014 | Margaret A. Walls

Key Findings

  • Many communities are looking to philanthropy to fill gaps in public funding for parks.
  • Although some communities have achieved success with the philanthropic approach, it has drawbacks: free-riding, uncertainty in funding streams, “crowding-out” of government funds, costs associated with raising money, and inequities in what gets funded.
  • “Old-fashioned” tax-based systems have been successful in many communities, especially those with independent park systems.
  • More research is needed to identify effective and low-cost methods of raising voluntary donations for parks, as a complement to sustainable tax-based funding.