The Dallas Parks Foundation (DPF) was established in 2002 to support our community’s efforts of enhancing and building a more functional, beautiful and inviting network of parks. As the vast majority of the City of Dallas’ 374 parks do not receive any dedicated or sustained level of private funding and only minimal public funding the need for a leveraged support became apparent.
To date our organization has partnered on 12 diverse capital endeavors, assisting other volunteer organizations that reflect our mission of leveraging $100,000 of general funds to raise more than $1.8 million for their various causes. These projects ultimately benefit individuals and families from all sectors of our community.
In early 2002, a group of individuals initiated a series of six organizational meetings to establish a private nonprofit entity that would dedicate itself to improving the Dallas park system. They engaged, Lori Palmer, former City Council member and an organizational development consultant to assist them through the process.
In August, the City of Dallas published “A Renaissance Plan” – a far-reaching strategic plan that addressed the current needs of Dallas’ park system and provided specific direction for more than 400 park facilities across the city. A team led by Carter & Burgess, Inc., with guidance and input from city staff and Dallas Park and Recreation Board, created this long range park development plan. The primary objective of the plan was accomplished in that every need in the park system was identified, as one park board member said, “down to the last bench.”
The plan recognized that “the Dallas Park and Recreation Department will not successfully implement this Long Range Development Plan without a fundamental shift in its approach to funding and financing of operations and capital investments.”
Accordingly, the plan recommended several critical strategies to generate new revenue and identify new funding sources. It stated: “The first priority should be the establishment of a Parks Foundation to provide a permanent funding source to the Department.”
In 2003, the organizing committee added members, finalized a mission statement, created elements of a vision statement, and gave the new organization a name: Dallas Parks Foundation. The committee adopted bylaws and filed Articles of Incorporation with the State of Texas. It created its first Board of Directors and established strategic priorities for the time period of 2003-2006. In addition, in late 2003 DFP received a gererous private donation from Trammell S. Crow of $25,000 to help pay early expenses.
In early 2004, the new Board of Directors applied for and received recognition from the IRS as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization. New members joined the Board, and the Board established a Fund at The Dallas Foundation and created the structure and process for creating Sub-Funds for special neighborhood, community and regional park projects. Severl Sub-Funds were started in 2004. Board leaders met with city officials, civic leaders and successful fund development officers to learn from their experience in building the Foundation. In December 2004, the Board held a strategic planning retreat and created a three-year strategic plan with priorities, goals and clear courses of action.
The focus for this five-year period has been implementation of the strategic plan with specific attention to fundraising, Board development and community awareness. The Board of Directors launched a fundraising program to hire its first Executive Director/Development Director. The Foundation’s first web site was created and additional sub-funds were established at The Dallas Foundation for specific park projects.
During this time the Dallas Parks Foundation Board continued to recruit new Board members and expertise; solicit funding for a permanent Executive Director/Development Director; and assist in originating and funding park projects.
In 2008, the Dallas Parks Foundation received a grant of $50,000 from the Safeco Insurance Foundation. An additional cash grant of $50,000 from the private philanthropist – along with a contribution from the Harry W. Bass, Jr. Foundation funded the Wolfe Overlook project on West Lather Drive just off the hike/bike trail at White Rock Lake Park.
Dallas Parks Foundation received a cash grant from The Meadows Foundation to hire a Director of Development. Oncor Energy made a pledge of $1 million to the Mayor’s Youth Fitness Initiative, a sub-fund of Dallas Parks Foundation.
The Dallas Parks Foundation continues to work through its Sub-Funds to serve a variety of park needs in all areas of Dallas. Altogether more than $1.5 million has been contributed to capital projects in Dallas parks under the auspices of the Dallas Parks Foundation.