Getting help and funding

Parents and students clear trails in the Virginia School Forest.

Doing everything yourself can burn you out. When you ask for help, you are also recruiting new members to your site committee, raising awareness and “ownership” of your site, reducing vandalism, and creating a team.

Your school's grounds staff

If your school forest is on school property, make sure your grounds staff knows about it and how teachers want to use it. Give them a map of the site so they know the boundaries. Tell them about your school forest's purpose. Ask them how they can help maintain your outdoor classroom.

Remember, your school forest is a “need to have,” not a “nice to have.” Schools should support their outdoor classroom the same as they support other classrooms such as the gym, music room, or grade classroom.

Getting volunteers

volunteer group standing with shovels and rakes ready to go.

Volunteers from the Target Corporation remove
buckthorn from the Jefferson School Forest
in Blaine.

Volunteers come from a variety of places: Eagle Scouts, Rotary Clubs, garden clubs, neighbors, and business groups are often looking for projects to donate time and skills. If volunteers don’t come to you, you may need to actively recruit them. Either way, be ready to hand off a project before a volunteer approaches you.

If you don’t have a committee and lack time to arrange volunteer work, it’s OK to decline volunteer help.

  1. Create a position description for the work you need done. Write a description that answers these questions ahead of time. It may help reduce the need to supervise volunteer work.
    1. Who should volunteer (Adults only? How many? Supervised teens or children?) If you expect the volunteer to work on their own and provide their own materials, say so up front. Be realistic about how much supervision might be available. 
    2. What work needs to be done. Be specific. If volunteers are removing invasive species, make sure they understand how to do it correctly.
    3. Why the work needs to be done. Sharing your story and dreams for your school forest can inspire volunteers to raise their hand!
    4. When the work needs to be done. Include a start date and end date, times of day when it’s ok to work, days that NO work can be done, etc.
    5. Where the work should be done. Provide a map or description.
    6. How the work should be done. Ask your forester for advice about clearing trails or planting trees. Or you can provide building plans or instructions for properly removing invasive species. If you expect the volunteer to act without supervision, say so.
  2. Share it. Use your position description to create a “Help Wanted” ad or use this volunteer project template. Give your ad to your school leadership, the school board, your School Forest Committee, and your PTO or PTA. Let them distribute your ad. They could also post your ad on the school website, or on an online volunteer site such as JustServe.
  3. Recognize and celebrate volunteer contributions. A proper “thank you” creates goodwill and future volunteers. Have your students send thank you letters, post the volunteer’s photo and recognition in the hallway or on your school website, or give them some school “bling.” Be willing to sign off on Eagle Scout or Gold Star projects. Businesses often appreciate a student-created thank you card, photo, or poster for their public-facing areas.

Establish a schedule of annual volunteer events in the fall and spring to spruce up your trails. For example, you can ask volunteers (families, neighbors, scout groups, community service groups) to bring loppers for clearing brush or shovels and pails for hauling woodchips.

Getting funding

Funding can come from surprising places. Before approaching someone for funding, make sure you know what you’re asking for and why. Here are a few ways school forests have received the funding they need.

Sponsorships and Donations

You can ask area businesses to sponsor your forest. Ask your School Forest Committee if they have protocols to solicit and track sponsorship, such as standardized solicitation and thank you letters.


  • Ask your DNR forester for advice. They may know someone local who has what you need.
  • Try to match potential donors with the item you need. For example, if you need benches, ask for supplies from a building supply company. If you need a lot of wood chips, contact Chip Drop, an online service that connects leftover wood chips generated from local tree projects with landowners. Chips and delivery are usually free.
  • Many businesses want to know "what's in it for me?" Remember, you are offering a donor a chance to make a difference in students’ lives as they become more ecologically aware and comfortable in the natural world. Can the donor write off the donation on their taxes?
  • Provide a thank you note or small plaque with photographs of students using the equipment.
  • Ask your local newspaper to cover stories such as students installing new benches funded by the "Generic Company."
  • Post signs or plaques in your School Forest honoring a business donation. Such as, "Benches donated by Generic Lumber, 2007"
  • Take photographs at events to be used by the media and your fundraising subcommittee.
  • Publicly recognizing more generous donors may encourage others to donate. Some organizations classify their donors into groups, such as gold, silver, and bronze, based on the amount of their donation.
pine bench donated by local lumberyard.

A local lumber company donated wood to Bigfork School Forest to make benches.

School forest sign listing groups who contributed to the school forest.

Parkview Center School Forest in Roseville publicly recognizes donors on a sign posted in a high-visibility area.


Selling non-timber products

student standing with their christmas theme centerpeices.

The FFA group at the Jon Rowe School Forest
in Grand Rapids harvests conifer branches
creates holiday centerpieces, and sells
them to raise money for the school forest.

Non-timber forest products can be harvested sustainably and sold. Some school forests manage and sell Christmas trees, balsam boughs, or firewood. Others might collect and produce maple syrup or birch bark products for sale. Profits can then be re-invested into your school forest.

Your local DNR forester can help you find any hidden treasures. Examples:


  • Stillwater Area High School Forest sold Christmas trees.
  • Grand Rapids High School forestry class worked as pruning and landscape crews for area residents and businesses.
  • Vergas High School's Future Farmers of America Club accepted contracts from area landowners to plant trees or crops.
  • Bay View School Forest in Proctor hosted a pancake breakfast with syrup they produced. The morning event included tours of the school forest to foster community ownership and pride.
  • Longville School Forest hosts a Woodcutters' Ball to sell cords of firewood.
  • Northome School Forest sold carved fishing poles made from school forest wood.
  • Pillager School Forest sold plants and seedlings by combining the high school forestry and business classes.

Selling timber

Larger school forests can also tap into funds generated from timber harvest. School forests can work with their DNR forester to arrange for timber harvesting. Funds generated from harvest can be used to build trails or shelters, or anything else to support using the school forest. (Note – generating money from timber harvesting is usually not an option for sites with less than 20 acres.)

Examples of volunteer projects at school forests

WhoWhatSchool Forest (SF) location

Industrial Arts teachers

Teach students how to build and install benches, boardwalks, bridges, shelters, outdoor whiteboard cabinets, or storage sheds.

Bellaire SF, White Bear Lake
Nevis SF, Nevis
Jon Rowe SF, Grand Rapids
Pillager SF

Local civic organizations
Garden clubs, Friends groups, cross-country skiing groups, Kiwanis, Rotary, Lions, Ducks Unlimited, Izaak Walton League, religious organizations, snowmobile clubs

Maintain trails.
Remove invasive species.
Plant trees.
Install gardens, docks, benches, boardwalks.
Pack snow trails.

Jefferson SF, Blaine
Dean Makey SF, Baxter
Bryn Mawr SF, Minneapolis
Trinity Lone Oak SF, Eagan
Rollie Johnson SF, Hutchinson
Nevis SF
Rockford SF

Natural Resource specialists
City or county foresters, soil and water conservation districts, university natural resource specialists

Donate weed wrenches.
Remove hazard trees.
Plant trees.

Langford SF; St. Anthony
Marydale SF; St. Paul
Pine River SF
North Shore SF; Duluth

Great River Greening

Organizes volunteers to restore habitat within the Mississippi River watershed.
Provides plants.

Clearwater SF
Garlough SF, West St. Paul

Student groups
Eagle Scouts, Boy & Girl scouts, 4-H, FFA groups, after-school clubs, green teams, college service clubs

Control invasive species.
Construct features.
Spread woodchips.
Water plants.

Mankato East SF
C.V. Hobson SF, Bemidji
Linwood SF, Wyoming
Stillwater SF
Esko SF

Minnesota Master Naturalist volunteers. To contact, send an email to Julie Larson  [email protected]

Design and plant gardens.
Identify plants.
Construct field desks.

Riverside SF, Rochester
New Ulm SF
Stowe SF, Duluth
Cloquet SF

Conservation Corps of Minnesota and Iowa crews
The CCMI is a service-learning/job-training program for young adults who are trained Fee charged.

Create and maintain trails.
Build bridges, stairways, and benches.
Remove invasive species.

Oak Grove SF, Bloomington
Oak Ridge SF, Eagan
Goodridge SF
Swanville SF
Hanover SF
Frazee SF

Neighbors, families, and parents living next to your school forest

Clear trails.
Remove hazard trees and invasive species.
Spread woodchips.

Scenic Heights SF, Minnetonka
Cannon Falls SF
Chaska SF
Pine River SF
Oneka SF, Hugo
Garlough SF, West St. Paul
Virginia SF

Local businesses
Individual loggers, graphic designers, etc.
Large groups such as Target, Boston-Scientific, TKDA, paper mills who wish to help local communities.

Design signs
Remove hazard trees
Demonstrate horse logging Maintain trails
Remove buckthorn
Donate tools (storage sheds, work gloves, birdseed, plants, etc.)

Cannon Falls SF
Edgewood SF, Mounds View
O.H. Anderson SF, Mahtomedi
Hanover SF
Jefferson SF, Blaine
Jon Rowe SF; Grand Rapids

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