by Karen Mehall Phillips - Tuesday, August 30, 2022
With America’s state wildlife agencies relying in large part on hunting licenses for their funding, the First Hunt Foundation (FHF) is making sure America’s hunting heritage is protected into the future. As one of the largest dedicated groups of volunteer hunting mentors and coaches nationwide, it operates with 800 volunteers in 38 states and is ever looking to expand. In May, the NRA Hunters’ Leadership Forum (HLF) helped it to establish a national FHF Hunting Heritage endowment to bring new young hunters into the fold by awarding it a $50,000 challenge grant that outdoor product manufacturer Vista Outdoor immediately supported with $15,000 to establish the endowment’s first $50,000.
As the HLF website shared, the goal of the Hunting Heritage endowment is to build on the Idaho-based nonprofit’s safety and education track record by drawing more partners to its mission, securing long-term, mentored-based relationships for individuals as well as entire families. As the NRA HLF’s Peter Churchbourne said at the time, “Our missions align, and it is only natural that we partner to provide opportunities for new hunters to experience the empowerment and personal fulfillment of hunting.”
In creating the national Hunting Heritage endowment to provide for hunting mentors into the future, FHF President and Founder Rick Brazell reached out to Ashley Petersen and John Linquist of the MidwayUSA Foundation, who were excited to help the FHF restructure its current endowment to formally establish the new national Endowment. The consensus: Everyone knows you must learn to shoot before you go hunting, and teaching that skill is one that the FHF mentors and coaches see as a basic duty.
“Having the funds to start the endowment was great,” said Brazell, who appreciates partnering to grow hunting, “but we also needed to figure the best course to manage and grow the funds in perpetuity. FHF can use 5 percent of the funds each year, so we needed to find the right institution to help it [the endowment] grow and become sustainable for the long run. We approached several banks and national investment companies when I remembered we had a small endowment already housed with the MidwayUSA Foundation.
In talking about MidwayUSA’s relationship with the FHF, Petersen, who serves as program manager for the MidwayUSA Foundation, said, “It is always an honor and privilege to work with people like Rick who see the importance of sustainable funding for the future of youth shooting sports. The impact of Rick’s hard work, in raising substantial funds, will impact countless youth who wish to be involved in shooting sports for generations to come.”
The MidwayUSA Foundation helps communities and organizations to raise funds for their youth shooting teams. Approximately 2,800 youth shooting teams and 74 organizations hold an endowment with MidwayUSA Foundation. These youth shooting programs grow their respective endowment through donations and fundraising and are eligible to receive a cash grant every year to cover critical expenses, including travel, targets, safety equipment, entry fees and more.
In addition, each team or organization can acquire products from MidwayUSA Foundation’s product grant, such as shooting gear, firearms, optics, coolers, etc., provided from major companies, that can then be used in their fundraising efforts. Likewise, MidwayUSA Foundation has a Matching Program to match all the donations the teams raise, enhancing fundraising efforts and making donors’ dollars go further. “We were ecstatic to say the least,” says Brazell, “and I can’t wait to see all the people who now will get into shooting and eventually hunting because of this MidwayUSA Foundation endowment.”
The national Hunting Heritage endowment brings funding certainty to programs and organizations whose mission is focused on keeping America’s hunting heritage alive forever. Anyone who wants to support efforts to grow the endowment can contact the MidwayUSA Foundation or click here. Donations may be eligible to be matched through the MidwayUSA Foundation Matching Program. Donations also may be sent directly to the FHF.
The First Hunt Foundation has no paid staff and depends on donations to host events, provide liability insurance, attend and host recruiting events, and purchase equipment. The FHF works with any organization or agency that seeks to preserve our hunting heritage. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has been the primary organization helping FHF grow to its current scope, and others like the National Wild Turkey Federation, the NRA Hunters’ Leadership Forum, Pheasants Forever, Boone and Crockett Club, Backcounty Hunters and Anglers, numerous state wildlife agencies, private companies and individual supporters all have stepped up to help.
Brazell put it best when he said, “We all have to work together to make a difference. No one organization can do it alone and having MidwayUSA Foundation on the team will help ensure we can be successful in our mission delivery for the long term.”
For more information on the First Hunt Foundation, click here.
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