With all of the benefits associated with parks and recreation programs for the communities they serve, it’s a no-brainer for communities to create great park programs.
That being said, local support for programs at parks can vary greatly, with some communities valuing active lifestyles more than others. Boosting local support for park programs is an essential step in achieving your goal as a parks and recreation professional: to promote overall well-being. Making your parks and rec organization more relevant, intelligently incentivizing your community, hosting special events and promoting on social media are all various things you can do to help boost this local support. With parks and rec month quickly approaching, it’s an excellent time to help increase local support for programs at parks.
Make it Cool
The benefits of good programs at parks are well-documented; there are significant economic, ecological, social, and health benefits associated with usage of parks and recreation facilities. While programs at parks do so much for the communities they’re based in, their efficacy depends on the local support they get. Education and awareness initiatives are an excellent way for communicating the importance of parks programs but their effectiveness will be limited, if the community isn’t actively interested.
Cross-promotion with local fitness personalities can help boost relevance to millennials, while providing a weekly social night for seniors can contribute to making your organization more approachable for the elderly. Figure out how to reach your demographics with the most opportunity for growth, to keep growing your support base.
For people to be regularly active, motivation is needed. Using incentives to help boost participation can help do just that, if done correctly. While competitive and social motivators can be great, extrinsic rewards aren’t ideal for long-term motivation. Make sure any prizes are conducive to a fit lifestyle, while also being not so big ticket that people focus solely on the reward, instead of cultivating long-lasting self-driven motivators. Fitness challenges and team competitions can make healthy living enjoyable, especially due to the social aspect of bringing your friends out.
Parks and Rec Month
Parks and recreation month — which happens in July, in the US, while Canada’s happens in June — is a great opportunity for your parks and recreation organization to spread fun and excitement over your parks programs. This is a time where you can host multiple events and build a great buzz about your organization, with added programs, funding and other incentives that can be provided by the National Recreation and Parks Association and others. Showcase the best parts of your parks and recreation organization, while providing excellent opportunities for your community to be social, active, and positive.
Just because it’s not parks and rec month doesn’t mean you can sit back on your laurels. Getting your community excited every month or two about a different event is a great way to keep your parks and recreation organization highly relevant. Not every event has to be huge but offering fun activities aimed at bringing more people’s attentions to how programs at parks can benefit the community will help increase local support. Hosting free drop-ins a few times in a year can also be great for showing people it’s worth the price of admission.
Keep it Social
Social media is one of the best tools we have at our disposal to generate buzz and to communicate with the public. Using your organization’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts to help promote your events is key, as is sharing visuals and stories of your past events on these networks. Make sure you use photos to tell your story and use this as an opportunity to promote the positivity your parks and recreation organization is spreading in your community.
For more information on how you can best prepare for this year’s parks and rec month, check out the National Recreation and Parks Association’s guide on how to celebrate park and recreation month at your agency.