5 Key Takeaways for Your Community from the NRPA Benchmark Report

Written by Landon Schenck

Your community is unique, yet the power to learn from the success stories and proven strategies of your neighboring communities is crucial to success. Motivating citizens to explore your local parks and engage in community activities will always be your quest and your challenge. Understanding how your parks department’s engagement compares to national benchmarks will help you to focus in on specific opportunities for improvement and leverage powerful practices from leaders in recreation planning and development. To help you begin the process of determining how your community compares to national standards and identifying areas of focus for 2018, we’ve identified five key benchmarks for consideration from the National Recreation and Parks Association’s (NRPA) Agency Performance Review.

Fact: The typical park and recreation agency has nearly 200,000 “contacts,” or interactions between citizens and park services, per year.  Key programming activities offered by at least 60 percent of park and recreation agencies include team sports (86 percent), fitness enhancement classes (80 percent), and health and wellness education (80 percent).

Civic Tip: If your residents aren't maximizing their participation in your available recreation programs, set a goal to increase interactions in 2018 through more effective marketing of your parks and rec activities.

With all your community has to offer its citizens, every effort should be made to make sure residents are aware of all your available services, and have access to a barrier-free registration and participation system. Click here for five tips to market your parks and recreation activities to help increase annual civic participation.

Fact: Over 85 percent of agencies offer team sports activities.

Civic Tip: If you’re not already doing so, establish seasonal youth sports leagues.

Not only does team participation teach children leadership and perseverance skills, it also helps them to get active and build friendships with their classmates and neighbors. If your parks and rec department is ready to begin offering youth sports leagues, or you’re looking for ways to stay better organized and expand your existing programs, review our checklist of key steps to effectively manage your local government youth leagues.

Fact: The typical park and recreation agency that manages or maintains trails for walking, hiking, running and/or biking has 10.0 miles of trails in its network.

Civic Tip: Encourage More Citizens to Explore Your Trail System Through Creative Programming.

It’s estimated that the average American teenager spends approximately nine hours per day using digital media. For many parents, this alarming trend in digital media time is giving rise to concerns for their children’s health, as increased digital media time has been linked to rising rates of childhood obesity, cyber-bullying, and other mental and physical health issues. One of the best ways to help mitigate these potentially dangerous consequences is to ensure young people are getting out of their houses and being active with friends and neighbors.

Local park exploration is one of the easiest and least expensive activities that parents can participate in with their children to motivate physical activity. If not enough families and young people are hiking your community’s miles of trail systems, consider implementing a community-wide event that encourages park exploration. Click here to learn about geocaching, a digital treasure-seeking activity that leverages digital engagement to get residents exploring local park systems.

Fact: 72 percent of agencies identify the responsibility to conduct major jurisdiction-wide special events as a top responsibility beyond the traditional role of operating parks and rec facilities.

Civic Tip: If planning community-wide events is an expectation of your department, put a plan in place to execute them flawlessly.

An effective plan will need to take into consideration event goals, budget, employee and volunteer staffing, presenters and VIP guests, marketing, and ticket sale coordination. That’s a lot for a department of any size with staff that already have full-time responsibilities. The key to a successful large-scale event is to stay organized by following a proven planning timeline that will ensure key steps in the process are implemented on time and on budget. Click below to download a planning guide and checklist that will help you get and stay organized.

Get the Ultimate Community Event Planning Checklist

Fact: The typical park and recreation agency has 7.3 staff members per 10,000 residents.

Civic Tip: Make efficient use of your staff—no matter how large or small.

If your parks and rec department regularly feels the strain of being understaffed, you can’t afford not to analyze your processes and procedures to find ways to become more efficient with the resources you have. If you’re relying today on manual processes to schedule classes, manage rosters, process applications, and obtain waivers, your time will be limited and your ability to strategically plan proactive services that could benefit your community will be limited too.

A parks and rec management system is a place to start your search for greater efficiencies. A valuable system will be one that provides digital file management, citizen self-scheduling and payments, and communication automation.

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