How Parks and Rec Can Go Digital During COVID-19

Written by Brian Stapleton

Learn how to go from paper-based to paperless in your parks and rec operations.
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COVID-19 has proven to be a generational disrupter of local government. Arguably, no department has been as intrinsically altered as parks and recreation. With citizens instructed to shelter in place and administrative leaders diversified in a remote work environment, parks and rec’s reliable in-person and on-site workflow model has been wholly interrupted.

One of the most impactful revelations that parks and rec leaders experienced at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic when their staff members were relegated to working from home was the need to operate online. Where departments reliant on cloud-based registration and payment processing solutions maintained a continuity of operations, departments reliant on manual, paper-based workflows were critically stunted.

In the wake of COVID-19, parks and recreation leaders can no longer maintain a reliance on analog workflows. While citizens too are adjusting to obtaining critical services from their government online, after experiencing the convenience of any time, anywhere access, their expectation will be for such services to continue to be available long-term.

To meet the modern expectations of citizens post-COVID-19, read on to learn how to go from paper-based to paperless in your parks and rec operations.

1. Create a Culture of Digital File Sharing

Everyone does it—printing an email, a document, instructions, or directions, and filing it away and never looking at it again. Or worse—realizing the material was never really needed, it’s tossed in the trash. Create an office culture that thinks digital-first. Share activity schedules, course catalogs, instructor contracts, and event plans digitally. Once administrative employees realize that they can just as easily access the documents they need electronically rather than stuffed in file folders, they will be more open to completing the core of their job function digitally.

2. Convert Your Printed Community Guide to Digital

If your parks and rec department is still exclusively providing your annual community guide or seasonal class registration booklet in hard copy, it’s time to go digital. Not only will doing so reduce your printing and mailing costs, but it will also give today’s digitally-minded citizens more convenient access to information about your local parks and rec activities, and help them to get registered and remit payment faster.

3. Implement a Digital Payment Gateway

Revenue facilitation is crucial for parks and recreation, which means you need workflows that expedite the payment remittance process for citizens, and the processing of revenue for your department. The implementation of a digital payment gateway integrated into your recreation management software will ensure a streamlined and secure process.

4. Invest in Parks and Rec Software

If your local parks and rec department is still managing rosters and registrations for community activities, classes, leagues, and volunteer programs using paper applications, printed brochures, and paper spreadsheets, you’re missing opportunities to save time and reduce paper waste. A cloud-based parks and recreation management solution will allow you to manage activities, facilities, point-of-sale transactions, and reporting more efficiently. Looking to the future, it will also help you better connect with digitally-minded citizens searching online for local activities and leagues.

5. Use Your Digital Optimization process as an Opportunity to Streamline Your Processes 

As you work through establishing new automated workflows, take the time to meet with your staff, and determine if there are better ways to use the modern tools available to you to accomplish your goals more efficiently.

6. Ensure All Impacted Staff Receives Adequate Training

Tenured staff members who are comfortable with their established, manual processes may be resistant to the idea of adopting software automations. One way to overcome any hesitation is to ensure impacted staff members receive thorough system training before launch. When staff members feel confident that they can do their job effectively—and that their value is not being replaced by technology—they will stay engaged and satisfied.

7. Ensure You Have Chosen a Partner with Proven Security Measures

As part of your vendor review process, ask any prospective partners to describe their data security features to ensure you and your information technology team are comfortable with the safeguard measures they have in place.

8. Celebrate with Your Citizens

When you are ready to reveal your new paperless processes to your citizens, make sure that your communications make a significant impact. Read how Denton, TX celebrated its recreation management software launch with a “Launching into the Twenty-First Century” theme party.

For more strategic guidance on beginning your digital transformation journey, download our eBook: The Digital Optimization of Parks and Recreation.

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