Your youth programming’s success depends on the quality of the experience it provides your participants. You can plan out your process with detail and careful thought, but if the strategy fails to provide a positive experience for the children it’s designed for or the parents that may facilitate their access, it won’t be easy to build upon it. The planning and implementation of a process must be balanced out by the engaging experience, and if it is, you have a winning combination that will drive repeat user numbers and grow community participation. To help you create engaging programming that leaves the kids in your community begging their parents to play again, follow these five strategies.
Get the Word Out
How are your citizens finding out about your programming? Do they have multiple avenues to come upon these opportunities and then take advantage of them? It may help to diversify how you are spreading the word. Social media and digital announcements are great ways to reach parents looking for local activities to enrich their kids’ weekends and summers. Having a strong social media and online presence for your parks and recreation department is crucial as it can extend your reach and spread information quickly, but it does rely on users finding their way to your online catalog. To supplement digital advertising, make certain citizens can easily access information about your full schedule of seasonal youth activities.
There are many ways to supplement a modern approach to gaining participants and keeping them. Advertising in the form of physical flyers, posters, and infographics might seem like an outdated approach, but they can still be valuable tools in reaching as many prospective participants as possible in the places kids and their parents are most likely to see and talk about the activity. Consider flyers at after-school programs, sporting events, and other community functions. Advertisements in a program for a school play or a softball tournament are another way to reach engaged parents affordably.
Set up booths at community events like festivals, concerts, and book fairs. Be creative and capture the attention of busy parents. Have a presence at local community parades and pass out information or answer citizen questions about available programs and classes. Partner with local libraries, museums, and civic organizations to get your message out to their members. With a multi-faced outreach approach, you will quickly identify your most impactful tactics.
In the end, the best publicity you might receive may come from simple word of mouth— the word spread by a kid about the fun they had, or the parent impressed with your department’s creative programming and inspiring instructors. With a plan for how you will provide an engaging experience that results in success, you can replicate the results year-after-year. So, how do you create this experience?
Hire Inspiring and Engaging Staff
Your staff leaders for your youth programming are the front lines of success for your department. Whether it is coaches, officials, or an activity leader, it is crucial that you understand the significant role these individuals play as representatives of your community. Outside of ensuring your candidates are qualified and possess the necessary success attributes, like being quality leaders with great communication skills, make sure your staff reflects your community’s unique makeup in terms of age, race, gender, and cultural background. Your programs must be inclusive; having a diverse staff will create a comfortable and relatable experience for your diverse participants. Teams and groups that are diverse add to what kids can learn and experience from each other, so fostering diversity will help lead to the positive repeat experience you’re attempting to generate.
Ensure you provide consistent messaging and training and communicate the fact that no one has a more direct day-to-day impact on the success of a program than the staff members working with the kids and parents to create a fun and engaging program that citizens will come back to season after season.
Build a Diverse and Unique Catalog
It may be tempting to focus your efforts on traditional sports and programming, but what is popular varies greatly depending on various factors such as season, region, age group, and more. What is popular is also not always what is accessible for all members of the community. For example, Esports has seen a boom in interest and popularity since social distancing made in-person athletics nearly impossible. Commit to testing different classes and events each season and then survey participants after the program ends to ask about their experience. Use the feedback to decide what activities will become permanent parts of your catalog and ones that you won’t repeat.
For more information on launching and sustaining a viable Esports program in your community, Generation Esports offers a Parks and Rec Esports League designed specifically for municipal parks and recreation programs. Learn more by watching this webinar.
Design Kid-Friendly Presentation Materials
It may seem like a bit of an afterthought, but how your promotional materials are presented can greatly affect the public interest. Kids want to play sports to have fun. Parents want their kids to play sports to gain valuable skills and experiences in a team or individual setting, learning from coaches and peers. The information you present should reflect an experience that is fun, well organized, and engaging. Make your resources eye-catching with creative use of imagery and videos from past events. Take advantage of any opportunities to make the experience dynamic using videos and photos to further foster interest and enthusiasm.
To find out what is most desired in your community, it is important to get the public’s input. Utilize online surveys, questionnaires, polls, and even in-person focus groups to find out if there is something missing from your catalog. Pay attention to other communities across the country and in your region. It can be challenging to weigh unknown potential against limitations that may be budgetary or resource-oriented but having the data and feedback to reinforce your decisions will help you feel more confident about the results.
Once you choose the programs to move forward with, it’s important to relay that information in ways that appeal to your audience. On your social media, city website, and distribution materials, make sure you provide clear, concise, and detailed descriptions of your activities. These outlines lay the groundwork for citizens’ decisions, so form them in compelling and descriptive ways. Remember to let your prospective participants know why the program is important and how it can be valuable for both parents and children.
Curate Incentives and Discounts
Everyone wants to receive good value on their investments. Giving busy parents a discount or cost break is one impactful strategy to earn their repeat attendance. Think outside the box regarding incentives and discounts you can offer to make your programs accessible and affordable to everyone. Utilize any of the following types of ideas to help create that sense of value:
- Discounts: Family or friend, referrals, early signups
- Punch cards
- Coupons: gift cards, buy-one-get-one offers
- Social media sharing incentives
- Drawings and prizes
- Season passes
Maintain Consistency and Evolve
The final and potentially most important step in ensuring you are boosting your repeat registrations is to complete regular reviews and determine what is working and what needs to be improved or expanded. If you identify a specific program or sport that saw large gains in retaining registered users, or contrarily, you note an activity with few returning participants, take an in-depth look into the steps that led to those results to find out what needs to change.
Put It All Together
Here is a summary of our five strategies to boost repeat registrations that you can use as a checklist in your planning:
- Amplify the welcome invitation of your department by communicating in creative and varied ways
- Hire great staff that represents your entire community and know their significant role in you meeting your goals
- Build a diverse program catalog based on your experiences and the valuable feedback of your citizens
- Present people with a reason to come back by giving them the value they crave from a service they pay for with their valuable time and hard-earned money
- Be steady from season to season, from year to year, with your planning, implementation, and review processes while also be willing to evolve as new challenges arise