The Right Tools for the Job
In today’s world, it is increasingly important to prove your worth. Most experts in the field believe that the key is to reposition parks and recreation as essential service providers—essential for health, economic vitality, keeping kids connected to nature, and community connectivity. We all know this is crucial to staying relevant, and many of us have made great progress toward this goal. But often having the right tools and ability to accomplish this task can be tough.
Fortunately, America’s Backyard is developing materials to help you tell the story of how your programs and facilities are critical to the livelihood and vitality of your community. The materials pair vital national statistics and messaging with your local facts and successes to help communicate a compelling, real story behind parks and recreation and everything that you do for your community. The more you can communicate about the impact you have, the more local citizens will engage with you, support you, and further engrain your agency into the fabric of the community.
So how will this work? Every three months, starting now, America’s Backyard material kits will be made available online, each addressing a different critical theme. You can use these materials in items like your program guides, newsletters, emails, community publications, and websites. The roll-out timing is aligned as well as possible with the program guide lead times for most agencies. Materials will range from an article and email template to advertising creative and social media posts. The topics are designed to be “evergreen,” so if the current quarterly materials aren’t quite fitting for your community, you can use them later or at a strategic moment (e.g., launch of a new program, grand opening of a new facility, etc.).
Best of all, the materials and messages are supported by national branding and identity, lending further credibility to your message. Just make sure to add your own local twist—facts, success stories, quotes—and name recognition for maximum impact and utility. And all of this is free to member agencies.
The first set of materials is available now and focuses on getting healthy and fit – perfect timing for those winter/New Year program guides. New statistics come out every week about how things like proximity to parks and access to recreation programs affect the health of community residents. Even simple pieces of infrastructure like sidewalks and trails have a dramatic effect on community livability and health. Materials in this kit pair critical messages about the impact parks and recreation has on the health of our nation to support your agency’s mission in health and wellness locally. Health and wellness often proves to be a productive area for grants and fundraising, so don’t miss out on capitalizing on what your agency is already doing in this area. Whether it’s to support new programming or facilities, or just to bring your community up to speed about all of the health services that you provide, the health and fitness materials provide you with the valuable information you need, conveniently packaged and ready to roll out immediately.
The second tool kit focuses on the importance of connecting kids with nature. A growing body of evidence shows that children, more than ever, need to be connected to nature for a variety of reasons. “Nature deficit disorder” has proven negative effects on children. This series of materials demonstrates how parks are attacking the trend of a too “wired” generation, enabling you to talk to your community about how your agency is getting kids outside, exploring nature, learning about science, and just plain being kids rather than electronic hermits. Add in a few quotes, highlight your successful nature programming, add some pictures, and you’ve got a winning formula for building your agency’s esteem and leadership role in helping to shape the next generation.
“Parks build a community” is the third set of materials planned, and it helps explain how your park and recreation agency is woven into the emotional and economic fabric of your town or city. From data showing how park proximity increases property values to statistics on economic activity generated by programming and events, these materials will provide messages to show how your community thrives because of your facilities and services. You may think that you cannot compete with the fire or police department for funding, but once your local decision makers see how many dollars are generated by every dollar invested in parks and recreation, you can move forward confidently with your budget request and local fundraising.
Finally, the last installment of materials for the year will express how parks and recreation create access and connections to broadly serve a community. Whether it’s seniors, at-risk youth, or returning veterans, so many of our park and recreation programs help to address the needs of community members who otherwise might not be served. Is your community aware of how many after-school and summer lunches you are serving to youth? How your senior care or therapeutic recreation programs are changing people’s lives? Or how a simple community garden can both improve nutrition and boost community pride? Tying your local programs into national concerns about social equity shows how your agency is at the forefront of tackling these broad issues by providing essential services to your most vulnerable community members.
By taking the America’s Backyard messaging to the local level, NRPA hopes to achieve increased public awareness of the essential value of parks and recreation to help the field at large. The launch of local campaigns supported by common national branding aims to build a nationwide groundswell of awareness and support for parks and recreation, along with generating goodwill and appreciation for park and recreation services. In turn, this increased public support will lead to increased support among government leaders and decision makers.
So what do you need to do to participate? Just log in to NRPA Connect (www.nrpaconnect.org), access the materials, customize them easily as needed, and use them to build support, name recognition, and awareness among your constituents. Having the right tool for the job makes the work easy! And your agency will be in a stronger position for future growth to better serve your community.
We want to hear from you how you are using the materials. Send us examples of placed articles, tag America’s Backyard in themed social media posts, and send us links to any media coverage you may obtain. We want to hear about your successes with the program and any feedback for improvement as well. Send to email@example.com. America’s Backyard is supported in part by a generous donation from PlayCore.