Retaining and Gaining Donors

by Molly Hetrick

Spring and Summer are a great time to connect with your current donors and attract new ones, because there are so many great programs and activities going on that you can share with them! Photos of your mission in action help donors feel connected, interested, and willing to support more of the good stuff they are seeing.

This is also the time where I hear people say “we need more donations!” or “we need to get more donors”. This is interesting and if you catch yourself with these words, let’s examine them.

“Need” usually means there is a project in the budget with no money to fund it, so someone decided it could be funded with donations. Then, the staff is stressed out and scrambling to figure out how – during the busiest part of the year – they are supposed to fund-raise tens of thousands of dollars to fund a needed project that is ready and waiting for the donations to cover it.

This leads to language that includes expectation and a sense of entitlement that donors should see the value and get busy with sending in their donations, which tends to skew the messaging in a way that actually repels donors. (They don’t owe you anything, which is why this is dangerous budgeting.)

Instead, let’s focus on the three important parts to fundraising for this year!

First, you have to do again this year what you did last year. In other words, hope that the stars align so that you can repeat last year’s fundraising success again this year. And then grow it.

But, we lose donors as well as gain them, so it’s a very delicate balancing act. And nothing – Nothing – is guaranteed.

The important thing to remember: it’s easier to keep the donors you have than to attract new ones. So, here are some things to start with:

1. Keep / Retain: Donors who gave so far this calendar year and during the last calendar year are your most important focus.
a. Have you communicated your thanks adequately?
b. Have you followed up in any way since? Newsletter, photo montage, update on the project they funded, invitation to come for a tour?
c. Consider an emotive photo with a hand-written note on the back to stay in touch.

2. Attract New: This is a source of growth for your fundraising and also a priority. Where are your close but yet not engaged groups of people?
a. Social media or newsletter lists who have not given?
b. People who have taken the time to complain about something they would like to see improved? (They took the time, there is potential there!)
c. Community groups or volunteers at the edges of your organization?

3. Re-engage lapsed: Donors who gave in the past 2-3 years but have not given since are worth taking a look at.
a. Do you know why they stopped giving? You can’t control the pandemic, the economy and the fact that their kids just went to college and needed a car. But, you can reconnect if they felt distanced, correct a misunderstanding if they felt disappointed with you, or show them other aspects of the mission that they may connect with.

Feeling overwhelmed?

Ask your board to help! Give them a list of program participants to divide up and send a personal note to. Either “we wanted you to know about this exciting program” or “we’re hoping the community will support this exciting initiative, will you join us?”
Give simple scripts and some training to your front line staff who interact with the public all day long. Be sure they have the tools they need to talk about the top 3 big projects, and how people can get involved.
Start capturing more email addresses at every single program and event you do all summer.
Communicate – short videos, easy to skim news stories (don’t burden yourself or them with long newsletters), or personal message emails.
Ask your staff to help – can they adopt a short list of 5 people to get to know and steward?
Ask for help! If you are not sure how to proceed or need help with messaging for an outreach direct mail campaign or need help to create segmented messaging for the different donor audiences, please reach out and ask for help.

Have a fantastic summer!


What’s in your naturehood?

Connecting neighbors and neighborhoods with nature has proven benefits. Some with an obvious connection, such as cleaner streets, improved air quality, fresher food options and lower temperatures. Also connected, and somewhat surprising, is the correlation between green spaces and lower crime rates and mental health.

by Christina N. Moresi, M.Ed. (She/They)Environmental Education Planner, Pennypack Environmental Center

Teenager stands among neighborhood trees.
The oldest rose garden (1821) in its original design in the country. Germantown, Philadelphia.

Spring is officially here!  At Pennypack Environmental Center, nature is awakening and our educational enrichment is once again immersed in its transformation. Nature is all around us yet many do not recognize it in their neighborhood, but rather thinking of it only as a place to visit.  

In addition to Philly’s expansive park system, we also have a growing tree canopy, orchards, food forests, farms, arboretums, and/or gardens in every neighborhood. Looking beyond these destinations, however, is the single street tree on the block, or the clump of flowers planted in pots, or even the dirt filled cracks in the sidewalk where ant hills appear. Nature is everywhere.  

The more you look the more you see. And the more you see, nature’s diversity becomes more apparent, as does the connections that cycle right back to humans, parks, and recreation.  

Connecting neighbors and neighborhoods with nature has proven benefits. Some with an obvious connection, such as cleaner streets, improved air quality, fresher food options and lower temperatures. Also connected, and somewhat surprising, is the correlation between green spaces and lower crime rates and mental health. (And perhaps to be discussed in another article, the correlation and inequity of the locations of these green spaces, trees, and the socio-economic status of a neighborhood.)  

The importance of environmental education in Parks and Recreation is for every neighborhood to reap the benefits of nature, and understand that the consequences of our actions, good or bad, directly impact our drinking water and ultimately our quality of life.  

Programming and operations at recreation and environmental centers are vital to nurturing neighborhood nature. These centers are positioned to already have adults, children, and families visiting regularly. By adding features such as native bee houses, bird houses and feeders, native plants, rain barrels, gardens, and informative signs, visitors will become engaged and begin seeing nature as a part of their neighborhood.  These self-guided opportunities to learn will open people up to learn more through direct programming.  

Anytime myself or my niblings are playing sports at a recreation center, as an environmental educator, I immediately notice the wealth of opportunities for nature experiences, formal and informal. For example, while playing outfield, I looked up to notice bats eating the moths that fluttered around the lights. This prompted me to create ballfield specific lessons such as Ballfield Bugs, and Bats in the Outfield. These and other outreach lessons help visitors to see past pigeons and squirrels and into seeing their familiar surroundings as a larger habitat for diverse plants and animals.  

Margaret Rohde, Conservation Manager at Wissahickon Trails helps the PA Game Commission and PPR Staff to free a hawk that found its way into Dorothy Emanuel Recreation Center.

What are the bugs that are being skimmed out of the pool, or the trees that leave seeds and leaves all over the fields? Why do Ginkgo tree nuts stink when they are crushed under our spikes? What animal left their tracks in the baseball sand? Why do some areas of the field flood and others don’t? What species of hawk flew into the recreation center? (True story.) 

Partnerships are also invaluable, especially if nature education is not a skill that teachers or recreation leaders can offer on their own. By utilizing environmental centers, water departments, nonprofits, and local experts new, quality programming can be brought to the community. If that isn’t an option, apps like iNaturalist enables even the newest person to nature to identify and learn all about the species in an area. Apps are a great way to inspire visitors to want to learn more.   

Nature is already present at our centers and on our blocks in exponential numbers, we just need to show each other where to look, and how to see its value.

Jerks at Work

Be a positive role model, not a model jerk

I’ve been a fan of Gary Larson’s Far Side cartoons since their start. And this particular one tells me that not only does God love diversity, he’s also got a sense of humor!

Unfortunately, humoring a jerk doesn’t prevent the problems they create. And when you work with a jerk, it’s not just irksome—it can be a major career-disrupter!

Of course, the first, best way to deal with jerks is to be certain you’re not one of them! Many people learn to become jerks at work by mimicking their managers and their coworkers. So the fewer who act like jerks, the less their contagion will spread.

But of course, there are always plenty of jerks to go ‘round. No matter what their role or relationship, you need to know how to manage them for your own (and possibly mutual) benefit. Once you make sure that you have a clear understanding of their questionable behaviors, you can then tailor your response to fit the particular person and situation. Some cases call for swift, direct and assertive action, while others call for more subtlety, patience, and persuasion.

The book Jerks at Work: How to Deal with People Problems and Problem People by Ken Lloyd, is a wonderful resource offering hundreds of real-life workplace questions with practical considerations, suggestions and insights to employ in all sorts of jerk defense and management. Because the author says it all so well, I quote from his introduction and summary:

“Jerks can be present in every aspect of work life, from the first contact in the employment process to the last day on the job, and all points in between. For example, jerks can clearly highlight their presence when conducting job interviews, and in the way they treat new employees. At the same time, there are applicants and new employees who feel compelled to demonstrate that they, too, can act like jerks. With every assignment, task, chore, meeting, project, deadline, objective, and interaction, jerks are always seeking that special opportunity to let everyone know who and what they are.

“In leadership positions, jerks can truly come in into their glory. They can be invisible, omnipresent, inequitable, intransigent, nasty, unfair, unethical—the list goes on and on. And interestingly, jerks as subordinates can be just as outrageous, as can jerks as co-workers.

“One properly placed jerk at virtually any level of an organization can be linked to a vast array of problems that include leadership ineptitude, widespread unfairness, abysmal teamwork, resistance to change, twisted feedback, conflict escalation, pointless meetings, communication breakdowns, employee stagnation, muddled decision-making, inequitable rewards, staff rebelliousness, and a very uncomfortable environment. And as the number of jerks increases, so increases the number of problems.

“Although there are no automatic or canned solutions for the problems jerks create, there are some strategies that can help, provided that every problem is analyzed individually, and specific steps are developed to handle each. With a solid strategy in mind, many actions taken by jerks can be stopped and prevented, or at the very least, avoided.

“There are some key pointers that anyone at any job level should keep in mind in order to be a positive role model, rather than a model jerk:

  • Treat people with respect and trust.
  • Listen to what others have to say.
  • Be fair and honest.
  • Set positive expectations.
  • Recognize the value of diversity.
  • Keep the lines of communication open.
  • Be a team player.
  • Keep furthering your education.
  • Establish realistic plans and goals.
  • Look for solutions, not just problems.
  • Try to understand others as individuals.
  • Give thanks and recognition when due.
  • Keep quality and service in clear focus.
  • Encourage innovative and creative thinking.
  • And most importantly, remember that only a jerk ignores the Golden Rule.”

Invest in yourself and your future. Jerks at Work can arm you with the knowledge and sensitivity to combat jerk behavior in your employers, coworkers, employees—and most importantly, in yourself.

Survey Says: 2022 York Heritage Rail Trail Survey Results

by Gwenyth Loose, CPRP, Executive Director, York County Rail Trail Authority

April 19, 2023

Photo by Humphrey Muleba on

It all began in 1997 with a phone call from someone wanting to volunteer their services to survey the growing number of visitors to the York County Heritage Rail Trail. The offer was being made by Carl Knoch, who would later go on to chair the York County Rail Trail Authority for an amazing eighteen years. But on this day, my curiosity peaked and I agreed to meet Carl to better understand the free services he was offering.

I was in my first year as project coordinator for the York County Rail Trail Authority and dipping my feet into writing grant applications. Maybe Carl’s offer could strengthen some of my responses to those challenging essay questions. You know the ones where my responses of “We have lots of people using the completed sections of our trail” and “All ages use the trail, mostly for cycling” were just not bringing in the grant funds. I needed data.

Since 1997, seven surveys have been completed on the Heritage Rail Trail, and the data collected has been used to garner over $16 million in grants. Yes, surveys offer a roadmap to success!

Here is a sampling of what the Heritage Rail Trail County Park 2022 User Survey and Economic Impact Analysis revealed. The full report will be available later this spring at

  • Annual visits were at 263,856.
  • Economic impact of $3.5 to $4.4 million annually to the local economy.
  • Over 77% of visitors are from York County, a steady increase from 62.7% in 1999.
  • Nearly 85% of visitors are over the age of 35, with the most represented groups being 56-65 and 66 and older.
  • Cycling continues to be the most popular activity constituting approx. 35%, while walking and jogging are on the rise at 29% and 12% respectively in 2022.
  • 67% of visitors use the trail for health & exercise, a steady increase from 44% in 2004.
  • Average spending per person per visit for soft-goods such as food and drink was a little over $20 in 2022.

Establishing the methodology for data collection and analysis is most important when planning to conduct a trail or park survey. In order to identify trends, it also becomes important to standardize the questions being asked.  Consistency in data collection includes conducting surveys at the same time of year, positioning trail counters at standard locations, and offering paper survey forms and a return box at each trailhead, even if a QR code is provided for online responses. While most of this work can be done by volunteers or staff, data analysis is best left to the experts. Perhaps the next time your office phone rings, the person on the line will be another “Carl Knoch.”

YOU CAN DO BIG THINGS! Let me tell you how…

by Monica Tierney, MBA, MEd, CPRE, Director of Parks & Recreation, Lower Makefield Township

It is time to think BIG and make a BIG impact on your community. The Power of positive thought is not made up it is a research-backed, proven method. So why do we fight it?

Most of the people reading this blog work for a nonprofit or government agency. Some are a little more seasoned than others, and many are completely burnt out and overworked. It is very easy to get caught in a cycle of preservation rather than innovation in our industry. The thing is there is no need to give up, if you think something is important speak up, set BIG goals, and push yourself to believe they are possible.

Research shows that mindset can have a significant impact on achieving your life outcomes. From health to financial success or general wellbeing, there are many studies that support that a positive mindset alone will determine your success.


If you believe you can succeed, you will. Once you believe something is possible doors will open for you that you never imagined would be available. You will look at different possibilities and find resources that will help get you to where you want to be.

Sometimes our biggest adversary is the one in the mirror. The idea that you are going to fail enters your thoughts and possibly your speech and eventually it will be true. This is a self-fulfilling prophesy. The good news is, if you believe that you are going to succeed, and you speak about your success, this will all come true for you.


Speak it into existence, learn more about others who have had success, excite people around you. Speak positively and look at yourself in the mirror and imagine yourself where you want to be 1, 2, 5, 10 years.

What good is a personal goal if you do not share the idea with others. The Truth is none of those doors will open for you if you don’t open the door first. Do not keep your goals or big picture items to yourself., share them with others. Start talking about it to your peers and discuss them with your most trusted advisors.


In my office, we call this the Universe but many call this a vision board. When we set the goal of CAPRA there were many more micro goals that came about as we discussed certain aspects of Accreditation. We started saying to each other, let’s just put that in the universe. Eventually, we decided that we would create a Universe where we can put everything in writing. Do you know what, many of the things we placed in the universe came true. Once the staff recognized the success of the vision board each individual employee added vision boards to their desks to set individual goals for themselves.


It is so easy to get wrapped up in a negative space, we all do it, me included. Recently I heard another Parks and Recreation Professional say “we all know committees are where things go to die.” If we think like that things will die with committees. If there is something you truly believe in, reframe your mindset, and discover how you can best work with the committee to make this a reality.

Now it is your turn, go make the impossible possible in your community. If you Believe It, Speak It, Write It and Reframe your Mindset you can build a bridge, conserve land, build a playground, a park, and accomplish things you never imagined were possible!

Research and Articles worth reading:

Crum, Alia J., and Ellen J. Langer. 2007. Mind-set matters: Exercise and the placebo effect. Psychological Science 18, no. 2: 165-171.

What Leading with Optimism Really Looks Like (

Positive Intelligence (

Leisure Education Perspectives

Jeff Witman, Ed.D, CTRS

Many recreation professionals get involved with leisure education with their program participants. This article focuses on providing context for these efforts. While the content, format and structure of leisure education efforts may vary the desired outcome typically involves empowerment and attitude adjustment.

One of my father’s favorite songs, which frequently was the background music for our suppers, can perhaps summarize the intent of leisure education programming.  The song is the Guy Lombardo standard “Enjoy Yourself, It’s Later Than You Think” with its reminder that the “years go by as quickly as a wink.” So often we meet people who are or find themselves in, a rut of living for tomorrow, be it the weekend or vacation, or that illusory paradise – retirement.  Sacrifices of time, resources, relationships, and opportunities for enjoyment are inherent in this mindset.  Unrealistic expectations of our “future fun” may cause disenchantment when these experiences finally do arrive and fail to match our dreams of them.  Like the bored elementary schooler who can’t believe that the bell ending recess is ringing so soon, our greatest frustration may come with the realization that all our sacrifices were for something so transitory.  The alternative – infusion of the spirit and experiences of leisure in our everyday lifestyles can be a difficult proposition.  Habits are difficult to break.

Among the most challenging habits or attitudes we confront in working with people in leisure education are:

  • the sense of resigned helplessness, of feeling controlled by people or environment or circumstances which the person controlled, sees no hope of changing;
  • the sense of ennui, of being bored and tired and tired of being bored and bored with being tired and tired and bored of thinking how tired and bored we are and generally on a spiral in which everything becomes boring, tiring, or both (Stan Grabowski has described this as “dead from the skin in”);
  • the sense of aloneness, of being the only one unable to find pleasure in leisure, or make friends, or serve a pickleball over the net, or feel guilty about playing;
  • the sense of being superfluous, of literally killing time with one’s life, of not being a part of the big or any pictures, of having no legacy except perhaps the desire of others to not be like you;
  • the sense of complacency, smugness, and self -satisfaction with a lifestyle that even the casual observer can identify as not what it could be or even as harmful.

Keys to successful leadership of leisure education efforts include nurturance and support. Nurturance requires that leaders identify what participants need and want and then provide emotional and physical support- information, empathy, feedback and assistance.   

Leisure education succeeds to the extent that it allows individuals to reject negative attitudes and initiate habits that reinforce this rejection.  Relatively modest trials of this exist within the sheltered environments in which we conduct programs.  The real test of individuals’ commitment to change comes in the real world. Without a supportive facilitator or group, people face their actual ability to evidence a changed lifestyle.  Their success, it seems, relates in part to the attitude that the leisure education experience leaves them with.  It is probable that an enhanced sense of self-empowerment, the ability to both identify and solve problems and the willingness to set goals and try new things (view the clip below) is the critical legacy of involvement with leisure education programming.

Play is happier in the mud 

Have you ever noticed that when you hike through the forest or dig in the garden with your hands, something magical happens to your mind, body, and general well-being?

March is a muddy month. A wonderfully squishy, mushy, wet muddy month.

Children smile while playing in mud.

Have you ever noticed that when you hike through the forest or dig in the garden with your hands, something magical happens to your mind, body, and general well-being? You may feel happier, breathe easier, have greater focus, or get a spurt of creative energy. But is it magic or is there a scientific explanation for what happens when you connect with soil?   

Mud (soil) is part of our everyday lives. We hike on it, grow our food in it, and touch it in some way every day. It contains living organisms, rock particles, minerals, decayed organic materials, air, and water.  

In Philadelphia, our soil has an extra sparkle thanks to the flaky, glassy mineral called mica. The development of soil takes thousands of years. It is the base of all life and billions of organisms are in it. Soil is a water purifier, media for plants, habitat, organic recycler, and is a material for man-made structures.   

There is a growing amount of research on the physical and physiological benefits of touching soil or mud for both children and adults. The science is complex, but while sorting through the research, I discovered that exposure to soil-based organisms, such as bacteria, strengthens the immune system. An initial study conducted in 2010 by Dorothy Matthews and Susan Jenks at the Sage Colleges in Troy, New York, found one bacterium in particular, Mycobacterium vaccae, which is in most backyard soil, increases the serotonin levels, also known as the “happy chemical”.  

Two young children explore the mud.

Although adults benefit from exposure to soil bacteria and outdoor play, it is most effective when exposure begins in early childhood and continues through adulthood. Although we are raising our children in more sterile environments than previous generations, the rate of allergies, asthma, and other inflammatory and auto-immune diseases are rising. Without exposure to “germs”, including bacteria in soil, the immune system cannot properly build itself. When babies instinctively put items in their mouths, it is introducing bacteria into their systems. As a child grows and has access to the soil through play, they are consistently building new immunities for a stronger, more complex system. This, along with all the other benefits of outdoor play, builds the body and mind in a more complete form. But whatever your stage of life, getting outside and getting dirty is as important as regular exercise. Luckily you can get everything you need at any of Philadelphia’s and Pennsylvania’s environmental centers and park systems.   

Child covered in mud playing in a mud pit.

We foster exploration of nature with the senses, taking risks, and of course, getting dirty. If you are not a mud loving person or are unsure how you can incorporate dirt into your and/or children’s play, just ask any educator from your local environmental center! For more research-based information about the benefits of soil, play and nature for children, visit  

Photos by Christina Moresi from International Mud Day celebrations, and every day, all-weather play at Philadelphia Parks & Recreation’s environmental centers.

Attend the PRPS Conference Expo Hall

Ahoy, Me Hearties!  Batten Down the Hatches and Set Your Course to join the PRPS Staff & Conference Committee for the 2023 Conference & Expo at the Hershey Lodge from March 19th-22nd.  The conference theme this year is ‘Banding Together to Forge Community Treasures.’

Get Shipwrecked at the Expo Hall with over 70 commercial and non-profit exhibitors on Sunday & Monday.  Featuring ScanTrivia, Speed Meet & Greets, and the Prize Pool, there are endless opportunities to network with colleagues and exhibitors.  Shiver Me Timbers!

Avast Ye! Participate in the Expo Hall game, SCANTrivia.  SCANTrivia cultivates an experience that generates high-energy competitive interaction between attendees. Signage will be posted with instructions to access SCANTrivia on your mobile device. Thirty exhibitors will have QR codes located at their booths.  Engage and interact with exhibitors and scan the QR code with your mobile device to answer their trivia questions for a chance to win your Bounty. All activity can be seen during gameplay on your mobile device by clicking the leaderboard link.  Exhibitors have donated prizes. Points leaders at the end of the game may pick up their Treasure from the Expo Hall Committee.

Be on the Lookout Monday for Speed Meet & Greets throughout the day in the Expo Hall.  Register on Sunday with the Expo Hall Committee to participate.  Space is limited.  Speed Meet & Greets provide the opportunity to learn from industry exhibitors in a private one-on-one setting.  Don’t get hornswoggled with lengthy conversations.  Exhibitors will have several minutes to present their company to participants.  Once the Speed Meet & Greets are completed, and you have your sea legs, visit the exhibitors at their booths for more information.

With so much going on, don’t end up in Davey Jones Locker.  Change Course and head to the Prize Pool at the back of the Expo Hall.  Ticket sheets are available for purchase, labels are not needed.  Payment is accepted via cash or credit card. Donations are still being accepted. Thank you to all Prize Pool donors and the Community Branch Executive Committee.  Winners will be announced around 2:00 p.m. Monday to pick up their Booty.  Unclaimed prizes will be available for pick-up at Registration.

Come About to Central Park, located in the middle of the Expo Hall, to enjoy your Grog & Grub at the tables provided.  Share your community treasures on the Community Treasure Tree for all to enjoy.

Buccaneers and Buckos, Sea Dogs, Landlubbers and Lasses alike, Splice the Mainbrace at the Conference Socials each evening.  You Arrrrrrrrr the most sought-after Treasure!  YoHo YoHo A Recreation Life for Me! 

Leadership lesson from the Philadelphia Eagles

After watching the Superbowl, I thought to myself what makes the Eagles so loveable and successful as an organization even with a disappointing result. I believe much of it is their brotherhood, the very ethos of the organization and its culture.

Every organization has a culture within it where people are driven to meet like goals and have shared beliefs and expectations. It is the heartbeat of your organization, what makes it tick and what makes it successful.

Organizational culture starts with leadership. Jeffery Laurie, the Eagles Franchise owner, believes from the top down that everyone on his team is important to the success of the franchise. Laurie is known and often quoted discussing the culture of the Eagles organization. Culture is important to him, and he lets everyone know about it.

While the Eagles franchise may not be comparable to municipal work this philosophy can still be applied to Parks and Recreation. If you want to be successful, then surround yourself with good people. If you can hire, hire people who will work within your team. If your staff is not living up to expectations, then talk to them and train them.  

Have you ever considered your organizational culture?

A great way to get started is imperative that you inspire your team toward one unified mission, vision, and goal. Create opportunities for all your staff to have a successful season or year whatever it might be.

As a leader, it is important to elicit feedback from your staff about their feeling about your organization.  If you identify a problem within the organization, then develop a plan to address concerns. This will take time and consistency. Repeat this regularly to provide continued success within your team.  

While I watched the game, I saw similarities with my team and the time we spent together completing the Commission for Accreditation of Parks and Recreation Agencies (CAPRA). The time we spent allowed us to pay close attention to the culture of the Township and its Staff. With time, the staff knows they are all equally important to the success of the team no matter what their role.

Having the single purpose of completing Accreditation for the betterment of the township taught our team to show up for each other, cheer each other on and support each other when things were hard. Furthermore, we actively engage our elected officials, our Township staff, Township Committees, volunteers, interns, and anyone who we could inspire to be involved we asked to help. We created a culture of high expectations, success, and celebrated all milestones, big and little, together as a community.  

CAPRA can be considered the Superbowl of Parks and Recreation. It takes years of planning, training, and building your team and preparing for one trip that could make or break your organization. You will have wins and losses that will equip you for success in the future. Recently, in 2022 our Agency became the first agency in Pennsylvania to achieve CAPRA Accreditation. It all started with a small team to inspire a community to make it happen.

How to Save on Your Electric Bill


Have you started to dread getting your electricity bill every month? Does the thought of wasting energy unnecessarily drive you up the wall? We understand. Home energy use is both expensive and, in an age of increasing environmental awareness, a source of nagging guilt for many people.

Homes use energy in complex ways, and there’s not just one easy fix for reducing your electric bill. The good news is that through a combination of behavioral changes and small upgrades, you can run a more energy-efficient home. Here are some tips to get you started:

Change Your Lighting

Replacing the lights in your home with energy-efficient compact fluorescent or LED bulbs is a small investment that can deliver big benefits. CFLs and LEDs are up to 75% more efficient than conventional lighting, although CFL bulbs do require special disposal. Today’s products are designed specifically for the home and give off a warm light that’s nothing like the harsh, institutional fluorescents you remember from high school.

Invest in a Smart Thermostat

If your home relies on electric heat, a smart thermostat puts a number of sophisticated tools for conserving energy in the palm of your hand. Smart thermostats allow you to easily program temperatures with greater precision and can be connected to your phone to optimize the performance of your HVAC appliances. As a result, a one-time investment can reduce your heating and cooling costs by between 20-30% each year, according to some estimates.

Keep Your Heating and Cooling System in Good Condition

Even with sophisticated tech such as a smart thermostat, your furnace and air conditioner need to be well maintained to deliver cost-effective performance all year long. Some regular preventative service — such as checking and changing the air filter as necessary — can be done easily on your own. However, an annual professional inspection is also necessary to confirm the performance of your system and identify signs of trouble before it leads to a breakdown.

Ensure Your Home is Properly Sealed

A well-sealed home will be easier to heat and cool, which means your HVAC appliances don’t have to work as hard. Prevent drafts by caulking and weather-stripping your windows and doors. You may also want to consider upgrading to a set of energy-efficient windows — while they can be a big investment, they will both lower your monthly electricity bill and add value to your home.

Choose the Best Utility Company for Your Needs

Several states, including Pennsylvania, allow residents to choose which electric supplier they prefer. This means you can shop to see which supplier would be best for your needs. Research different suppliers’ programs and whether a fixed or variable rate would be best for your family.

Run Appliances During Off-peak Times

Many electric companies offer a lower rate during off-peak hours, typically evenings and weekends. Planning to do laundry, wash dishes and run other appliances during these times is a great way to save on your monthly electricity bill.

Conserve While You Cook

Most people don’t realize that, for certain appliances, a microwave can be far more efficient than a conventional oven. While we don’t recommend cooking a pot roast in there, for reheating leftovers, boiling water for tea and a number of other quick tasks, using the microwave is both convenient and more efficient. You can save even more by using a slow cooker for soups and stews and, if you’re willing to brave the outdoors, barbecuing all year long.

Adjust Your Fridge Settings

Keeping your fridge temperature set properly not only prevents bacteria growth but can also reduce energy use and prevent unwanted freezing of food. Check your owner’s manual to determine where your fridge should be set and adjust accordingly.

Don’t Run Appliances Unnecessarily

Dishwashers, washers and dryers all take a lot of energy to run, so be judicious in when and how often you use them. Wait until your dishwasher is full before running it, don’t use your washer if you only have half a load of clothes, and air-dry items whenever possible. As an added bonus, using your appliances less will help them last longer and require less maintenance, too.

Unplug Before You Travel

Planning a trip? Don’t forget to unplug the electronics in your home before you leave. Computers, TVs and even lamps can all drain electricity when not in use, so make sure they’re properly shut down and unplugged before going away for an extended period.

Go Solar

Solar power systems are more affordable than ever before, particularly if you can take advantage of tax rebates and other incentives. As an alternative to an expensive full system installation, a dedicated solar water heater will cost less while still saving you money every month.

Make Energy Use an Everyday Priority

Ultimately, one of the best things you can do to save on your electric bill is simply to be more conscientious about how you use energy in your home. Turn off the lights when you leave a room, shut down your computer when not in use and open a window instead of running the A/C. Adopting these little habits will go a long way toward keeping your bills in check and making your home more energy-efficient overall.

Learn More On Our WalletWorks Page

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