Put a Big Fat Gold Sticker on your Program!

2022 PRPS Conference & Expo Award Winners from Philadelphia Parks & Recreation

Each spring, PRPS members gather at the Annual PRPS Conference & Expo to learn about emerging programming, discuss industry-wide best practices and of course, socialize! But it’s also a chance to recognize individuals, departments and programs for outstanding achievement over the last year via our Awards program, chaired and MC’d by the always funny and eloquent Barry Bessler.

We leave every conference blown away by all the cool stuff that people are doing around the state. That said, we don’t think we get enough award applications. We’re talking to you park and rec professional, sitting behind a desk sipping coffee, enjoying the calm before 2023 comes in with a bang! We totally get it. 2022 is becoming smaller and smaller in the rear view as you zoom towards whatever is “next.” But stay here in the moment for one more second. Take a minute to think about it, your community benefited from something you did, that was really awesome. In our opinion, many park and rec folks do it because they love it, which is great. But they are uncomfortable with the final step of any program, event, green and sustainable development/practices and calendar year…validation. In a municipal environment where parks and recreation falls below police, fire, streets etc. you have to play your hand to the best of your ability, and awards are one of the best and easiest ways we can validate our departments in the eyes of elected officials and the general public.

The best thing about the awards application itself, is you get the answers to the test ahead of time! Specifically for the Excellence awards, the application is looking for the POWER principles:

Positions public parks and recreation as an essential community service. Tell how the entry advances the role and importance of public parks and recreation, shows the benefits of parks and recreation, and improves the quality of life in the community.

Tip: Get quotes from participants, volunteers etc. Quantify the impacts. Survey your participants with respect to “quality of life” and “benefits.”

Outcome based. Describe the problem, issue, or opportunity and how the entry provided a solution to it.

Tip: Think back to why you started planning this program? Community need? Perceived hole in services? Quantify!

Wow Factor. Explain how the entry advances parks and recreation in the community through a major accomplishment, innovation, or a creative approach to managing and/or providing public parks and recreation. Describe how the entry demonstrates creativity and innovation. This can range from start – up efforts made to establish parks and recreation, or a small but mighty effort to make something happen where parks and recreation is struggling, to the initiative of a well-established parks and recreation organization.

Tip: What made your event/program noteworthy? It could be “just” an Egg Hunt, but maybe you had auditory eggs for those with hearing loss or you incorporated fifteen community groups to pull it off.

Effects change. Address how the entry deals with an important issue in the field of parks and recreation such as environmental stewardship, connecting people to nature, active healthy living, or social equity. Describe how it demonstrates strategies, resources, and outreach methods to increase public awareness, or other means that produce results.

Tip: This is probably the hardest POWER principle to answer. Reviewing your “outcome” answer will lead you down the path. Look at your park and rec strategic plan, NRPA Pillars etc. and think big picture. You might be thinking “I’m a small department, can’t compete with Philly”…but that’s hogwash! Talk about saturation. You might have a small program, but one that really saturates your community and is vital, tell that story.

Resourcefulness. Present how the entry used creative resources and outreach methods to generate support from a variety of sources including partnerships in the public, private and non-profit sectors,use of private funds, lands, facilities, or expertise, or secured support from policy makers or elected officials. 

Tip: You got this! Park and rec people always have to scrape and claw their way to make things happen. Really dive deep in and discuss your internal and external partnerships and how your community came together to pull off your event/program.

Also remember there are not only opportunities to showcase your programs: you can showcase yourself, your colleagues, agency and also your parks through your dedication to green and sustainable practices by submitting an application for the Outstanding Achievement Award, Distinguished Member Award, Outstanding New Professional, Community Champion, Agency of the Year and Green Parks Awards. You are amazing at what you do…apply!

OK, that’s it everyone. All year long you’ve been creative and resourceful. You’ve spent more weekends in the park than with your family. You’ve pulled trash from a can in the morning and put on a full suit for a budget meeting that night. Sounds crazy, but that’s our profession. Now take the moment you’ve earned, and apply for a PRPS Award.

Apply here: https://prps.org/Awards

See you in March!

The PRPS Awards Committee

2022 Agency of the Year – Upper Dublin Township

A Day in the Life

by Jeremy Mortorff

Date: Any sweltering day in June, July, or August

Location: Unnamed aquatic facility in Central Pennsylvania

10:15am-Clocking in for the day

Getting in a little early for my shift today. Starting the day with adult fitness hour. Wonder how many fights I’ll have to break-up between the walkers and the lap swimmers? Can’t we all just get along?

10:30am-Grab my tube, hip pack, and head out to the stand

Looks like a pretty large group of patrons today for fitness hour. We have our regular lap swimmers and a few fresh faces. Must be because the local indoor fitness center pool is closed.

11:45am-Summer camp arrives

Ahhh yes, the influx of K-5 aged children. Hoping that the supervision is good today. We have summer camps from around the area that bring their groups to our facility on a weekly basis.

12:30pm-More people, more people

We are definitely reaching capacity today. That line at the admission desk hasn’t let up since we opened. Makes sense since it is the first 90 degree day we’ve had in a week or so. Hoping that the ”on-call” guard actually comes in today when requested…

2pm-I’m going in!!!

I scan my zone, left to right, top to middle, middle to bottom. Everything has gone great so far today. Parents have been really attentive, being right there within arm’s length of their children. Summer camp counselors have been outstanding. Other guards have been awesome too – addressing issues before they become large problems. I continue to scan…that child that just went down the waterslide…they look panicked. Their eyes are bugging out…they’re stuck in the current at the bottom of the slide…TWEET-TWEET-TWEET!!!


One of the responding guards carries a clipboard with a rescue report and we locate the adult responsible for the child. They are shocked that their child required saving. I explain that the current at the bottom of the water slide is very strong and that can sometimes present issues, even for a decent swimmer. We have the adult help us fill out the report. They tell the child they’ll have to skip the slide until they can get out of the current successfully. The adult thanks us for being there to keep their child safe. This makes it worth it!

4pm-People leaving…aka the Mass Exodus

It’s 4pm and a lot of guests are now leaving for the day. Off to get Chick-fil-A for their quick dinner before baseball and softball practice tonight. Summer camps have gone too, so the crowds are much more manageable now. Though it isn’t all sunshine and roses. There is a rowdy group of young men that are continually dismissing the requests of lifeguards and begin mocking them. I’m the lucky target right now…


“Sir, I’m sorry, but you can’t swim in denim pants.” The confused look on his face indicates to me that he doesn’t understand or just doesn’t care. I double tweet to get a manager out to take it from there. The manager comes out and immediately understands my struggle. They calmly explain to the guest the reasons why denim is not an acceptable form of swimming attire. The entire time I’m thinking to myself wet jeans CANNOT be comfortable…

7pm-Swim lessons

This is my favorite time of day. I love teaching our children and youth swimming skills. After all, swimming is a life-skill and everyone can benefit from it! The group of children I have this week are amazing! They are really engaged, listening, and trying all of the skills we present. The safety topic each day is my favorite part!

8pm-Closing time

It’s 8pm and we close the facility for the day. My chore today is the bath house, which is lovely because it usually takes all visitors at least 20 minutes to finish up in there after closing. What exactly are they doing in there???

Anyhow, I take the time to help out with the organizing of the guard office and bag a few rounds of trash. The amount of trash that is made on a busy day at an aquatic facility is mind-blowing.

The last patron exits the bath house and I head in there, gloved up, to assess the damages. Not too bad, amazingly. That means that my fellow guards did a great job when they had their checks throughout the day. It’s just a few paper towels, a diaper (really????), a pair of goggles and a towel.

I check in with the Head Guard and then head to the manager’s office to fill out my timesheet. Today is the end of our pay period, so I take a little extra time to check my math, total my timesheet, sign it, and hand it to the manager on duty.

As I head out to my car, I reflect on the day, especially the rescue that I had. Thank goodness for our in-service training schedule that keeps us sharp and ready to respond to any emergency that could come our way. While I dread the early mornings and late nights when they take place, these are the moments I’m grateful for the thoroughness of our training. 

Here’s to hoping that tomorrow someone doesn’t try to swim in a velour sweatsuit…

Tips for building committees

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

Photo by Artem Saranin on Pexels.com

Recently, I proposed to our chairman a new committee to be charged with reorganizing and growing our Friends of York County Rail Trails. His response, “Won’t that make more work for you?” gave me pause to recalculate and rethink my idea.

Do committees facilitate or complicate our parks & recreation work? How can we empower committees to take on specific work and keep them on task? And most importantly, as we emerge from months of pandemic “numbness,” how do we energize our committees without depleting our own reserves of energy?

Looking over my own experiences as director of the York County Rail Trail Authority, I offer a few strategies.

  1. Clearly communicate the committee’s objective(s). Write a concise description of the objective(s) and review and revise with your board. Review the objective(s) annually with the committee members.
  2. Establish core representatives while allowing for open seats on the committee. Set a maximum size for the committee, and identify specific skills, talents, and experiences needed in order for the committee to succeed in its work.  Consider a few seats on the committee for those who may be limited in their core function but are great champions of your agency and its work. Establish procedures for bringing members onto the committee.
  3. Establish a committee organization. No need for formal officers, but it is helpful to recruit a chairman to keep meetings focused on the agenda. A secretary may relieve you of writing and circulating meeting notes.
  4. Set and publish meeting schedules. Establish a regular meeting day and time, and determine how often the committee will meet. Popular meeting schedules are monthly or quarterly, depending on the amount of work to be assigned to the committee. Email a meeting reminder to the members approximately one week prior to each meeting. Include a tentative agenda with this reminder. Print the annual meeting schedule at the bottom of each agenda as a reminder.
  5. Set agendas that are manageable, meaningful and “meaty.” Keep meeting length to 1 or 1 ½ hours. Start promptly and finish on time. Indicate agenda items that require committee action. Acknowledge with your thanks those whose schedules require that they will arrive late or leave early.
  6. Show appreciation-Demonstrate value. Little ceremonies, certificates of appreciation, and celebrating results are meaningful ways to remind committee members of their value to the agency. Gather relevant statistics, such as number of attendees or funds raised at a special event, and share with the committee. Share successes and collectively evaluate shortcomings – both are valuable experiences.
  7. Capitalize on the social benefits of committee work. Serving on a committee is a great opportunity to make new friends with those that often have common interests. Encourage those little conversations before and after meetings. Serve refreshments 15 minutes before the meeting. Plan a park or trail tour in place of a meeting, or hold a meeting at a park pavilion.
  8. Never stop recruiting. Engage current members in recruiting new members. Invite prospective members to attend a meeting or two as a guest, encouraging them to then speak to the chairman if they have interest in joining the committee. Introduce a level of comfort for those who may want to learn more about the committee without an obligation to join. And actively engage in recruitment methods focused on diversity across the entire population that your agency serves.

Our parks and recreation work is always evolving, as we strive to keep our projects and programs relevant and inviting to the public. Committees require careful guidance, nurturing, and oversight. In exchange, committees can take on specific tasks to reduce our workloads, expand our program offerings, and even increase revenue. In short, committees are worth our investment of time and resources, and those who volunteer to serve on committees enrich our parks and recreation community.

Looking Back While Moving PA Forward

by Jason Lang, East Goshen Township

For anyone that has read my Dig It! blogs over the years, I typically pull on heart strings…but not today! As I sit here on 2/22/22 typing away, we are just 35 days away from the 75th Anniversary PRPS Conference & Expo and it’s starting to get exciting! In just one month, 400+ park and recreation professionals will converge on Kalahari Resorts and I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to party! Fellow Conference Co-Chair Kristy Owens and I have an amazing team that deserves a ton of credit! So here they are!

Education Committee: Kristin Zeigler, Derek Dureka, Cindy Dunlap, Dave Hutner, Chris Biswick, Marissa Sprowles

Expo Hall Committee: Andy Oles, Mike Richino, Katie Kollar, Doug Knauss, Joanna Sharapan

Socials: Becky Richards, Jason Cerkan

Local Arrangements: Dan Sharapan

Registration: Emily Croke

Publicity: Kelsey Najdek

Room Host: Paul Kopera

App Master: Trevor Pearson

And of course, the amazing PRPS staff is the driving force behind the experience, led by Director of Training and IT Niki Tourscher!

But, we still need help to pull this all off, and I’m talking to you! Yes, you reading this right now! We still need a few folks to volunteer at the Registration Desk (1-2 hours) and as Room Hosts, very simply introducing speakers and making sure the crowd doesn’t get too rowdy!

Now, many of you might be asking yourself if you really need to attend the conference or not…and the answer is yes! Double yes! And here’s why!

It’s been three years since we all got together way, way back in March 2019 at the conference in Penn State. I miss my friends from Pittsburgh! I miss the witty banter at the Awards Banquet between Barry Bessler and Dave Hutner about who’s better, the Eagles or Steelers (it’s a tie – they both stink!). March 2019 feels like forever ago, and you know what, you deserve this conference. We all do! The pandemic has hit PA communities hard, but park and recreation professionals have been true leaders in the face of crisis. Creative and driven folks that have thrust parks and programming forward as a panacea for moving us successfully through COVID. So you deserve to have these four days. Four days to applaud yourself for your hard work. Four days to commiserate with fellow folks who “get it.” Four days to steal genius programming ideas from someone else. Four days to meet with expo hall vendors about exciting post-pandemic projects. And four days, if you are like me, away from your own crazy kids!

So as you can see, I didn’t mention anything about CEU’s, our terrific lineup of speakers, or socials. All of that will be AMAZING. At the end of the day, its the PRPS membership, coming together from all corners of PA that makes the conference special. Be a part of it!

You can find all the Conference & Expo details and registration on the website at https://www.prpsconferenceandexpo.org/.

Hope to see you there!


Building Confident Campers

One of the most recognizable points of growth in our campers is of their confidence through opportunities for risky play in nature.

Summer was one of the most memorable times of childhood. As an environmental educator for Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, I have the privilege of supporting these lifetime memories with the children and families who attend our summer camps.

At the Wissahickon Environmental Center (Tree House) specifically, we focus our camp on  youth-led experiences that allow for the whole child to grow based on their interest and abilities.

Camp is my favorite time for these experiences because we have them for at least a week, which enables them to build each day on the prior days’ successes

One of the most recognizable points of growth in our campers is of their confidence through opportunities for risky play in nature.

We learned the depth of this pattern by asking the following questions at the end of the week:

What was your favorite part of the week?

What was your biggest challenge?

What are you most proud of? 

The last two often correlate as they state they are most proud of overcoming their biggest challenge. This is where the true value of summer camp lies.

Although the Tree House has 100+ acres of nature surrounding it, nearby or neighborhood nature should never be overlooked. There is a wealth of nature and opportunities for risky play available at any playground. Have you ever witnessed the ants on spilled ice cream, butterflies on the ball field, or squirrels never far from picnic tables? How about climbing the backstop and seeing birds just as high, or digging in the extra mound of baseball sand and wondering where all the worms are? Asking questions like these is one way to help youth see that nature really is everywhere!

It is vital to a child’s success for these experiences to be supported by a trusted adult, so for us, this means that we become “hummingbird” teachers. (Are you picturing yourself as a hummingbird? I always do.) Basically, we stand back and allow our campers to work out their challenges, only swooping in when it is absolutely necessary. Of course this does not mean that they go unsupported, but when they are given the tools and autonomy to choose how they will navigate their world, the outcome is increased confidence. 

For example, before we climb rocks (or anything), I tell them to recognize what shoes they have on. What they may have been able to do on another day in a different pair of  shoes on the same set of rocks does not matter at that moment. Nor does what they see others doing. I encourage them to do what they can do, with what they have, listen to their body, and act on what’s best for them right then. When they are stuck, we demonstrate a few solutions, identify the risks, and they decide what’s best. Sometimes they move forward, and sometimes they return to flat ground with a plan to try again later. In either scenario, however, the camper never leaves the situation disappointed, which is key. 

In addition to building confidence, allowing kids to engage in risky play like climbing also results in more learning! They connect with different  rock formations and see plants and animals they may not have otherwise seen.

Injury is always a concern, and knock on wood, we have yet to have risky play injuries that needed more than a Band-Aid. We’ve needed to do more advanced first-aid for yellow jacket swarms, stinging nettle, and tick bites (all stories for another time), but the confidence risky play builds actually makes their play safer. We discuss First Aid at the beginning of camp which is another great example of how nature-based learning furthers independence.

Why all this talk about summer camp in January? Because that’s when camp planning begins. The thought of summer is never far from mind when programming in parks and recreation. 

Regardless of your site or camp structure, there is an opportunity for us all to incorporate risky-play and other opportunities that build confidence, independence and empowerment, and now is the time to dream big.  

Children climb rocks

Alexa, youth educator with Philadelphia Youth Network, supports campers as they climb an outcrop of Wissahickon Schist seen on their hike.

Building your volunteer program- Tips for maximizing volunteer impact

by Colleen Kenny, Upper Dublin Township Parks & Recreation

A few weeks ago, I wrote this blog post about managing invasive plants. One key element of many successful management programs is capitalizing on volunteer involvement. So, whether managing invasive plants, running events, or helping with other department programs, how do we make the most of our volunteers?

Host volunteer events often

While it may take some extra work up front, holding regular volunteer events can help your volunteers to become more self-sufficient. Think of them as training events. After just two events, my regular volunteers remember their plant identification and begin independently assessing where work is needed. Regular events also allow your “super volunteers” to rise to the top. They can build excitement and momentum around your volunteer program, generating more interest within the community.

Identify and enable your “super volunteers”

Wherever I’ve worked with volunteers, a few individuals have always risen to the top. I like to call them my “super volunteers.” These individuals are deeply invested and willing to shoulder a greater number of tasks. As they grow confident in their work, they can often begin leading volunteers on their own, allowing us, as professionals, to magnify our impacts. To best enable these volunteers, consider a few questions:

  • What training do they need?
  • What certifications or waivers are required?
  • Can they access tools and equipment to share with other volunteers?

Explain the “why”

When kicking off events, remember to explain why we’ve asked people to come out and do all this work. For invasive plant removal events, I remind volunteers that they are helping native plants and wildlife. Are you supporting a good cause? Hosting an event that builds community value? Remind your volunteers why their work is so valuable.

On the flipside, many people do not necessarily come out for the cause, but for the sense of community they feel when volunteering. Remember to work opportunities for community building into your event. Schedule in time for your volunteers to gather around a coffee or snack table. Engage strangers in conversation together to get them talking. These small things can go a long way toward developing a richer volunteer program.

Remember, your job is to manage

Many of my best volunteer days haven’t involved lifting a tool at all. While it may be tempting to focus on the task at head, remember that we as leaders are there to manage the people. Rotate through groups, check on any needs or questions that come up, and take lots of photos. It’s often a different kind of work day than you may be used to, but will help your program to run more smoothly.

Celebrate successes

Take lots of photos and share them on social media with a thank you to your volunteers. A little thanks goes a long way!

Setting priorities for invasive species management: Don’t get lost in the weeds

When managing invasive species, set priorities based on your resources and goals, and stick to them.

Stick to the plan. I recently found myself repeating this mantra as I worked to remove invasive plants in a township park. The park has been overgrown by invasive species for years. As a natural resource manager, I found myself easily distracted by all the work that needs to be done. I have often doled out advice to land managers about how to set priorities and break down projects into manageable tasks, but it was time to follow it myself.

Do what you can do. Don’t do what you can’t.

The challenge of managing invasive plants on your property can be daunting. It may seem obvious, but sometimes we need to remind ourselves: only do what you can do. Do what is manageable within the scope of your resources. If a project is too big- it might not be right to tackle at this time. Better to choose a project that can be done to completion, and will only require routine maintenance to sustain.

“Do nothing” is an option

Every area of our parks is managed for a certain goal, whether that be a forest, meadow, or ball field. Not every project will improve our ability to meet those goals. Does this project serve those goals? If not, it is ok to move onto the next one.

Break things down into manageable tasks

When faced with a large project, don’t be overwhelmed by the task in its entirety. Focus on what needs to be done this year or this month. Removing the vines. Cutting back the first 50 feet along the trail. Then next year, you can tackle the next step. Often, we don’t tackle a project because it seems too big. But once we change our perspective, the first steps become possible.

Make a plan, but know that the plan can change

Develop a invasive species management plan for your parks, but think of it as a living document. What areas need immediate attention, and which can be put off until later? Make a timeline for each step of your plan. As factors change, adjust your plan accordingly. Making a point to revisit and revise the plan 1-2 times a year can help to keep it realistic.

Never overlook the power of volunteers

I was recently working at a park that had a wall of thorny invasive plants. I wanted to tackle it with a volunteer group, but was worried that it would be overwhelming. But my volunteers were intrepid. Within only a few hours, we had broken through the wall. Never be the barrier to what your volunteers accomplish. Allow them to work to their full potential. For more info on developing your volunteer base, here are some great words of wisdom.

The task of managing natural areas can be overwhelming with all the challenges we face as parks and recreation professionals- from too many deer to too few staff. Look at your goals and set priorities to meet them. Plan ahead, but focus on the task at hand. And you may stay out of the weeds.

Advocacy for Parks and Recreation – Part 1

by Dan Hendey, CPRP, CPSI, Education Manager, PRPS

PA Constitution, Article 1, Section 27

The people have the right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, and esthetic values of the environment.  Pennsylvania’s public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including the generations to come.  As a trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people.

During my first year as a young recreation director for a small borough in New Jersey, I had to present my budget for the year to the town council for discussion and approval.  I spent weeks preparing the budget and developing some capital requests to improve and expand the borough’s parks and facilities. 

I arrived at the town hall to find the council members, mayor, borough manager, and other officials sitting above and behind a raised dais looking down on me while I sat at the table in the center of the room.  I felt like I was on trial and lost a good deal of my confidence right then.  Once we began, it became clear that several members of the council were not fans of recreation, and the oldest, most wrinkled, member questioned the need for any parks or programs.  He challenged every line in my budget and railed against all of my capital proposals.  He led a coalition to cut my budget and deny most improvement outlays, and I left that day hurt, disillusioned, and saddled with a smaller budget.  How could anyone be against parks when I knew how valuable they were?  This was my first lesson in the importance of advocacy.

Advocacy can be defined as any action that supports, recommends, or argues for a cause on behalf of others.  For me, advocacy is selling something you strongly believe.  As professionals in the field, we understand the importance of being outdoors, physical activity, socialization, and building community.  We understand what the writers of the Pennsylvania Constitution meant when they declared that our natural resources need to be preserved and maintained for generations to come.  However, others may not understand the intrinsic values of parks and recreation. We have a duty to share this knowledge and conviction with decision-makers, who directly affect our departments and organizations. 

With a new budget year approaching and the upheaval brought on by COVID-19, it is more important than ever to be able to state your case for the present and build future support. 

Short Term Advocacy

As an employee of an organization, you must be able to advocate for your position, your department, your programs, your facilities, and your services.  All these areas are folded into your budget.  Therefore, your most efficient form of advocacy is promoting and defending your budget, and this coming year will be critical.  What are some things you can do to advocate for your next budget? 

Have a Plan

First, it is crucial to have a plan.  The National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) strongly recommends having a comprehensive management plan to guide you and the department.  These documents are valuable as they incorporate public input, local realities, agency strengths and needs, and plans for the future.  However, this past year was probably not anticipated in that plan.  It is time to pull out the plan and review its recommendations in a new light to identify your wants and your needs.  Every public agency will likely feel the economic sting of the COVID crises. Now is the time to determine what is most central for your organization and focus your efforts on preserving and protecting your needs, whether they are employees, programs, projects, or facilities.  Having a plan for the coming year that remains consistent with the master plan yet incorporates some anticipated realities will prepare you to advocate for the things that matter most. When assessing a need versus a want, I believe that good people are the hard to replace or rehire and having staff on hand can lead to a faster recovery when funding opens up again.

Build your Case. 

It is unlikely that those who control your budget are as knowledgeable as you about the value of parks and healthy recreation.  Your job is to educate them.  Providing usage data will appeal to those who want to justify community expenditures.  Make the data easily understandable and accessible.  Include relevant data in an introduction to your budget requests.  Accumulate testimonials for your agency and parks and share them on your website.  Use regular social media posts to create and maintain TOMA (Top of Mind Awareness).  Steer decision-makers to your website and social media sites before the start of the budget session as a way for them to get to know you, or invite them to a function (or zoom session/activities).  If parks, facilities, or programs are having problems, don’t shy away from them, be honest, and offer a solution on how they would be corrected with the requested funds.  Be solution-oriented and prepared to explain how the funding will fix problems or provide needed services.

Be Professional

During your budget meeting, you must present yourself and your organization in a professional manner.  Decision-makers care about their community and can be open to persuasion if they are convinced that the good created is worth the cost.  Because you are dealing with people, it is a good idea to include some human interest stories to support the facts that you present.  Personalizing the data can help them to make the value connection of recreation.  Is there a local lifeguard who did something special after his time at the pool?  How did the kids and families in your community benefit from your summer camp program?  Or how were the parks used creatively this year due to the COVID crises?  Have these stories ready to help emphasize a point or add a bit of color to the data. 

Be Friendly

Getting to know your decision-makers is and will continue to be a vital aspect of successful advocacy.  While I am not recommending stalking, Knowing about their work, family, hobbies, and interests will help you strike a chord and tailor your presentations.  Meet and talk with them whenever you get the chance.  Highlight areas and activities that will benefit their neighborhood. 

Also, Treat everyone with respect and expect the same.  This was my mistake during my first budget meeting.  I let myself be intimidated, and I should have done a better job of advocating for my department. There are ways to be assertive and direct without offending, and there are numerous resources available to help you, both written and personal.  After my first budget meeting, the borough engineer took me aside and offered me the following advice.  “Next time, just imagine that no one was wearing pants under the dais and try not to laugh.”  This little tip improved my budget meeting performance for the next several years.

Nice Ending

Try to end on a good note.  Remember that sometimes you will not get everything you want, and you must be able to deal with the outcome.  Budgets are annual, and there is always next year.  Even with a disappointing budget number, you may still have some leeway on how the dollars are appropriated among the line items.  No harm will ever come from offering each decision-maker a thank you message for taking the time and effort to review and evaluate your budget.  Build for the long term.

Part 2 will continue next week to discuss Long Term Advocacy.

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