Engaging Your Community In a Cause: 3 Suggestions

By Kevin Penney | Posted on May 5, 2022

NRPA_Engaging Your Community In a Cause  3 Suggestions

Park and recreation agencies have the ability to transform their communities for the better. Whether you’re planning a formal workshop or just looking to spread awareness about a concern in your community, park and recreation professionals can engage both long-time supporters and casual visitors to make a positive difference in their community. 

To help your park and recreation agency promote your cause, this guide will explore three suggestions for how to connect with and engage your community members.  

1. Plan engaging activities 

Chances are that when your community members think of your park or recreation center, they’re envisioning activities they might enjoy, like structured exercise or relaxing community days. Leverage this expectation to promote your work by creating activities specifically for your cause. 

While there are a variety of enjoyable, classic activities you may first consider for your park, try thinking outside the box to engage everyone in your community. For instance, NRPA’s Family Health & Fitness Day this year emphasizes opportunities to participate both in-person and virtually. This allows nearby community members to head to their local park or recreation center, while also accommodating remote participants or anyone who would prefer to stay at home so they can still be involved. 

Additionally, if any of the activities you have planned are strenuous or carry a degree of risk, be sure to create waivers. Doing so will help protect your park from liability, while also ensuring that participants are fully informed about any risks before engaging in your activities. 

2. Sell branded merchandise 

Community members can help support your agency and your cause at the same time by buying branded merchandise. While you might sell general merchandise branded to your parks, you can create unique lines of merchandise that promote specific causes. Then, any proceeds can be contributed to the cause they support. 

Branded merchandise can also make your community feel united in their support of a good cause. For example, you might create t-shirts with the date and name of a specific event printed on them so community members can remember when they participated and the difference their support made. 

Here are some examples of branded merchandise you might make to promote your cause: 

  • T-shirts
  • Hats
  • Water bottles
  • Tote bags
  • Mugs
  • Pet clothes 

Try tailoring your merchandise to fit specific activities or events being held at your park or recreation center. For example, when someone hosts a walkathon at your park, they might create a merchandise booth to sell t-shirts, hats and water bottles to help out their participants, while at a community picnic, they might add more fragile items like mugs to their display.

3. Offer multiple ways to participate

To engage as many members of your community as possible, try getting creative with your participation opportunities. Everyone in your community has unique interests, and some may not have the same ability to get involved as others. You can meet these varying needs by offering multiple opportunities, such as: 

  • Attending events. Parks inspire people to get out of their homes to attend events and activities in person. Spread awareness for your cause by hosting a variety of events at your park throughout the year. 
  • Volunteering. Some members of your community will want to take a more hands-on approach to getting involved by volunteering. Create positions that are both essential to your overall cause and rewarding for volunteers. For instance, while you might need a group of volunteers to empty trash cans, consider scheduling other activities in between picking up litter to create a more positive volunteer experience. 
  • Promoting. Not everyone will be able to attend your activities in person, but some of these remote supporters may still want to get involved. Give them the opportunity to help by promoting your event. Peer-to-peer fundraising is great for this because it allows supporters to join at any time and you can begin leveraging their personal networks to support your cause. 

Additionally, remember that a supporter who initially participates in one type of activity at your park may slowly expand their range of involvement to other activities. After all, many nonprofits know that their volunteers can often become some of their most reliable donors, and the same applies for your park. 

Parks and recreation centers are important parts of their communities, and you can use this position to make a positive impact by promoting a good cause. Inspire your community to get involved by planning activities they can get involved in from signing up for events to volunteering or even buying branded merchandise. Good luck!

Kevin Penney is the CMO & Co-Founder of Bonfire.