Get answers to the most frequently asked questions around the Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies (CAPRA) process in the sections below.


  • Open or CloseGeneral

    Q: What is CAPRA?

    A: CAPRA is the only national accreditation body for park and recreation agencies. This accreditation is a valuable measure of an agency’s overall quality of operation, management and service to the community. It serves as the foundation for a comprehensive management system of operational best practices. Achieving CAPRA accreditation is the best way to demonstrate that your agency and your staff provide your community with the highest level of service.


    Q: Who is eligible to apply?

    A: Accreditation is open to agencies that can meet the minimum required standards and pay the required fees.


    Q: What are the steps in the process?

    A: The CAPRA Accreditation Process includes 5 steps: submit the Preliminary Application and Fee; attend a CAPRA Accreditation Training (online or in person); prepare a Self-Assessment report; host trained CAPRA Volunteers at an onsite or virtual evaluation; and attend an Official CAPRA Hearing in person or virtually at the NRPA Annual Conference.


    Q: How much does CAPRA cost?

    A: Fees are based on the population served by your agency — find the current fee schedule online.


    Q: Where can I find more resources to assist me?


    NRPA CAPRA Accreditation Handbook: This handbook provides an overview of CAPRA’s policies, procedures and writing guidelines, all of which must be strictly followed.
    CAPRA National Accreditation Standards or  CAPRA Military Standards
    Management of Park and Recreation Agencies, 2017, 4th Edition, NRPA/CAPRA. This resource includes the desirable practices and procedures of the profession which are embodied in the CAPRA accreditation standards for park and recreation agencies.
    • Consider joining the CAPRA Accreditation Community on NRPA Connect to connect with agencies and volunteers who have participated in accreditation or are considering accreditation for their agencies. This is a great resource to learn about personal experiences from other agencies and volunteers about the CAPRA accreditation process..


    Q: Who is the CAPRA Commission?

    A: The CAPRA Commission  is a 15-member board composed of representatives from NRPA; the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration (AAPRA); the International City/County Management Association (ICMA); the Council of State Executive Directors (CSED); The Academy of Leisure Sciences (TALS); the National Association of County Park and Recreation Officials (NACPRO); and the Armed Forces Recreation Network (AFRN).

    The CAPRA Commission is administratively sponsored by NRPA but acts with independence and under its own authority in determining accreditation standards and conferring accreditation of applicant agencies.

    Q: How many agencies are CAPRA-Accredited?

    A: As of fall 2020, there were 183 accredited agencies from 38 states across the country.

  • Open or CloseCAPRA Training

    Q: What training is offered and in what format?

    A: CAPRA training is divided into two categories: general training and specialized training. The general training provides specific guidelines to agencies and volunteers on all aspects of the CAPRA process. This training is required to serve as a CAPRA volunteer and is eligible for 0.4 Continuing Education Units (CEUs). The specialized training provides practical guidance to volunteers on serving as a Commission Review Team member, Site Visit Team member, Site Visit Team lead (based on years of experience), and CAPRA mentor, as well as visit expectations for agencies  . Other specialized trainings may be added throughout the year.

    Training is available online, in person at NRPA conferences and select state conferences, or by agency request. 


    Q: What should I expect to learn during the general training?

    A: The general training will provide a general overview of CAPRA and the accreditation process; the 10 sections of the CAPRA National Accreditation Standards; guidelines for creating your self-assessment report and collecting your evidence of compliance; responsibilities of Commission Review Team (CRT) members and Site Visit Team (SVT) members; things to expect with your agency’s site or virtual visit; ways to get involved in CAPRA; and a list of resources to help you along the way.


    Q: How often should my agency complete training?

    A: All agencies should complete the general training at least every three years to stay in compliance with and educated on program changes.

  • Open or CloseProcess Details

    Q: How long does this process take?

    A: New agencies have two years from the date of their application to schedule their site or virtual visit — their hearing will take place the same year as the visit. Agencies also must complete the CAPRA general training (in person or virtually) within that two-year period.


    Q: What is the timeline for this process?

    A: The timeline depends on when you decide to have your visit given the two-year deadline, but on average most agencies can complete this process in two to three years. It is recommended that agencies start becoming familiar with the standards and start thinking about how teams should be created for each of the 10 sections in advance of submitting their application.


    Q: Can my agency request a mentor?

    A: Yes! All new agencies are automatically assigned a mentor once their preliminary application has been received and processed and reaccrediting agencies are assigned a mentor based on their visit year. Mentors are assigned by based on the region and size of the agency.


    Q: What happens if my visit is not approved?

    A: In the event your visit is not approved, your CRT will provide you with notes on areas for improvement and you will be provided with the option to apply for an extension to the following year.


    Q: How are our CRT members and SVT members determined?

    A: The CAPRA accreditation manager in conjunction with the Commission Executive Committee assign volunteers to a team based on the individual’s level of CAPRA experience, work experience and familiarity with the size of agency being reviewed.   

    More details on this can be found in the “Visitor Selection” of the CAPRA Accreditation Handbook.


    Q: How do we provide our availability for a visit?

    A: All new and reaccrediting agencies will be contacted in the fall prior to their visit year to provide two one-week options for their visits — the visit schedule is typically finalized by the end of that calendar year.

    Q: We have been accredited now what?

    A: Visit the CAPRA Promotional Toolkit for details on using the CAPRA logo on your materials and celebrating your accomplishments with your staff and community.


    Q: How long does accreditation last?

    A: All agencies must be reaccredited every five years. Agencies are required to pay an annual or review fee each year and complete a comprehensive annual report to demonstrate how they are maintaining the standards.


    Q: Once we are accredited, how do we maintain our accreditation annually?

    A: All agencies are required to pay an annual or review fee each year and complete a comprehensive annual report to demonstrate how they are maintaining the standards.


    Q: When is the annual report due?

    A: Agencies are required to submit their annual report no later than April 1 every year.


    Q: What information is required in the annual report?

    A: Agencies are expected to provide updated information for their record, outline how they are maintaining the standards between their reviews, and share how their staff is involved in being CAPRA volunteers.


    Q: What is the process to submit our annual report?

    A: All accredited agencies (excluding those that are being reviewed that year) are required to submit their annual report in the form of a survey request.

  • Open or CloseCAPRA National Accreditation Standards and Self-Assessment Report

    Q: How are the CAPRA National Accreditation Standards structured?

    A: All 154 of the CAPRA National Accreditation Standards are divided into 10 subject area categories:

    1.0 – Agency Authority, Role and Responsibility
    2.0 – Planning
    3.0 – Organization and Administration
    4.0 – Human Resources
    5.0 – Financial Management
    6.0 – Programs and Services Management
    7.0 – Facility and Land Use Management
    8.0 – Public Safety, Law Enforcement and Security
    9.0 – Risk Management
    10.0 – Evaluation, Assessment and Research


    Q: How many standards must be met for accreditation and reaccreditation?

    A: Accreditation is based on an agency’s compliance with the 154 standards for national accreditation. To achieve accreditation, an agency must comply with all 36 Fundamental Standards and 106 of the 118 Non-Fundamental Standards upon initial accreditation (90 percent) and 112 of the 118 Non-Fundamental Standards upon reaccreditation (95 percent).


    Q: How often are the CAPRA National Accreditation Standards updated?

    A: The CAPRA Commission reviews and updates the standards on an ongoing basis and all proposed changes will be shared with the CAPRA Accreditation Community on NRPA Connect for public comment before they are finalized by the commission at their end of year meeting. Once finalized, agencies must comply within one year of the changes.

    Q: When are we required to submit our self-assessment report?

    A: Agencies must finalize their self-assessment report at least 10 weeks prior to the first day of their assigned visit.


    Q: Can we use a document management system for our evidence of compliance?

    A: Yes! Agencies are encouraged to use a document management system of their choice to house their evidence of compliance related to their accreditation. If necessary, agencies are responsible for providing log in and password information to their CRT and SVT.


    Q: How do we provide our evidence of compliance for each standard?

    A: When using the CAPRA Application and Review Portal agencies have two options to include their evidence of compliance: they can embed links in the body of the text or at the end of each narrative section for each standard or they can provide a link at the end of the section for all the evidence in that section. Agencies should NOT include their evidence as attachments. More details on CAPRA’s technology tools can be found in the recorded training on the topic found in the “CAPRA Training” folder of the CAPRA Agency Accreditation  Community library on NRPA Connect.


    Q: Once we submit our self-assessment report what happens next?

    A: Your self-assessment will be reviewed initially by two CRT members who will conduct a cursory review to determine visit readiness. If your report passes this initial review, you will be approved to hold your visit. At that time, the three members of your SVT will receive access to your report to start their deep dive analysis that will continue through the completion of your visit. Your SVT will produce a final visitation report at the end of your visit which will be provided to you once approved by your CRT.

  • Open or CloseSite or Virtual Visits

    Q: When do visits take place?

    A: Visits are scheduled between the months of March and June every year.


    Q: How long do visits take?

    A: The length depends on the format of your visit. Virtual visits take place over five days while in person visits typically last no more than three days.


    Q: Who is responsible for paying expenses for the site visitors?

    A: Agencies are responsible for paying all travel and on-site expenses for their SVT members in preparation for and during any in-person visits.


    Q: How much should my agency budget for site visit expenses?

    A: Agencies should budget between $5,000 to $10,000 for SVT expenses.


    Q: What is the purpose and objectives of the visit?

    A: The purpose of the visit is to verify and fact-find on behalf of the commission to ensure a clear and complete picture of the degree to which the agency meets specified standards. It is the responsibility of the visiting team to clarify and verify the self-assessment report, to seek additional information that may be pertinent to the commission’s evaluation, and to prepare a summary report of its findings.

    The specific objectives of the visit are to:

    • Verify and clarify assertions in the self-assessment report.
    • Assess agency use of the accreditation standards through observations, interviews and facility tours.
    • Report findings and recommendations to the commission.
    • Identify processes, practices, policies and documents that can serve as models for consideration by other agencies.
    • More details on this process can be found in Chapter 6 of the CAPRA Accreditation Handbook.

  • Open or CloseAccreditation Hearings

    Q: What should my agency expect at our hearing?

    A: Hearings are only required for new accreditations — reaccrediting agencies will only participate in hearings upon request. At the hearing, the commission chair and the CRT lead for the respective agency will make introductory remarks and the SVT lead will briefly summarize the visit and comment on the major strengths and major concerns identified by the team. The agency director will be invited to share any relevant updates that have occurred since the visit; however, no new or additional documentation may be provided during the hearing. If the agency has new information or has made changes since the visit, the agency director may refer to the information in response to questions. The commission then will open the meeting for discussion, beginning with the CRT lead and a second reviewer. Following discussion, guests and observers are asked to step out of the room while the commission takes action in executive session.


    Q: How long will we have to speak to the commission?

    A: Agencies will have 30 minutes for their hearing.


    Q: What are the actions the commission can take after an agency’s hearing?

    A: The commission can grant accreditation without condition; grant accreditation with condition; defer action; deny accreditation; withdraw accreditation; or issue a warning. More details on these can be found in Section 9.1 of the CAPRA Accreditation Handbook.


    Q: How quickly will we find out our results?

    A: The results of your accreditation will be shared with you at the end of your hearing. You will receive formal notification of your accreditation or reaccreditation in the form of a digital confirmation letter and certificate after NRPA’s annual conference. An order for your CAPRA recognition crystal also will be placed at this time and shipped directly to the agency.

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