As professionals advocate for continued financial support to maintain essential infrastructure and community services during the COVID-19 pandemic, there are tools available to help you make the case. As you do so, it is important to seek out opportunities and develop a sound fundraising strategy that can diversify funding streams and generate additional philanthropic support to sustain your work and help you make even greater impacts.

NRPA’s Guide to Fundraising

To help you navigate this complex landscape and seek additional sources of funding to support staffing, infrastructure improvements, essential services and programs, operations, and efforts to rebuild and strengthen your community, NRPA has released a new fundraising resource for park and recreation professionals. The Park and Recreation Professionals’ Guide to Fundraising outlines the importance of diversifying revenue streams by securing charitable gifts and leveraging public funding and earned income. The guide features four main sections:  

  1. Setting up for Success — Establishing an internal fundraising team which includes using volunteers or a cross-sector group of representatives, ensuring transparency and integrity in the fundraising process, and creating a culture for philanthropy.

  2. Developing Your Justification for Support — Assessing your community’s needs, identifying programs to meet these needs, developing your budget and assembling your request for support.

  3. Understanding the Fundraising Process — Types of funders and ways to identify potential donors, cultivate relationships, solicit funds and nurture relationships.

  4. Pursuing Resource Development — Securing partnerships, requesting funds available to public entities, collaborating with businesses, offering special events and motivating local leaders to create a park and recreation foundation.

Data Points and Definitions

Park and recreation professionals serve as a catalyst for positive change to advance equity, climate-readiness, and community health and well-being. This work is critical. To help you share this messaging with decision makers, NRPA has provided definitions and identified data points that amplify the critical role of parks and recreation in providing essential infrastructure and services during times of crisis.

Essential Role of Parks and Recreation During COVID-19

Every day, park and recreation professionals provide essential services and maintain essential infrastructure that support and improve the health and well-being of the public. Sharing the role that you play with decision makers and philanthropic partners through data, storytelling, images and other avenues is critical to securing funding. The language and definitions below can be utilized as you make your case for funding.

During times of crisis response and recovery, park and recreation professionals have repeatedly proven they are trusted community leaders capable of swiftly providing or supporting a host of rapid emergency response and relief services. These services include food distribution, emergency residential shelter and safe zones, childcare for essential workers, maintenance and sanitation of public spaces to ensure safety, communications dissemination, leveraging facilities and spaces to support community needs, and scaling other necessary emergency response functions. Park and recreation professionals manage essential infrastructure including parks, trails, open spaces, green infrastructure, community and senior centers, pools and cooling centers as well as countless other tasks that protect, support and enable the public’s physical and mental health.

  • NRPA defines essential services as the services and programs that are absolutely necessary to maintain the health and well-being of the public.
  • NRPA defines essential infrastructure as the spaces, facilities and built environment features, such as parks, trails, open spaces and pools, that are absolutely necessary to maintain the health and well-being of the public.

Essential Role of Parks and Recreation — Data Points

  • Eighty-two percent of people agree that parks and recreation is an essential local government service.
    • Seventy-two percent of people indicate they are more likely to vote for a local elected official who makes park and recreation funding a key priority.
  • Eighty-three percent of U.S. adults agree that visiting their local parks, trails and open spaces have been essential for their mental and physical well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic.
    • Nearly 3 in 5 adults say that access to these amenities have been very or extremely essential to their mental and physical health.
  • More than 190 million U.S. residents visited a park, trail or other public space at least once during the first three months of the pandemic.
    • Fifty-two percent of people indicate that their use of local parks increased or stayed the same between March 2020 and May 2020 when compared to March 2019 and May 2019.
  • Data collected from NRPA Parks Snapshot surveys demonstrates that local park and recreation agencies maintained operations of essential infrastructure and services during and throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. During an early peak in community spread (April 2020) parks, trails and open spaces that allowed for safe, physically distanced use, remained open to provide physical and mental health benefits for community members:
    • Even at the height of shelter-in-place orders, 87 percent of park and recreation agencies kept some or all of their parks open to the public.
    • At the height of shelter-in-place orders, 96 percent of agencies kept some or all of their trails open.
    • At the height of shelter-in-place orders, 71 percent of agencies kept some or all of their community gardens open.
  • Nearly 40 percent of agencies have stepped in to provide essential pandemic response services in their communities including distributing meals to older adults, families and youth; opening agency facilities to serve as emergency shelters; providing childcare for essential staff; and utilizing agency facilities and spaces as COVID-19 testing and treatment sites.
  • Three in four adults say that it is very or extremely important to invest in infrastructure elements including park improvements, trails, transportation and schools.
  • Ninety-four percent of adults want their local government to make infrastructure investments that promote economic activity in their community.
    • Park and recreation professionals and their agencies spark economic activity in their communities by supporting employment, increasing property values, increasing tourism, reducing health care costs and lowering property damage and energy costs.
  • With more financial support, park and recreation agencies are well-suited to support community members impacted by COVID-19. Three in four park and recreation leaders envision their agency supporting community mental health and well-being more intentionally in the recovery process including offering in-person and virtual mental health programming, building partnerships with social workers and healthcare providers, training staff to better support mental health and conducting well-being checks with community members.

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