Aiming to Put NRPA Out of Business

July 1, 2014, Department, by Barbara Tulipane

Barbara Tulipane, CAE, NRPA’s President and CEOLast year, NRPA launched an ambitious three-year strategic plan that was designed to accomplish something unheard of — to put NRPA out of business. That’s right. If our strategic plan was to succeed as envisioned, and our mission to advance parks, recreation and conservation was fully achieved, everyone’s quality of life would be vastly enhanced through parks and recreation. We would all be living in sustainable communities with complete access to the life-giving benefits of parks and recreation. Yep, there would simply be no further need for NRPA. We could close the doors and all go enjoy the benefits. Yeah, we wish.

The fact of the matter is it’s not about the plan — it’s about the people. NRPA’s strategic plan may be a great plan as far as plans go, but it’s about YOU and what you do in your daily life as a professional, as an advocate and as a leader to advance the mission of improving people’s lives and activating the three pillars to their fullest expression in your community.

The goal of NRPA’s strategic plan is to equip you with the tools and resources to make a difference. We know you can make an impact in implementing conservation practices throughout your community. We know you can measurably improve the health and wellness of individuals in your park and recreation programs and thereby improve the health of your entire community. And we know you can change the landscape when it comes to providing access for all, regardless of age, ability, background or income level, establishing social equity. We know this because we see examples of these revolutionary changes from agencies across the country every day, and we share those stories in Parks & Recreation Magazine, in social media and through all of NRPA’s communications platforms. And while NRPA can and does provide resources such as research, education and programming while also advocating for favorable legislation, we ultimately rely on you to make the impact in the lives of those who you serve. 

Since we all work to gain more funding for better parks, doesn’t it make sense for all of us to agree on a unified approach and consistent messages to achieve this goal? Imagine our ability to make a difference if every one of NRPA’s 40,000 members, who have a presence in virtually every community, agreed to focus their efforts on NRPA’s pillars to help the public understand that parks and recreation is about the collective impact of solving problems, making communities more livable and improving the lives of all our citizens. If we were to successfully include these communications in all our programs, marketing materials, special events, public meetings and dealings with elected officials, the impact would be profound. 

NRPA’s strategic plan includes broad goals supported by quantifiable objectives accomplished through operational tactics. For those of you who are interested in the details, I encourage you to review the strategic map and related materials. You’ll find that at the completion of the first year of this plan, NRPA finished strongly. We are on track to connect millions of kids to nature as more than 700 agencies have signed on to the 10 Million Kids Outdoors campaign in partnership with the National Wildlife Federation. We identified new partners such as the American Water Charitable Foundation, which is supporting NRPA with a $2.5 million grant to construct natural playgrounds and water stewardship projects in communities they serve. We launched the Commit to Health campaign with First Lady Michelle Obama to enlist 1,000 agencies to provide nutritious meals and offer physical fitness programs designed to decrease childhood obesity. We partnered with the American Planning Association to ensure closer collaboration between planning professionals and park and recreation professionals, highlighting ways parks can contribute to economic development, produce health outcomes for all citizens and implement green infrastructure solutions for stormwater management, while ensuring that everyone has equal access to park and recreation resources. 

Would NRPA really be put out of business if we fully achieved every one of the goals of our strategic plan? Not likely, because there will always be a need to advance our goals to new audiences and be vigilant that we don’t fall back, but it will sure be fun trying. And every one of our communities will be better for our successes.

Barbara Tulipane, CAE, NRPA's President and CEO