One of the most important roles NRPA Research plays at the association is to evaluate the quality and impact of our offerings to the park and recreation profession. If you have attended the NRPA Annual Conference, participated in a webinar or taken an online course, you have undoubtedly received a survey from us afterward about your experience. The NRPA team takes your feedback not only to improve our current offerings, but also to help shape new member benefits and educational offerings. If you have taken the time to complete our evaluation surveys, thank you.
This month’s column highlights some key findings from a recently conducted membership survey. In December 2018, the NRPA Research team sent randomly selected members a survey that queried not only about their overall level of satisfaction with NRPA, but also what they expect from both their membership and in education offerings. We received responses from 481 of your peers.
Satisfaction and Expectations
Among the survey’s key findings is that most NRPA practitioner members are happy with NRPA membership. Eighty percent of survey respondents rate their level of satisfaction at either a “4” or “5” on the five-point scale, with another 17 percent rating their level of satisfaction at a “3.” Further, there is very little difference in the level of satisfaction among the membership, regardless of job title or amount of time they have been in the field.
What is of greater interest to us is what you expect from NRPA. When members join NRPA, they are seeking a number of benefits and opportunities that help them professionally and raise the profile of the industry to key stakeholders and the general public. Your feedback on what is important guides NRPA staff to make sure our products and service offerings meet your needs.
Large majorities of NRPA practitioner members indicate each of these benefits/opportunities as being important aspects of their relationship with the association:
- Promoting greater public awareness and appreciation of parks and recreation (94 percent)
- Providing professional development, education and training opportunities (93 percent)
- Identifying industry and professional benchmarks, best practices and trends (91 percent)
- Setting standards and guidelines that improve the quality of park and recreation offerings to the public (91 percent)
- Serving as a unified public policy voice (84 percent)
- Being a place for members to network with their peers (84 percent)
You also told us that NRPA is largely effective in delivering on these expectations. At least 4 in 5 practitioner members agree that NRPA is effective in delivering each of the benefits and opportunities discussed above. These include:
- Providing professional development, education and training opportunities (84 percent)
- Identifying industry and professional benchmarks, best practices and trends (83 percent)
- Promoting greater public awareness and appreciation of parks and recreation (82 percent)
- Being able to network with my peers in parks and recreation (81 percent)
- Setting standards and guidelines that improve the quality of park and recreation offerings to the public (80 percent).
- Serving as a unified voice to influence legislation, regulations and greater funding that better support the field (80 percent)
As noted above, providing professional development and continuing education is a role that the clear majority of your peers agree is important for NRPA. In fact, a majority of survey respondents told us that they had participated in a professional development offering — e.g., NRPA Annual Conference, webinar, online certificate, NRPA Directors School — at least once over the past two years.
Overall, recent participants in NRPA professional development events tell us that they were satisfied with the quality and breadth of the offerings. At least 4 in 5 of these members gave either a “4” or “5” on a five-point scale as to the level of their satisfaction in terms of:
- The range of topics offered (84 percent)
- The quality of the instructors (84 percent)
- Applicability to work (83 percent)
- Dates and times of the courses (83 percent)
Our industry is changing, and it is critical for park and recreation professionals to keep their skills up to date to reflect the latest trends in the field. NRPA’s Professional Development team is using these survey results to help identify potential topic areas for new webinars, certificates and other training resources:
- Leadership (50 percent)
- Community engagement (43 percent)
- Marketing and communications (31 percent)
- Maintenance (29 percent)
- Partnerships (29 percent)
The areas of interest for professional development can vary from person to person. Relative to members elsewhere in their careers, executive-level members are more likely to be seeking educational content on marketing and communications, partnerships, planning, finance and legal. Middle management career members are most likely to seek leadership training and content on programming. And, staff-level members are most likely to seek education training in environmental management and health and wellness.
What It All Means
We are gratified that most of the respondents to this survey are satisfied with both their NRPA membership and their experiences with NRPA professional development offerings. At the same time, we will not rest on our laurels. Instead, the NRPA team will continue to work hard to ensure we are meeting not only your professional needs of today, but those for the future, as we face new challenges and opportunities.
Your feedback on your experiences with NRPA will only make the association an even stronger partner for the park and recreation field in the future. So, whether your next interaction with NRPA is great or you see room for improvement, please take the time to complete our evaluation surveys — it can only make your and your peers’ experiences better.
Kevin Roth, Ph.D., is NRPA’s Vice President of Professional Development, Research and Technology.