Accreditation from NRPA’s Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies (CAPRA) is a powerful stamp of approval and a great tool to help build a positive brand around the value of your agency. Howard County Recreation and Parks in Maryland achieved CAPRA accreditation in 2002. In the years preparing for our initial accreditation and then maintaining our continual five-year reaccreditation status (most recently in 2017), we developed the positive culture of a CAPRA agency. Every time I speak to the community, county administration or Maryland colleagues, I share with them the importance of accreditation and the benefits it provides to an agency and its community. Stating that our agency is one of the 165 accredited agencies out of 10,000 agencies in the United States gets the listeners’ attention.
CAPRA Accreditation recently helped us secure a $150,000 grant to increase the participation of low-income students and students of color in afterschool sports activities. The Horizon Foundation, Howard County’s (Maryland) community health foundation, sought out our agency and offered us the grant because our CAPRA accreditation gives us notoriety and recognition as experts in the field. We were able to deliver excellent resources to coordinate and implement the outcome of the grant because of the policies, procedures, budget, trends analysis, needs assessment and program planning tools that were established as part of the accreditation process. We also could demonstrate best practices that provided the Horizon Foundation and other grant partners with confidence in their selection.
Among the requirements for maintaining CAPRA accreditation is an annual self-assessment report. This exercise is one of the most valuable parts of the entire process because through it, the agency comes to know itself better. This self-assessment also has the unexpected benefit of being a helpful tool for new staff orientations, as it provides an overview of the agency and allows them to easily digest the agency’s inner workings.
A site visit is required to validate the self-assessment. This includes a networking event during which the accreditation team meets the agency leaders and directors from human resources, risk management, police, fire, emergency management, finance, public works and county executives/city managers. It is exciting for the staff, directors and officials attending the event to witness the camaraderie and support of these agencies to assist the agency on this journey. This event also highlights how important parks and recreation is to the comprehensive offerings of government.
Other CAPRA-accredited agencies agree that including the CAPRA logo on their publications, vehicles, facilities and social media relays the message of quality service, excellence in programming, level of service credentials and best practices in implementation.
All of these tools and resources were easily accessed due to our commitment to the CAPRA standards. They are among the reasons I encourage you to consider gaining CAPRA accreditation for your agency.
Laura T. Wetherald, MS, CPRP, is the Bureau Chief of Recreation for Howard County Department of Recreation and Parks.