Put a Big Fat Gold Sticker on your Program!

Posted by Jason Lang at 12/13/2023

New prps gold seal

Each spring, PRPS members gather at the Annual PRPS Conference & Expo to learn about emerging programming, discuss industry-wide best practices and of course, socialize! But it's also a chance to recognize individuals, departments and programs for outstanding achievement over the last year via our Awards program, chaired and MC'd by the always funny and eloquent Barry Bessler.

We leave every conference blown away by all the cool stuff that people are doing around the state. That said, we don't think we get enough award applications. We're talking to you park and rec professional, sitting behind a desk sipping coffee, enjoying the calm before 2024 comes in with a bang! We totally get it. 2023 is becoming smaller and smaller in the rear view as you zoom towards whatever is "next." But stay here in the moment for one more second. Take a minute to think about it, your community benefited from something you did, that was really awesome. In our opinion, many park and rec folks do it because they love it, which is great. But they are uncomfortable with the final step of any program, event, green and sustainable development/practices and calendar year...validation. In a municipal environment where parks and recreation falls below police, fire, streets etc. you have to play your hand to the best of your ability, and awards are one of the best and easiest ways we can validate our departments in the eyes of elected officials and the general public.

The best thing about the awards application itself, is you get the answers to the test ahead of time! Specifically for the Excellence awards, the application is looking for the POWER principles:

Positions public parks and recreation as an essential community service. Tell how the entry advances the role and importance of public parks and recreation, shows the benefits of parks and recreation, and improves the quality of life in the community.

Tip: Get quotes from participants, volunteers etc. Quantify the impacts. Survey your participants with respect to "quality of life" and "benefits."

Outcome based. Describe the problem, issue, or opportunity and how the entry provided a solution to it.

Tip: Think back to why you started planning this program? Community need? Perceived hole in services? Quantify!

Wow Factor. Explain how the entry advances parks and recreation in the community through a major accomplishment, innovation, or a creative approach to managing and/or providing public parks and recreation. Describe how the entry demonstrates creativity and innovation. This can range from start – up efforts made to establish parks and recreation, or a small but mighty effort to make something happen where parks and recreation is struggling, to the initiative of a well-established parks and recreation organization.

Tip: What made your event/program noteworthy? It could be "just" an Egg Hunt, but maybe you had auditory eggs for those with hearing loss or you incorporated fifteen community groups to pull it off.

Effects change. Address how the entry deals with an important issue in the field of parks and recreation such as environmental stewardship, connecting people to nature, active healthy living, or social equity. Describe how it demonstrates strategies, resources, and outreach methods to increase public awareness, or other means that produce results.

Tip: This is probably the hardest POWER principle to answer. Reviewing your "outcome" answer will lead you down the path. Look at your park and rec strategic plan, NRPA Pillars etc. and think big picture. You might be thinking "I'm a small department, can't compete with Philly"...but that's hogwash! Talk about saturation. You might have a small program, but one that really saturates your community and is vital, tell that story.

Resourcefulness. Present how the entry used creative resources and outreach methods to generate support from a variety of sources including partnerships in the public, private and non-profit sectors,use of private funds, lands, facilities, or expertise, or secured support from policy makers or elected officials. 

Tip: You got this! Park and rec people always have to scrape and claw their way to make things happen. Really dive deep in and discuss your internal and external partnerships and how your community came together to pull off your event/program.

Also remember there are not only opportunities to showcase your programs: you can showcase yourself, your colleagues, agency and also your parks through your dedication to green and sustainable practices by submitting an application for the Outstanding Achievement Award, Distinguished Member Award, Outstanding New Professional, Community Champion, Agency of the Year and Green Parks Awards. You are amazing at what you do…apply!

OK, that's it everyone. All year long you've been creative and resourceful. You've spent more weekends in the park than with your family. You've pulled trash from a can in the morning and put on a full suit for a budget meeting that night. Sounds crazy, but that's our profession. Now take the moment you've earned, and apply for a PRPS Award.

Apply here: https://prps.org/Awards

See you in March!

The PRPS Awards Committee