The issues I’m finding toughest to crack right now are around squeezing the most out of small budgets while making the most of new channels. To some extent, thus my recent Twitter learning experiment! We have more than 800,000 people coming to our parks and events every year, but mostly we don’t know who they are. We don’t charge admission, so there’s no conventional way to know who our “users” are in order to ask them to participate. I keep hoping maybe we’ll be able to find new ways to communicate that will help bridge that gap.
So truly, I’m looking forward to reading everything you have to say! And I truly appreciate you taking the time to say it and share what you know. It’s one of the best things about what we do.
Development Manager, Individual Giving
Riverfront Recapture, Inc.
Fabulous Question Mary!
here’s my response!
First of all, a TON of people have smartphones now, and some are addicted to foursquare and other check-in services. Make your location a place where they can check in.
Action Item: Create check-in points at the entry-points to the park. Someone can be “mayor” of your park!
Another idea, have you thought about having monthly open houses where people can come and say what they like about the park? You’ll probably be able to capture some more names that way, and start to engage people.
Action item: Monthly open houses for people to get to know your park
Now is the time to create alliances. If you’ve got people hiking in your park, chances are they already give to other local environmental nonprofits. Start to build up your partnerships. Create a surveymonkey survey and send it out via mailing lists to sister organizations such as Sierra Club, Nature Conservancy, Audubon Society and others and ask people if they hike in your park, what they like about it, what they’d like to change.
Action item: Reach out to natural partners-sister nonprofits, ask them to do a survey for you.
You can ALSO hang a banner on the most prominent entrances of the park, with the web address and ask people to come and take the survey. The Sellwood bridge in Portland Oregon did that a couple of years ago and I certainly gave them my opinion! Even if you only get 300 people, that’s 300 more than you had.
Action item: Create a banner and ask people for their opinion
You can put your twitter handle on the banner as well, and help people mention that they were in your park on twitter by making a custom hashtag, set up an alert for your name as well via Netvibes, and friend everyone who says they went to your park on Twitter. This way, you can connect with people, just like I connected with you when you signed up for my e-newsletter, and say “Thank you for visiting our park” and “Want to take our survey?”
Action item: Help people mention where they are using Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. with your Twitter handle and hashtag.
This way, you start to figure out who is coming into your park. And of course, you can’t get EVERYONE’S names, but you will capture more than you started with!
Finally, think about how you can get people to come to the park in a way you can track. Put out a call for volunteers on Idealist.org, at your local college with an environmental program, on virtual volunteer websites, and on volunteermatch. Chances are, you will get a lot of the people who come to the park anyway to come and help you. You can start to know them then, and get them more engaged. Our natural spaces are some of our greatest resources, and we need to help people understand this.
Hope this was helpful!
PS. If you think I forgot anything, or you know of an innovative park that has it all down, please leave a comment below!