Financial Preparedness 2023: What You Need to Know to Get Your Parks & Rec Agency Ready

With the new year on the horizon, here are some things you may not have thought of when it comes to your agency’s finances!

Miriam Saslove
Miriam Saslove
November 9, 2022 5 min read

As a Parks & Recreation professional, your top priority is your community. Making sure they have access to the services and programs they need and putting a smile on their face is what makes P&R a fulfilling career for many people. While financial planning may not be the most exciting part of your day, it’s a key catalyst for your department’s success. That’s why we’re here to help you make sure all your financial ducks are in a row for 2023!

Start with your overall financial strategy and priorities for your Parks and Rec agency

We’ve all been there: sitting in front of a blank spreadsheet, document or presentation with no idea where to start. When it comes to financial planning, the easiest place to begin is with your agency’s overall strategic or master plan. How can you plan how to best spend your money without considering the department’s goals and priorities?

Some questions to think about in the initial planning stage:

  • What additional resources do you need to run your department better? What are your staffing needs?
  • What do you wish you did more of this year? Attend more conferences? More programs for certain age groups? Staff training?
  • How many years in advance should you plan for? (TIP: Consider longer term planning – 3-5 years instead of 1-2 years, to give yourself peace of mind and set yourself up for success)

Sustainability is a hot topic – but it’s also a crucial component of your P&R agency’s financial plan

We’ve all heard about environmental sustainability, but what if we could apply these principles to our finances? Essentially, we’re talking about tying your finances to community impact and aligning resources with resident needs. We all want to make the most of the budget we have been allocated, and a financial sustainability strategy can help you tell your agency’s story to stakeholders at any level of the organization.

When it comes to financial planning, a sustainable strategy will allow you to think bigger and ensure that you have the money to do what’s critically important for your community for the long haul. Planning for next year is great, but why not plan for the citizens of 2050?

According to Farrell Buller, P&R Consultant and Leadership Coach with expertise in financial sustainability, looking ahead and setting yourself up for financial success is crucial, especially given the current economic situation for many P&R agencies.

“Many organizations have been able to receive additional Federal funding in the past 24 months in response to the national health crisis. As these funding sources expire, a financial sustainability strategy will become a critical component for parks and recreation organizations. Expenses continue to fluctuate. From supplies to equipment and staffing, identifying what you have compared to what you will need will begin to inform the strategy. Rather than looking for more money, I encourage organizations to utilize what they have!”

Get creative with your activity programming

In terms of the programming aspect of your financial plan, you may wonder how you can save money on certain activities. “The most inexpensive/cost effective programming idea is to look at what you are currently doing and make operational changes such as increasing participation, combining classes that overlap or don’t meet minimum participation, and partnering with organizations where there a duplication of service,” says Farrell. “Creating a utilization report can be helpful to ensure you are utilizing existing facilities in the best way possible (I.e., creating revenue through rentals, offering admission passes). Knowing what you are currently investing toward a program can make it easier to capitalize on the cost.”

When working on your financial plan, think about opportunities for new programs too. Don’t forget to consider implementing some free options, like walking, or low-cost ideas like bingo, movie nights, or board game nights!

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Work with the data your agency already has (and plan to get more)

Whether your agency is avoiding looking at data because you’re hesitant, need some guidance, or simply don’t know where to start, we’re here to tell you: it’s all going to be fine! Financial sustainability data helps you make decisions that aren’t arbitrary and tell stories with transparency and confidence – the real value comes from the real-time look at how you are doing. Delving into the data and understanding how taxpayer dollars are being spent will only help you become stronger public servants and build upon your agency’s strong foundation.

When planning your finances, you can use data around programs, facilities, staffing, and more to make decisions on where to spend your money in the coming years. Data can also reveal opportunities to serve differently or use tax dollars more efficiently.

Making better financial decisions is as easy as identifying a staff person (we’re looking at you, data nerds!) who loves to review data and dollars, to review current information and make informed recommendations. You have a lot more information than you think at your fingertips!

Once you’ve looked at the data you currently have, the next step is to plan what you need to gather in the next year (whether that be through surveys, analyses or other means) so that you have even more information to consider when planning for 2024 and beyond!

Leverage technology to take your planning to the next level

It’s clear that technology is touching most aspects of our lives at this point, so why not leverage it to make our financial planning easier?

You may think the only way to look at finances is with Excel, but the truth is there are hundreds of financial planning tools at your disposal! There are even some specifically built for the public sector.

Did you know? Amilia also offers a cost recovery tool for P&R agencies to run cost-of-service analysis, ultimately leading to more efficient spending, higher engagement, and community growth. There is a myriad of ways that technology can help you set and reach your goals!

We know diving into topics around money can be scary, but we’re here to help you make 2023 your agency’s best financial year yet!

CTA: Looking for more insight or help with your financial sustainability strategy? Contact Farrell today!

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