For programs that rely on municipal or grant funding, like parks and recreation departments and school districts, it’s essential to track data and create reports that accurately prove your impact. To advocate for your department or district and secure the necessary funds and resources, you’ll need to consistently track data and perform analyses to demonstrate the positive effects of your programs on your community.
But, tracking this data can be a pain point. Outdated methods can cause attendance tracking slowdowns and inaccurate records for parks and recreation departments. Similarly, schools using disorganized methods like spreadsheet reporting can find it challenging to stay on top of tracking information like participation in clubs, sports, and other extracurricular programs.
In this guide, we’ll walk through the most important data you need to collect and how you can use software to demonstrate your program’s positive effect on your students or community. Let’s get started!
Why track your program’s effectiveness?
As a professional in a school district or recreation department, you know the value of your institution and the programs you offer well. However, it’s important to relay these positive impacts to those who don’t see them each day by using concrete numbers. Just as you would communicate the success of a fundraising event by reporting the amount of money raised, you need to use quantifiable data to prove your efficacy.
As a public program, monitoring and reporting performance metrics is vital to understanding your program’s operational health. Using these metrics, your district or department can identify areas that need improvement and seek additional support for programs or initiatives that are performing well. With data, you can make informed decisions that help you increase funding to boost your department’s budget. This allows you to improve facilities and programming, start new initiatives, and enhance participant outcomes.
With this concrete information, you can feel more confident when submitting requests for support from funders. This can directly impact visitor and student experiences, helping facilitate sustainable growth for your organization.
Which data points are important to track?
Because you’ll need to collect data over months or years to demonstrate growth and prove strong performance, it’s key to know which metrics to record. For example, if your school is hoping to secure additional support for its after-school program, you’ll need to carefully track and analyze enrollment and attendance in the program.
Here are some of the essential metrics to track with your school or parks and recreation software solution:
- Registration and attendance. Record how many visitors register for and attend your department’s events to measure event success. Schools can also track attendance to estimate the number of students on campus at any given time, ensuring that they provide the right number of staff members for a safe student experience.
- Donations. Public programs often hold fundraisers to support specific initiatives or causes. According to CommunityPass, the right school software will empower you to accurately report the donations you receive and provide tax write-off information to donors. And, when it’s time for your school or recreation department to break down its performance metrics, you can make a case for additional funding by showing off how you used the donations to make improvements.
- Memberships. For recreation departments, it’s common to offer membership packages as well as seasonal or day passes to visitors. Offer memberships online and facilitate recurring charges, autorenewal, and expiration reminders for membership packages through a robust software solution. Using this data, you can see your total number of memberships sold, how many visitors choose to renew, and any impactful changes over time.
- Facility rentals. Many parks and schools have facilities your visitors may want to rent out for events, parties, and athletic use. Track this data to identify how often you rent facilities, when most visitors rent, why visitors need the facilities, and how much revenue these rentals supply. Using these reports, you could illustrate how many people use your park’s facilities and advocate for additional funding to improve them.
In addition to these metrics, make sure to carefully track your school or department’s finances. Make sure to create a detailed budget, record any costs you incur, and carefully note all sources of revenue. You should also keep records of how you allocated funds from specific funders to clearly show the impact of their support later on.
How can your program simplify the process?
To collect and report this crucial data, it’s key to invest in school or recreation management software that will streamline data into one easy-to-use platform. When researching solutions, check for features that facilitate data collection and analysis, including the following:
- Pre-built reports. Software solutions make data analysis simple by providing pre-made reports. Using these reports, you can select the best template for your program, load data in, and start analyzing. These reports span a variety of categories, from website interaction data to attendance to revenue.
- Custom report designer. If your school district or recreation department needs a report that is tailored to its specific needs, some software solutions offer report designers, where you can build reports customized to your needs. This can be helpful if you want to compile data from various sources and timelines into a single report.
- Formatting options. Choose a software solution that offers flexible formatting for reports so you can present them to funders, share them over email, and choose files that fit into your office suite software. You can choose between formats like on-screen renders, Excel sheets, and PDF files.
- Compliance reporting. Compliance reports demonstrate that your department or district is following the set of rules and standards set by the government. Whether the report is for a specific compliance initiative or just an overview, the right software solution can save you time and effort when creating the report.
In addition, be sure to invest in a software solution that keeps your school or recreation department’s data clean. According to AccuData, data hygiene refers to keeping your data error-free, which is important for all organizations. “Dirty” data contains errors, whether it’s outdated, incomplete, duplicated, or incorrect. As you decide on which software solution to use to track your program’s effectiveness, ensure that you pick a tool that makes maintaining data hygiene easy.
Tracking the impact your programs have helps you prove your program’s worth and champion more support. A comprehensive report with data-backed performance tracking can make the difference between receiving the same amount of funding and getting a meaningful increase. Recreational programs and school districts can greatly benefit from investing in a solution that empowers them to collect data that helps them make better decisions.