Feature Article - June 2007
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Building Active, Involved Communities

The third most common issue of concern, both now and in three years, was staffing issues, with more than 50 percent of respondents listing staffing as a top concern now, and more than 40 percent listing is as a top concern three years from now.

One Illinois-based respondent said, "Locally, I anticipate staffing being a concern. Many of our most experienced supervisory employees may retire or find new employment in three to five years. Replacement workers may lack the training, management skill, education and experience to effectively provide the vision and leadership needed to move our organization forward. I believe this will be a challenge for many organizations as the baby boom generation moves on."

A Texas-based respondent said she has seen "a pattern of increased work, without an increase in workers." She added, "We have added new facilities and acquired new park land, but no new staff members."

Staffing issues are closely connected to budget challenges, as Atilano explained.

"Nobody's got enough money coming in," he said. "If you look at a 40-year lifecycle, building costs and construction costs are just 2 percent of the total outlay. Maintenance and operations are 6 percent. Ninety-two percent is people—salaries benefits. We're trying to minimize staff, which ties into the building layout."

Bouck agreed that designing facilities well can help deal with staffing issues.

"How can we make the center run with as few staff as possible, while still providing the same level of service?" he asked. "This calls for good planning. So for example, the front desk could have a view to the whole facility to provide security and control, as well as customer service. There's going to be a lot more scrutiny to be sure things can truly be operated as effectively as possible."

Marketing and increasing participation were top issues of concern for 43.6 percent of respondents now, and more than 34 percent felt it would still be a concern in three years.

Increasing participation can be a challenge, but playing to your strengths is one way to improve the numbers.

"Don't try to compete head to head with other facilities," Atilano said. "If it's private industry, they're not after the community, they're not after families. Families are your strength—use that."

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