Nature Center Issues & Solutions: A roundtable of ideas & answers
Hosted November 2018
An informative and collaborative roundtable discussion about issues, trends, and problem solving at nature centers and visitor centers.
Issue 1: Seasonal Hiring Limitations. How to manage seasonal staffing based on Affordable Care Act limitations of only 5 months of working 40 hours/week.
Spread seasonal to different areas if the site does not need a 5 month position. Seasonal staff will likely want to work more “seasons” to cover a yearly salary.
Use multiple seasonal positions spaced to cover a longer period of time. For example, seasonal 1 works March-July and seasonal 2 works June-October.
Raise base pay to be more competitive and improve retention.
Define season & job in hiring advertisements.
Give specific hours based on position- Seasonal 600 hours and Part-time 900 hours.
Great Parks (Cincinnati, Ohio) has no more seasonals, just full-time with benefits or part-time with no benefits
Interpreter 1- introductory staff level
Interpreter 2- seasoned staff
Based on hours not season so spread out over a longer period with fewer hours per week. A seasonal could work 7 months at 25-30 hours a week.
Issue 2 Generating Revenue.
Need to have staff keep the facility open and provide free programs, but also need to generate income through programs to pay staff.
Recreation staff manages center, so staff must reserve sites. Competing with recreation staff for space. Recreation programs generate more money than environmental education programs, so they get priority to sites.
Use a sliding scale for cost recovery that is mission based and requires less recovery of cost if the program meets mission.
What about charging for admission?
Most places don’t charge.
Reduced price for schools with free and reduced lunch.
Foundation provides scholarships for transportation and free admission.
Other ideas for generating revenue
Bring in parties and groups.
Scout other places to see what they charge and do a cost analysis.
Charge based on direct cost, benefit to agency and visitor, based on demand or limited availability.
Fee makes visitors feel it is more valuable. People will pay more if they think it is a premium service.
Portion of admission money to go toward conservation project. Let the visitors vote on the project with their donations/fees.
Have a coin drop so money is visible and people will give more.
Issue 3 Marketing Ideas on No Budget
Post flyers at library and school.
Friends group to use Facebook and social media.
Partner with local businesses to distribute materials.
One location partners with nearby restaurants to make table tents and tray liners promoting their programs and events. They even post flyers in the restroom.
Partner with local organizations such as scouts, parent magazines, Macaroni Kid, parent groups, HOAs, CVBs, etc.
Local newspapers will use calendars and news stories.
Issue 4 Going Paperless. Not printing maps and flyers is good for the environment and the bottom line, but how do you still get the information out without print?
Encourage people to take a picture of the map.
Have map online and hopefully wi-fi for people to download the map.
Charge for a map. Can use as a souvenir and highlight route on map.
Maps are a great way to start conversations with visitors and give options, so really need maps.
Use a sponsor to cover the cost of maps. Allow them to distribute maps at their sites/businesses.
Have a kiosk at the trailhead with large map of only that trail and visitors can take a picture. Keep map consistent in style and look at each location.
Issue 5 Medical Information based programs.
Walk with a Doc is a national program and fee based. May not work at all sites.
Consider education programs for local ER and doctors to teach about native, local wildlife.