Rabble Rousing March 2001

Rabble Rousing Part II: Planning the skatepark campaign.

“Many people have worked very hard for a long time. They dedicated a chunk of their lives to see this through … it was the skaters themselves who brought the need for this facility to the community’s attention. They were tired of being chased out of parking lots, cited for trespassing, and hit by cars. They offered a solution, and they asked for help.”

¿Barbara Peschiera, Columbia Foundation Director

Remember the goal: Getting a skatepark completed in your town!

Once you’ve rallied the local skate community, recruited a few adults, maybe had a meeting or two, it’s time to initiate a campaign to gain community support for a public skatepark. When trying to advance from planning to fundraising and then construction, it’s seldom a good idea just to proceed without a clear strategy, especially when working with community members and city government. In order for your campaign to build a skatepark to succeed in the shortest amount of time you’ll need to make all non-skaters aware that you are the local experts¿not only on the sport of skateboarding, but skatepark design and construction as well. Your group will have to demonstrate to others the need for a skatepark and convince them that they should support the park financially. Remember, most supporters will eventually have to part with some of their own hard-earned money to make things happen, so you want to be convincing.

The more knowledgeable your group is and the more you demonstrate this knowledge, the more likely community members will be to ask for your opinion in the future. When it comes to making key decisions during the construction of the skatepark, you will want them consulting you first. You want them to ask for and respect your knowledge and opinions. At some point the availability of your input may be the difference between a flowing, smooth transition and some horribly kinked concrete nightmare. For them to even consider including you, all individuals interested in and associated with the project must have faith in your knowledge, ability, and willingness to work as part of a team. They must also find that you are accessible, reliable, and dependable.

Not only will you have to convince all sorts of people that a skatepark is needed and that they should support it emotionally and financially, but that an unconventional construction method is best. The methodology used for modern skatepark construction is unusual. Most contractors do not know this method. However, it’s a method that can result in the highest-quality skatepark, and if done correctly, will provide the flawless results required. Most people, local concrete contractors included, will not be easily convinced that such a method is necessary, particularly if they feel that their reputation may be at stake. Offer information regarding design, construction, and the availability of skatepark professionals as soon as possible. Be patient and deliver your message consistently.

Develop An Information Sheet And Fact Sheet

The campaign should begin with the compilation of a body of information on skating and skateparks you can provide to people. This information will do two things: 1. give them an overview of the sport and the growing popularity of skateparks, and 2. answer their questions and concerns about a skatepark. This information sheet should be one page in length, provide a concise summary of the plan to build a skatepark in your town, and include information on skateparks. This page should also provide information on the need and support for a skatepark in your town.

Remember, the majority of community members are not skaters. So concentrate on providing information on the benefits to the community. Explain the economic and social benefits of a skatepark. Compare skating to other sports that require a specialized facilitysuch as tennis or basketball. List the number of individuals who would use and could benefit from a skatepark. Make people aware that parks are being built all over the world at an astonishing rate, some in towns smaller than yours. Describe how popular these skateparks have become. But remember that the majority of the community have never been skaters and will not appreciate stories of police harassment or how the best spots have been shut down. Accentuate the positive. This information sheet should be available when youth-skatepark-committee members and other involved parties make their first contacts with community members.

Second, develop a fact sheet. The fact sheet is an extension of the information sheet but provides more detailed information. The fact sheet answers the nitty-gritty questions concerning the skatepark. For example, who is going to pay for it? How will it be monitored? What about liability, vandalism, and drugs? Address these issues intelligently from the start and they will become nonissues. Be sure to make the information sheet tailored to speak to members of your own community. Laws associated with skateboarding differ from state to state, so do your own research and make the information packet applicable to your community. Remember to pass these information and fact sheets out everywhere! Never miss an opportunity to increase support for your skatepark.

Develop A Flyer

Also develop a flyer that is a synopsis of the information and fact sheets. The flyer can be designed to allow it to meet United States Postal Service requirements when printed on two sides, folded into thirds, and taped at the top. Therefore, the flyer can be easily mailed without an envelope. Distribute the flyer, information sheet, and fact sheet around the community. Always leave a few extras. Divide these items up between youth committee members and make them available during speaking engagements. Make sure the flyer lists the committee members to contact when people want to inquire about volunteering and/or want to make monetary or in-kind contributions.

Develop A Petition

Developing a petition is essential to your cause. It provides detailed information to city government and others about how many individuals are in support of your skatepark project. Make copies of the petition and give them to friends. Leave them at local skate shops, bike shops, and sporting-goods stores. Use your imagination to gather as many signatures as possible. Ask permission to stand outside grocery stores, the mall, library, or sporting events to solicit signatures.

Don’t be shy¿simply state your case, ask for support, and give everyone an information sheet, fact sheet, or flyer to pass along. Then ask them to sign the petition. The more people you involve, the better your chances are. Try to get a local newspaper to follow your progress. Ask schoolteachers for help. Ask parents to take petitions to work. Think about groups at a college or university in your area. There are literally hundreds of groups that could be approached for support. Save a few petition pages for business owners and other prominent members of the community. Put those pages right on top. When you feel you have enough signatures to demonstrate solid grassroots support, get ready to take your case to the city council. At a city-council meeting you can present the need and support for a skatepark, and ask to have all signed petitions entered into the meeting record. A standard petition heading is as follows:

Petition in Support of a Free Community Skatepark: We the undersigned, as citizens of ________________, support the development of a free public skatepark within our city. We recognize the need for and the benefits of a free public skatepark and believe the city should at the very least provide suitable land and agree to maintain the skatepark after construction, and at the most, fund, build, and maintain the skatepark just as it would a basketball court, tennis court, or other public general-use area.

Develop A Mailing List

Starting and maintaining a good mailing list requires a lot of time and effort, but it needs to be done. All of the work will be well worth it. It’s best to start from scratch, as you’ll have complete control of the content of the list. The petition pages are a good place to start. The mailing list should be updated often so the information is current. Avoid the tendency to go for the big list¿always opt for quality over quantity. Include only those groups or individuals who have expressed support and can help to further the cause now or in the future. Don’t use other organizations’ lists, as they are unlikely to be of much good. The only exception might be to use the mailing list of a nonprofit agency in the event that you are operating under the umbrella of their nonprofit status. Never pay for a list and never wait until you need the mailing list to put it together.

Complete A User Survey

A user survey can be developed to gather information from individuals within the community with regard to their interest in sports that could benefit from a skatepark. This information is important because it allows you to accurately address issues such as potential use patterns. It shows community members and city government that you are prepared and have done your research. It also provides a resource of potential volunteers when it comes time for skatepark design, fundraising, and construction. In addition, the combined information can be invaluable during the design phase as it provides the design group with information on potential use patterns, age groups, and skill levels. Basic things to learn are how many potential park users are there, how often they would use a park, and how much they spent on skateboarding per year.

Complete A Survey Of Communities With Existing Skateparks

A survey should be sent or given to persons involved with the building of skateparks in other communities. The results of this survey can provide powerful information. Persons responding to the survey are likely to be similar to the individuals who will be deciding the fate of your campaign for a skatepark. So the opinions of these individuals will be respected and valued by those individuals (e.g., members of city government). By developing a survey of communities with completed skateparks you can identify potentially troubling issues and take steps to avoid them before you ever speak to the city council. The gathering of this information will demonstrate that you are prepared, have done your research, and are not asking for allocation of a large amount of funds without forethought and planning.

WORKING WITH THE MEDIA

The Print And Electronic Media

Develop and maintain a list of all media contacts so you know immediately who to call when needed. Include all of the newspapers, magazines, and television and radio stations in your area on the list. Consider regional and national sources only if you have a reason to believe they will take an interest. Newspaper and television editors send out reporters based upon the news of the day. Magazines, on the other hand, prepare for press months in advance. Call each contact and ask for their deadlines and submission criteria. Include this information on your list.

The Press Release

Press releases should be written and used to announce and describe anything newsworthy. Do not send press releases out too far before the deadline. If the release arrives too early for publication, it is likely to be misplaced or discarded. Some publications are interested only in information in advance of some major event. Others are interested in reporting the fact that something interesting has taken place. If writing a press release to announce an event thatuild, and maintain the skatepark just as it would a basketball court, tennis court, or other public general-use area.

Develop A Mailing List

Starting and maintaining a good mailing list requires a lot of time and effort, but it needs to be done. All of the work will be well worth it. It’s best to start from scratch, as you’ll have complete control of the content of the list. The petition pages are a good place to start. The mailing list should be updated often so the information is current. Avoid the tendency to go for the big list¿always opt for quality over quantity. Include only those groups or individuals who have expressed support and can help to further the cause now or in the future. Don’t use other organizations’ lists, as they are unlikely to be of much good. The only exception might be to use the mailing list of a nonprofit agency in the event that you are operating under the umbrella of their nonprofit status. Never pay for a list and never wait until you need the mailing list to put it together.

Complete A User Survey

A user survey can be developed to gather information from individuals within the community with regard to their interest in sports that could benefit from a skatepark. This information is important because it allows you to accurately address issues such as potential use patterns. It shows community members and city government that you are prepared and have done your research. It also provides a resource of potential volunteers when it comes time for skatepark design, fundraising, and construction. In addition, the combined information can be invaluable during the design phase as it provides the design group with information on potential use patterns, age groups, and skill levels. Basic things to learn are how many potential park users are there, how often they would use a park, and how much they spent on skateboarding per year.

Complete A Survey Of Communities With Existing Skateparks

A survey should be sent or given to persons involved with the building of skateparks in other communities. The results of this survey can provide powerful information. Persons responding to the survey are likely to be similar to the individuals who will be deciding the fate of your campaign for a skatepark. So the opinions of these individuals will be respected and valued by those individuals (e.g., members of city government). By developing a survey of communities with completed skateparks you can identify potentially troubling issues and take steps to avoid them before you ever speak to the city council. The gathering of this information will demonstrate that you are prepared, have done your research, and are not asking for allocation of a large amount of funds without forethought and planning.

WORKING WITH THE MEDIA

The Print And Electronic Media

Develop and maintain a list of all media contacts so you know immediately who to call when needed. Include all of the newspapers, magazines, and television and radio stations in your area on the list. Consider regional and national sources only if you have a reason to believe they will take an interest. Newspaper and television editors send out reporters based upon the news of the day. Magazines, on the other hand, prepare for press months in advance. Call each contact and ask for their deadlines and submission criteria. Include this information on your list.

The Press Release

Press releases should be written and used to announce and describe anything newsworthy. Do not send press releases out too far before the deadline. If the release arrives too early for publication, it is likely to be misplaced or discarded. Some publications are interested only in information in advance of some major event. Others are interested in reporting the fact that something interesting has taken place. If writing a press release to announce an event that has already occurred, let them know what happened, what was seen, said, and heard, and who reacted. Remember, what seems ordinary to you could be fascinating to an editor, journalist, or the host of a radio or television interview program.

A press release should tell the facts but not sound like a weekly report at school. It should interest the reader, inspire an editor to assign a writer to a story, or inspire a television reporter to provide coverage. Usually it has to be something that will get the general public interested and involved.

If writing is not your expertise, do not write a press release. Find someone who is good with words and who finds the task of writing on behalf of your organization enjoyable. Keep the press release simple so it will be accessible to a large audience.

The following items should be included in the press release:

1. The headline should set the hook and announce the event.

2. The first paragraph should state the purpose of your project and capture the readers’ interests.

3. The second and third paragraphs should contain what is known as the “Five Ws”: who, what, when, where, and why. Any additional paragraphs should back up the first two or three with quotes or other interesting details.

Whenever possible, issue the press release under the auspices of the city or your nonprofit umbrella organization. Ask for permission to use their letterhead with the understanding that they can approve the final copy. In some instances they may have a public-relations representative. If this person offers to help or you wish to seek their help, make sure this person is qualified to help you by using the following criteria:

1. The person is not threatened by your aggressive pursuit of good press coverage.

2. The person is willing to cooperate.

3. You can communicate freely with this person.

4. She or he really understands and is committed to seeing a skatepark built in your community.

The Media Kit

Anytime you have an event, you will want to invite the media. They have the greatest capability to bring your project to a large audience. Every time the newspaper, radio, or television media shows up, provide them with a media kit. This is a current packet of information regarding the project and the progress currently being made. The reporter can keep this media kit to assist in the preparation of news stories. The media kit makes the reporter’s job a great deal easier and increases the likelihood for positive, accurate coverage. The media kit should contain the information sheet, wish list (a list of donations needed), fact sheet, flyer, press release, photos, and any other pertinent information. Do not overwhelm members of the media with this kit. Keep it fairly short and concise.

 

The Internet/World Wide Web

The Internet is also a valuable tool to gain support and gather information. Develop a Web site and start by posting your information sheet. Add pages specifically addressing fundraising, current activities, and progress. During the design phase, the design plan can be placed on the Web with an area for viewer comments. Weekly comments posted to the Web can be shared at regular meetings. As design plans change, the revised plans can be posted so interested persons can follow the progress of the skatepark.

Don’t forget to add links to other sites that may help further your cause. TransWorld (skateboarding.com) and many skateboard manufacturers and organizations have sites with skatepark directories and other information that can prove useful. Always get permission before establishing a link. Once fundraising has started, use the Internet to let the public and volunteers know what is coming up. After construction begins, take digital photos or scan in pictures to provide weekly updates. The establishment and upkee