Join The Kids Club
By Marjorie Thomas
Photos Courtesy Of Cleveland Metroparks
We have all heard the message: Get the kids off the couch and outside. Since we are part of a park district, who better to tackle this assignment?
“For a number of years, we talked about doing something more kid-focused, about how to get kids more active and more involved in Cleveland Metroparks as a whole,” says Bob Rotatori, the Marketing Manager. “The Kids Club is our answer to that objective.”
Up And Moving
The Kids Club mission is two-fold:
To bring children closer to nature by sharing with them the importance of conservation, education, and recreation
To help children apply what they learn to help preserve Cleveland Metroparks and the environment.
Designed as a year-round project for kids ages 12 and under, participants are invited to Cleveland Metroparks and Cleveland Metroparks Zoo special events and programming, such as hands-on activities at the nature centers, parades, and behind-the-scene tours. Most activities are also open to the public with a few programs exclusive to Kids Club members. Plus, during the school year, a club member can win an outdoor education program featuring a park naturalist for his or her classmates.
Children who enroll in the club are given passports and earn stickers when they attend Kids Club activities. As an incentive to attend, kids with 12 stickers or more are invited to an end-of-the-year party.
The activities, which encourage children all over the area to visit parks near and far from them, are hosted at park reservations throughout the district’s 22,000 acres. Depending on the time of year, an average of 25 to 40 activities a month are held. There are also usually one or two exclusive Kids Club activities per month.
Membership And Registration
The program has two levels of membership—one is free, and one costs $20 for the calendar year. Both levels have access to all of the programs and receive:
A passport to be used at events to collect stickers.
Access to a password-protected website for club members only, which includes an event page, photo gallery, education tab, activity page, and end-of-the-year party information.
Discounted coupons to park-district facilities: golf, zoo, hayride, and tobogganing (a child is free with a paying adult).
A birthday card, which is mailed to the member on the month of his or her birthday, (with an incentive or offer).
Opportunities from sponsors or partners, such as a $5 ticket for a Lake Erie Captains baseball game.
Access to special exclusive events, such as ranger-led bike rides, a golf clinic, help-feed-the-animal programs, parade participation, media photo-op participation, etc.
In addition, the paid members receive a T-shirt, additional coupons, $10-off birthday packages at Cleveland Metroparks Chalet and Ledge Pool, and several novelty items.
Prospective members have several options to register. The most popular form of registration—approximately 70 percent—is online on the website where parents can sign up for either a free or paid program. Parents submit the child’s information and a short survey, and the paid members complete the purchase through the website shop. The other registration option is to complete a hard copy of the registration form (available on the Kids Club brochure or downloadable from the website), and either mail it or drop it off at a nature center for interoffice delivery.
According to the end-of-the-year survey, most of the participants learn about the program on the park district’s website or at one of the nature centers. Email blasts introducing the program are also sent to park visitors who are interested in Cleveland Metroparks events, and Kids Club information is included in the park district’s newsletter. Facebook and other social media are also used to create interest in the club.
Once enrolled, members receive a weekly eNewsletter with updates and new activities, plus access to a club website. Members are encouraged to submit photos of themselves at any of the events that are then posted on the website. One page on the website is updated frequently to include puzzles relating to upcoming events. To help generate interest in the club and to update members, a Kids Club logo is placed next to qualifying programs in the park district’s monthly newsletter.
“Parents told me that the Kids Club motivated their kids to get out and see more of the park district and their programs,” says Dan Crandall, Manager of Visitor Services. “Parents also said [it] gave them an opportunity to spend quality time with their family. That was exactly what we wanted to hear.”
Sponsors And Partners
To help offset the program cost, several sponsors and partners are solicited. Sponsorship includes logo presence on the T-shirt, web page, birthday cards, on-site booth, and banners. Sponsors are also mentioned in press releases, Facebook posts, and on-site announcements. Sponsorships for the first year brought in $11,750, some in in-kind value.
Partners provide coupons and offers, such as free Lake County Captains (baseball) and Lake Erie Monsters (hockey) tickets, and receive logo recognition on the entry forms, eblasts, eNewsletters, on-site booths, and mention in press releases.
The first year of the program attracted 1,428 members. Of those, 185 were paid and 1,243 were at the free level. The end-of-the-year survey indicated people were reluctant to pay for the first year as they wanted to try out the new program. Due to the popularity of the club, many indicated they were willing to sign up for the paid membership the second year.
However, only 66.7 percent of the members surveyed felt the $20 registration fee was acceptable, so a reduced price of $10 for paid membership is contemplated for next year. A sibling discount (first sibling pays $10 and other siblings pay $7) is also under consideration. Though T-shirts are still included with the paid membership, T-shirts will also be available to members at any level for $7.
Improving For The Future
The end-of-the-year party was held at Cleveland Metroparks Chalet Recreation Area in the beginning of November, and approximately 80 children attended. Attendees receive complimentary food coupons, hayrides and haymazes, a DJ with dancing, a photobooth, crafts, and a scavenger hunt.
Planning the party was challenging, as attendance was difficult to predict. In a proactive approach to knowing how many children have completed their passport, an incentive to turn in completed passports ahead of time to receive a ticket to the party will be initiated.
“The first year of the Kids Club was an extreme success,” says Brian Zimmerman, Cleveland Metroparks Executive Director. “We received overwhelming positive comments that give us a great foundation to build on.”
Marjorie Thomas is a Cleveland Metroparks Senior Marketing Specialist. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org .