The 2021 Technology Crash Course for Community Centers

Today’s article explores the topic of digital transitions for community centers. As social, cultural, and recreational cornerstones for the public, Joseph Oriente, founder of CommunityPass, shares his recommendations to help community centers take advantage of the tech landscape. 

 

In the past year, we’ve seen more organizations, nonprofits, and businesses than ever take the leap to digitize their processes. With a global pandemic pausing in-person gatherings and work-from-home becoming the norm, the use of technology has become a non-negotiable for many, including community centers. If you work for one, you may already be familiar with tech-supported tools such as registration or organizational pages, yet the need for a more robust and comprehensive transition is greater than ever. In this post, we highlight key reasons why a  community or recreation management solution is the  best next step for your organization. We’ll cover: 

  1. Digitizing Your Community Center: Is It Worth It?

  2. How Your Community Center Can Best Use Recreation Management Software

  3. What Technology Features You Should Look For

 

Digitizing Your Community Center: Is It Worth It?

In the past, you likely managed your community programming with simple email lists and physical registration forms. With time, however, membership grows and the programs you offer have likely expanded, meaning that it takes more than a filing cabinet to keep everything organized.With cloud technology and management software platforms, staff members can spend less time flipping through pages searching for one piece of information and focus instead on improving community programming. 

Finding the right management solution for your community center offers many benefits, such as:

  • Efficiency: staff can spend less time on day-to-day, recurring tasks.

  • Accuracy: less trips to the bank to make deposits, less cash being exchanged by hand, and an integrated payment process means less room for human error.

  • Accessibility: access to real-time data, such as  program, member, and/or facility data, can be accessed from any device, 24/7.

  • Convenience: community members can register and pay for programs and membershipst anytime from any device. 

 

Digitizing your community center also supports a socially distant and safe environment. While this may be particularly relevant during the current pandemic, having the option to engage remotely and minimize face-to-face interactions can be beneficial in the long-term as well. Advantages such as online registration and payments to contactless facility entry with scannable ID cards can enhance both your safety and programming in the future. What’s more, with remote work still underway, staff can still easily update necessary processes and facilitate engagements with the right tech tools. In short, a digital management solution isn’t just beneficial now, but can help employees who may not be able to make it into the office in the future. 

 

How Your Community Center Can Best Use Recreation Management Software

The benefits of modernizing an organization seem pretty great, but how does this look in practice?

As we mentioned earlier, you’ll likely be using some sort of community or recreation center management system. Defined in this article, “Center management software is designed to facilitate the complex needs of all types of centers from community and senior centers to recreation and aquatic centers.”

Your recreation management software is essentially the centralized hub for all of your activities, memberships, and facilities. This hub can include, but is not limited to: facility rentals and reservations, cultural program calendars, before and afterschool program schedules, camp registrations, youth sports teams sign-ups, pool memberships and swim lessons, and much more. In particular, with recreation management software, your community center’s staff members can:

  • Efficiently sell and renew memberships online from your centralized management system;

  • Provide a safe and efficient contactless check-in and check-out system for members;

  • Regulate capacity in your programs and facilities;

  • Manage attendance and rosters from a digital tablet;

  • Produce reports to uncover key insights that can increase revenue and improve the membership experience;Increase community participation.

 

 For your community members, a dedicated recreation management software provides advantages such as:

  • A reliable way to connect with programs and staff;

  • A wide variety of exciting and enriching programs and events;

  • The convenience of registering for events, paying for dues, renewing memberships and more all online.

You can’t have successful community center programming without happy community members. Make their lives easier and offer them activities and events they’re genuinely interested in with the right software solution.

 

Technology Features You Should Look For

In order to use your recreation center software to its fullest potential, your system will need to have specific features and capabilities. Taking insight from CommunityPass, experts in recreation management software, here are the essential features your technology should have:

  • A 100% cloud-based system to allow staff members to access all the essential programming and member data in real-time from wherever they are;

  • Online registration and program catalogue so that members can easily browse programs and sign up and pay whenever it’s convenient for them;

  • Integrated payment processing with PCI compliance to safely and securely process all online payments for activity sign-ups, membership dues, and facility rentals;

  • An administrative financial dashboard so that all payment information and statements are at your fingertips;

  • Advanced membership management capabilities, with each community member getting an ID card. Membership ID cards with photos and barcodes are crucial if you want to offer contactless and digital facility check-in/outs. You can even provide a self-service check-in kiosk!

  • Facility reservations and rentals to help prevent double-bookings and keeps data organized and in one place. For rentals, members/patrons can even request a rental online. Staff can approve the rental request online and facilitate payment as well;

  • Integrated communication and marketing so that you can send program announcements, event registration dates, and dues payment reminders. You should also have the ability to quickly message all relevant members if a program has to be canceled or a facility is closing suddenly;

  • Comprehensive reporting, both customized and pre-built report templates. You can create reports that cater to your needs, whether it’s for financial data, onsite engagement, or program rosters;

  • Front desk point-of-sale capability to sell admissions, drop-ins, concessions, and merchandise, and more in-person; 

  • Instructor management so that any program leaders or instructors can manage their rosters, take attendance, and easily message their participants; 

  • Program and customer management so that administrative staff can easily set up or edit a program from one centralized system. This platform is also where you can view all customer accounts, edit capacity management, and view waitlists.


While your community center’s needs will likely vary depending on your offerings and your members’ interests, the features above are the essentials that you shouldn’t miss out on. If there’s one thing that 2020 has taught us, is that we need to quickly adapt to any changes that may arise, so it’s good to invest in a platform that can grow as your community does and sticks with your organization for the long haul.

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