Jennifer Cirillo, CPRP
Assistant Director, Parks and Recreation, Palm Beach County
Jennifer Cirillo connects people to great parks as the Assistant Director of the Palm Beach County (FL) Parks and Recreation Department. Passionate about community building and service through leadership, she has been in public service for more than fourteen years and previously held leadership posts in both the non-profit and private sectors. In 2018, she was honored to represent the Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation team in Indianapolis, to accept the National Gold Medal for Parks and Recreation Management Excellence, the highest award achievable among the 8,000+ parks and recreation agencies in the country. She is currently serving as the Vice President of Finance on the Florida Recreation and Park Association Board.
Jennifer is a proud Certified Parks and Recreation Professional (CPRP). She holds a MBA with a specialization in Sports Administration from Lynn University, a B.S. in International Business from Florida Atlantic University, and an A.A. in Business Administration from Broward State College where she attended on a full basketball scholarship. She was blessed to be born within walking distance of Presque Isle State Park in Erie, PA sparking her passion for natural land stewardship at an early age. She is the mom of two teenagers, supports her local high school theatre department, and loves watching lacrosse, practicing photography and being outdoors.
Why do you want to serve FRPA as President-Elect?
It would be my honor to serve as your FRPA President Elect. Now more than ever, we must continue building our strategic pillar momentum in Health, Economics, Environment and Community Building while serving our membership’s needs. I have served as FRPA Community Building pillar team lead for three years and as VP of Finance for nearly two years. My term as VP of Finance will end this year and I’m ready to take on this new role to serve you.
What tools/resources do you utilize to stay on the cutting edge in the Parks, Recreation and Leisure profession, and where would you look to gain insight into what lies ahead as far as challenges and changes in the next five years?
The tools and resources I use to stay on the cutting edge in the Parks, Recreation and Leisure profession are our state and national associations, publications, social media outlets, and a network of professional peers in public, private and non-profit sectors. As a Certified Park and Recreation Professional through the National Recreation and Park Association, I seek out meaningful CEUs to keep current and bring great ideas back to our agency. I am consistently open to hearing from our team members and bringing ideas to brainstorm and evaluate with our team. I would look to gain insight into the challenges that lie ahead by conducting and environmental scan and SWOT analysis to identify our Association’s key issues going into the next five years. As we evaluate what our current strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats are in our state we can formulate a plan to not only stay on the cutting edge but also proactively deal with our threats and bolster our weaknesses through strategic alliances and attention. Being forward thinking takes work and is a fluid strategic process of research, ROI evaluation, and relationship building.
What do you believe to be the greatest opportunity for revenue growth at the Association?
Opportunity for revenue growth exists in further diversifying revenue streams. This will not only benefit the association’s bottom line but also make us more resilient in an economic downturn. Exploring alternative revenue streams (such as affinity programs, website sponsorships, and added value benefits to membership) and cost reduction measures (such as tax status changes and supplemental program evaluation) should be taken seriously. Of course, our membership growth has been strong the last few years so an incremental increase in the membership rate would yield a nice sum if necessary.
One of the greatest challenges facing FRPA is the delivery of innovative and applicable professional development opportunities. What approach would you employ towards identifying potential training opportunities and how would you determine their overall effectiveness in meeting the needs of the membership? What strategy would you utilize for the development and implementation of these development opportunities?
I believe the professional development opportunities must be timely, convenient and worthwhile to be well attended and received. I like the approach the education committee has taken lately of addressing shared concerns among small and large agencies. Also addressing practical skills all of us can use, such as the mental health training recently rolled out. Although I would recommend a director survey to glean information, I know those have not always yielded the best results. It seems different parts of the state have different methodologies that work best for that region and some additional strategic planning in this area may be in order. Perhaps one-day sessions work best in one location and online coursework works best elsewhere. It also seems different formats work best for different levels of the organization. A summer camp workshop, for example, may be best in a large format to accommodate a large number of front line staff, where a leadership program may be best in a small multiple-regional format. I think the real question is, does the membership feel like they are getting what they expect of the association’s delivery of professional development opportunities and have they been able to take it back and use it in their work? Do the people approving their membership value what is being provided? If yes, what do they like best? And if no, what would they like to see? More post-training surveying of attendees and the directors who sent them would also seem beneficial.
Once the expectations of the membership and decision-makers are established, goals with outcome metrics can be formulated beyond the output measures of attendance and revenue numbers. As an implementation initiative beyond what has already been tried, there may also be opportunities to collaborate with other statewide agencies and associations to offer training together and not in silos. Education partnerships to meet the needs of the membership could include the various Leadership Florida and Leadership fill in the city or county name here as well as FGFOA, APA and other organizations with membership education as part of their mission (and we may share staff with). We are often competing for the education time and dollar with other options and may need to be more selective in what is being offered.
The diversity of the FRPA membership base is extremely wide, based on geographic location, professional level, area of interest, and many other factors. What strategy(ies) would you utilize to effectively engage in dialogue with the membership? Additionally, how would you go about analyzing the various needs and desires into a manageable and realistic action plan for the Association?
As President Elect, I would utilize strategies to further open the Association’s communication to the diverse FRPA membership….after all one of our pillars is community building and we are all one big professional community. Although we all rely on e-mail so much these days, I would look for opportunities to engage in person with the membership as much as possible. To visit (or ask other board member representatives) to visit their local student members or to send them a personal note. (I love the holiday cards this year by the way). Initiatives like this go a long way toward relationship building. We should have some people in our association identified as “community connectors” (maybe our more social butterflies) that learn what the talents are everyone brings to the table and makes introductions. When I became a member of NACPRO, it was really nice to get a personal phone call from someone in Cleveland Metroparks just welcoming me to the fold. I would also consider we start a blog or vlog where we go around the state and interview members of our diverse FRPA community and post on the website or on our Instagram/Facebook Page….kind of like “Meet the Face of FRPA” with a little interview. This would demonstrate to people that they are not in a silo and alone but hey, look they talked to someone that I have something in common with…. We should embrace our diversity and celebrate it as much as possible. This is a strength of our association. As far as analyzing the needs and desires into a manageable action plan, in our membership satisfaction survey, we should look for common themes along the lines of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Is it one person with that need or many? Can we satisfy it quickly or does it require strategic evaluation? We then must determine what we can control. We must look at these desires and needs through a SMART goal-setting lens. Is it actionable? Not only strategic and measurable, actionable and realistic but can we accomplish it in the timeframe set forth. One of the challenges we face is also ensuring the initiatives we take are scalable to agencies large and small. Volunteer recruitment to accomplish the plan is also key. I have learned that many may step up and talk a good game but only some will do the heavy lifting. Establishing expectations for volunteers should be paramount (perhaps some common committee volunteer expectations) but so is making the work meaningful so they feel and know they are contributing to something greater – the greater FRPA community.