Managing Support

Earning support takes a lot of work and, once you earn it, doesn’t mean that it will last forever. Anyone that supports the skatepark project has expectations about how the park effort will be conducted and how the park will turn out. Significantly changing your vision for the park can disrupt existing support.

Be prepared for criticism. People that have done nothing to help may feel comfortable critiquing the project’s pace or direction. For many advocates this criticism can feel undeserved and lead to resentment. There are people out there that will always have something negative to say about the skatepark project, and a lot of these people are skaters themselves. Do your best to not let this get in your head or disrupt your effort.

Unintentional detours happen a lot during skatepark projects. For example, when the project is new you might be using pictures of skateparks you’ve found online as examples of the type of park you’re aiming for. The local skateboarding community gets excited and you start getting some support and volunteers. Later, you realize that the example skatepark you’ve been showing is more expensive than you’re prepared to raise. A new concept drawing is produced that lacks some of the features in the first drawing. People may respond negatively to the new design, as if you were personally responsible for conducting a “bait and switch.”

The more support you have, the more momentum your project will get. You may want to think carefully about timing your community support efforts so that they coincide with external considerations. Perhaps your City Council is going to be evaluating the Parks budget and is seeking public input. This would be a great event to plan a series of support campaigns around. Remaining engaged in community events — always seeking opportunities to get the skatepark advocacy group involved — is a fantastic way of gathering new support an reinforcing the support that you have. Having lots of supporters is good, but having lots of supporters with some way to actually show their support is much better.

Your supporters expect you to tell them what’s going on. Not providing updates can create an impression that nothing is happening — and maybe you’re waiting for a few important meetings or decisions, and that may seem too uneventful to send out an update, but that update is almost as important as what it says. Your supporters want to know that you and your group is still active and paying attention.

Here are some ideas to add bulk to your newsletter:

  • Pictures of other skateparks with commentary
    • Quotes from local skaters
    • Newspaper articles about skateparks from other communities
    • Glossary of skateboarding terms or skateboarding trivia
    • Health and economic statistics around park space and physical activity

Even an update that says, “we’re still waiting for…” or “we’re preparing for a meeting next month…” will be better than nothing. If you send nothing, your supporters will drift away.