Program planning and administration

The successful development and implementation of any program depends on careful planning that integrates the needs of the agency and its partners with the needs of participants. Clarifying the needs and interests of each of these groups is critical for programs to be successful.

In many cases, agencies start with an idea, develop a program and then promote it to potential participants. While it's not impossible for this process to result in successful programs, there is a vast body of knowledge from marketing disciplines that show it is usually more effective to start with the audience -- not with the program. Find out what your specific target audience wants/needs and then develop a program to meet those needs. This might make program planning a little more difficult, but will greatly improve the likelihood that the program meets the needs of its participants and achieves its objectives.

See Assessing participant needs section for ideas on how to identify and communicate with potential participants. Informal discussions and interest assessments will provide ideas on the needs of potential audiences.

Considering participant needs early in program planning will help formulate the program objectives and outcomesClearly defining program objectives and outcomes early in the planning stages is critical in order to measure program success.

To help with this, spend a little time with the Outdoor Recreation Adoption Model, which can help you understand where your program fits in moving participants from interested observers to life-long hunters/anglers.

Other important elements that are often overlooked in planning hunting and fishing recruitment activities include:

  • Incorporating “social support” activities into the program. Research shows that if your participants don't have social support for continuing their hunting/fishing activities after your program, you are probably wasting your time. Planning for social support should start as early as possible so that a well-established system is in place before the program ends.
  • Incorporating “next steps” into the program so participants know what they can do to obtain additional knowledge and skills, or other needed support, after they complete the program. Understanding where and how your program fits into the Outdoor Recreation Adoption Model, as well as understanding participant needs will help create a suite of effective “next steps.”
  • Add evaluation opportunities. Programs should purposefully design opportunities to solicit participant feedback at specific times during the program. This will help ensure that you are meeting the needs of your participants and will allow your program to make adjustments along the way. See the Incorporating participant feedback section for additional information on surveys and evaluations.     

Obviously, planning includes identifying and arranging for the myriad logistical items necessary to successfully host activities. This list includes finding a suitable location for activities, finding instructors, arranging for the necessary equipment and supplies, etc. State agencies and many of their partners have extensive experience with the implementation side of planning, so these aspects will not be covered in detail in this module.

Additional ideas regarding program planning can be found at the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundations’s Best Practices in Boating, Fishing, and Aquatic Resources Stewardship Education Workbook.


Enhancing Fishing Education Programs - Best Practices Fishing Workbook

Fishing is a wonderful, wholesome, almost magical activity that offers so much to individuals, the resource, and society as a whole. Families and friends who fish together develop special bonds and have quality time together. Fishing can provide people with an awareness and appreciation of the need to protect and conserve our natural resources.

The decline in fishing participation is a missed opportunity for people to share these benefits.

Enhancing Boating Education Programs - Best Practices Fishing Workbook

Most boater education programs differ from other programs discussed in this Workbook because their emphasis is on safety. Certainly, all education programs must consider safety, as was discussed in Chapter 2. But regardless of whether a boating course is called boating safety or boating basics (canoe, kayak, sail, or power boat), most boater education programs have safety as their primary focus.

More than 8,000 boaters lost their lives during the 1990s. Nearly 80 percent of all boating fatalities occurred on boats where the operator had no formal boating instruction.

Expanding Your Reach: Diverse Audiences - Best Practices Fishing Workbook

Substantial segments of the population encounter barriers and constraints to participation in boating and fishing, which impact the number of individuals who become stewards of the resource. Research indicates that, compared to the majority of the population, racial and ethnic minority groups are less likely to participate in many forms of natural resourcebased recreation activities and are especially less likely to participate in water-based recreation. And only 26 percent of anglers are female.

Plan Ahead for Success - Best Practices Workbook For Boating, Fishing, and Aquatic Resources Stewardship Education

If you are planning to implement an education program in boating, fishing, or aquatic resources stewardship, or if you are expanding or enhancing an existing program, this chapter will provide ideas for making the most of this opportunity.The things you do before you contact a single participant literally can be the difference between a program that is effective, engaging, and exciting, and a program that perhaps makes you feel good, but does not achieve its objectives.The time you spend planning will greatly increase your success.