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