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Six Steps to Playground Success
By: Lynn Pinoniemi

In an effort to help churches get their playground projects off to a strong start, here are the key steps that have led many communities to success.
Step One – Form a Committee
A successful playground project at your church will need the support of everyone, including the congregation, children, and church administrators.

The best way to ensure that you will get the help and input you need is to form a committee that represents your church. This will give you a broad base of support and the expertise you will need when promoting, funding, designing, and constructing your playground.

Who should be on the committee? The ideal size is between four and eight people. For church projects, there should be a balance of parent volunteers and church staff. If you have an on-site daycare center that will use the playground, be sure to get them involved, too. 

In addition, the individuals who will maintain the playground should also have a voice in how it is designed and installed. The structure of your playground committee will change as the needs of the project evolve.

People involved in fundraising will be very busy during the early stages. Conversely, those involved in construction management may not become heavily active until the project nears installation. Above all, the project will require a strong leader to guide it from start to finish.
Step Two – Interview and Select a Playground Company
Your committee should interview and select a playground company very early in the process. Many groups feel they cannot begin contacting playground companies until a good portion of the money is raised, and that is not true.

In fact, fundraising is very difficult without playground designs and budgets to show your supporters. So, make your selection early in the process.

Collect catalogs from several companies and select one or two representatives to meet with. Allow each company at least one hour to present their philosophy and products to you.

You can then make an informed decision based on their experience, product quality, and references. These references should play a key role in your selection because past success is a great predictor of the future.

Step Three – The Power of a Plan
How should the playground design process begin? Some groups scour the catalog and ask the playground company to come up with a design that includes all the items on their "wish list."  However, this will not result in a good design.

Creating a great playground requires knowledge of your site, your needs, your budget, and your children. Visit several playgrounds built by the manufacturer you have selected; jump on them, play on them, and see how individual play events function.

Take kids along, too. Their energy and insight will always help you design a better playground, and, when the time comes for fundraising, their enthusiasm and sense of ownership will be invaluable.

Provided with your informed perspectives, your playground supplier can now design a great playground that will encourage continuous play, include properly integrated components, and be fun, challenging, and safe.

Step Four – Putting the Plan to Work
Getting the plan on paper will invigorate your committee and give you a solid budget with which to work. This plan will also include drawings that you can use to get approvals from the city and ensure that your playground will be compliant with all safety codes and any Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements.

Best of all, you will now be able to put the 3D playground drawings in your fundraising brochure and on posters that say, "This is what your contributions will help us build!"

When it comes to fundraising, more help is definitely better. Employ all of the children and their parents in your fundraising activity.

Most playground equipment companies know what works well in raising funds and what doesn't. Ask your representatives for tips, program ideas, and beautiful pictures and graphics. After that, it's really up to the committee to make fundraising a success.

Step Five – Pre-Construction Planning
Once you have nearly completed your fundraising efforts, bring your representative back in to discuss the construction process so you can decide which installation method is right for your church: contract installation by professional installers or a community build.

There are pros and cons to each method, but one fact is very important to remember—professional installation will typically require 20 to 30 percent of your total budget.

Thus, if you have many enthusiastic adult volunteers with time and expertise to lend to your project, a community build might be the way to go.

Step Six – Caring for Your Playground
The work is not completely finished once your playground has been installed. At least one person will need to maintain the playground's safety surfacing and conduct periodic walkthroughs to check for damaged components and pick up any debris that has found its way onto the site.

For more information about Landscape Structures playground equipment, please visit www.playlsi.com.

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