I don’t know about you, but I keep noticing that many camps are still using paper evaluation forms. It’s the 21st-century guys!
I don’t mean this in a snobby techy Silicon Valley way, but in a “you could be getting so much more from your summer camp evaluation forms if you went online” kind of way. A way that means an easier time getting your surveys out to the masses, getting more results in and then actually DOING something with your results to improve your camp, your staff, your programming and virtually any part of your business you ask about and then some.
Survey data can help improve your camp, your staff, your programming and virtually any part of your business you ask about and then some.
Feedback from parents is valuable!
Once you’ve sent out the survey and gathered all the data, it’s time to process it. Use the awesome reporting and data filter features your registration software SHOULD come with to look at these results.
Your data isn’t just for reporting on payments and a camper list broken down by counselor, bunk, etc. It’s also for evaluating your staff and what you’re offering your campers and their families (i.e. your paying customers!).
The data you get from your evaluations can give you almost any kind of statistic imaginable.
If you haven’t put together a parent evaluation, below are some questions you should be asking. Evaluations are a great way to learn more about the experiences of your campers (besides talking to them throughout their session, of course!).
Understanding what works and what isn’t working at camp will help you grow!
Ditch paper! Put evaluations online!
It’s tempting and seems easy to type up your questions, throw it on some camp letterhead and pass it out on the last day of camp. It also seems to make sense to put a form for parents to evaluate camp from their perspective with their final paperwork and have them fill it out on the last day as well or mail it back to you when it’s done.
This process is slow and pretty old school. It can also mean not getting feedback from everyone because the process to collect it all can be long. It relies on the parent’s to be proactive to send it back to you. This also takes work: email reminders, sending an expensive pre-stamped envelope hoping it is used, etc.
Go Online: Create a Survey and Email it Out!
Creating an evaluation form as part of your summer camp registration form and structure is a great way not only to get the great value of automated communication and a database to filter from, it also makes understanding your responses and getting them in the first place, much easier.
Sending out an email with the evaluation form link after camp and sending a reminder (automated of course, through your system) will ensure you get the most responses.
People will be more inclined to click on a link and answer some questions rather than finding a pen, taking the time to write out word responses and mail it in. You can also send the link a few times to capture as many people as you can!
Once everyone responds, having all the data right there at your fingertips to run stats and pick out problem areas is a breeze.
Using Surveys to Evaluate Staff
If you ask every applicant which counselor they had, you can filter and run a search for that counselor and the score each person gave them, or their answer to how they enjoyed camp overall. This data is helpful as well when conducting camp staff exit interviews.
You can then run a report to visualize and compare your staff to see which staff is eliciting the best (and worst!) experiences from your campers as a way to move forward with staffing, staff development, etc for next summer!
Sending the survey online makes the process go faster. Clicking and typing is faster than writing, mailing, etc. It can also be done on their phone as they are waiting for something. You will get more honest and complete evaluations when you make it easy to complete.
A quick tip: everyone is busy, parents especially! So make sure you are not taking up a lot of the reviewer’s time. If the survey takes more than 15-20 minutes to complete, consider scaling it back. A 5-minute survey is optimal.
This is a tried and true method of getting people to fill out forms, especially non-mandatory ones like an evaluation. You can offer whatever you think works best or makes sense for your community and your camp.
The obvious suggestion is a certain dollar amount off registration or their session fee for next session. $25 off is a nice round number, but obviously, this number should be tailored to your camp and to the pricing structure you have set up.
You can also have a code to wave the registration fee if that is something you charge, or a credit towards an extra paid activity you might offer, a meal, etc.
Keep in mind that offering a monetary incentive might not be the best for your camp. There are a lot of camp communities that the very fact that they are helping is incentive enough. But in order for that to work you need to make sure to share what you are going to change based on the feedback.
Types of Questions to Ask
The biggest thing to consider when crafting your camp evaluation form is what questions you should ask. Should they be text heavy meaning, you require a lot of written text from the respondent? Or should they be yes or no questions, multiple choice, scaled, etc?
Qualitative and Quantitative Questions
Ensure you ask a mixture of both question types.
Quantitative questions are great for statistics. For example, the number of people satisfied vs. not satisfied with camp, counselors, program options, etc.
Qualitative questions will give you more detailed feedback, which is just as helpful as those numbers.
Here’s an example on how to start off your evaluation with some quantitative evaluation questions:
I’d recommend starting out with questions that have a wide ‘scale’ for each answer. For example, if you’re asking about their opinion on their counselor, give the option of ranking between 1-10 as opposed to “Yes I liked him” or “No I didn’t”. With the wider scales, you will get more honest responses from everyone. It’s also a more simple task to check a rating than to write a text answer.
Another idea is to require additional comments only when the rating is below a 3 or above a 7 or they give a “Great or Terrible” answer, which is part of a conditional logic type form.
If someone gives a low ranking, have the next question be “Please explain why you had a bad experience so we can improve for next time!”. For yes and no questions, you can choose to ask a follow up question only if they answer ‘no’ or if they answer the least desired option (sometimes “yes” is the least desired, like if you ask “Do you think we can improve anything for next year”. In this case, a ‘yes’ answer would demand follow up).
For yes and no questions, you can choose to ask a follow up question only if they answer ‘no’ or if they answer the least desired option (sometimes “yes” is the least desired, like if you ask “Do you think we can improve anything for next year”. In this case, a ‘yes’ answer would demand follow up).
You can also start off with simple ‘Yes or No’ questions, then move to a scaled ranking (1-10 system) and then end with a few text questions. That way you break up the type of questions you’re asking and get a full spectrum of data to work with.
Regardless of the approach you take, make sure to ask the questions you care about the most right at the start. Many people will answer 5-10 questions, only a few will answer 20 questions.
Make sure that the system is saving the answers regardless of if they actually submit the form so that you do get the information from people that abandoned the process in the middle. Then you can decide if their opinion is important to you or not (by filtering them out from the results) but having autosave will at least give you that option!
If you’re sending the form online and through your registration system, the form should pre-populate their name and session. Otherwise, be sure to get as much detail as possible. Name, session, etc. If you want the forms to be anonymous, make sure you get the session details so you can connect commenters (particularly about staff or a certain event) with the comments to more effectively address them.
Some great questions to ask are below. In parentheses I added the suggested answers to supply.
- Was this your first session at Camp? (Yes or No)
- How was your registration experience? (Good, Great, So-So, Eh, Terrible)
- How would you rate your child’s experience? (1-10 scale)
- How does your child rate their experience?
- How was our staff? (Good, Great, So-So, Eh, Terrible)
- Do you feel like you got what you paid for? (Yes or No)
- Would you recommend our camp to other families? (Yes or No – here you can follow up with a place they can give names so the evaluation form also becomes a marketing tool)
- Please share more about your experience with us this summer, both positive and negative. (Text box)
- Anything else you want us to know? (Text box)
For questions with answers like ‘terrible’ as an option, consider having a text box open up offering them to elaborate. Do this any way you’d like depending on your goal. Maybe you care too, or instead of, to know about the great experiences not the bad ones, so ask follow up questions or for more details for questions you really want more than a rating or 1 word answer for.
Consider a mid-camp survey for campers.
At Regpack we have been doing mid-camp surveys for our thousands of camps for a while now. Recently I got “conformation” from the American Camp Association that it is a great idea in this article.
More than likely, this will look like a pen and paper evaluation (unless you’re a high tech camp in which case you can use the same format as your post camp survey online as you do for this mid camp survey for easier stats and data evaluation on your end).
I thought this idea was worth mentioning here as part of the umbrella idea of getting feedback for how your camp is doing.
This article suggests that mid camp surveys can not only…
“…identify and address problems while camp is in session, we have found another benefit to our mid-session evaluation process. Since most of the evaluations are overwhelmingly positive, we have immediate feedback directly from campers to pass along to counselors. They appreciate hearing that their campers are having fun and learning what campers enjoy most about camp. Feedback directly from campers is a powerful tool in staff development that we have found far more effective than the old model”.
No matter what you do for your camp evaluations – paper or online – you MUST be doing them!
Every camp needs some sort of barometer to measure the successes and failures of the summer so they can move on and improve for next time.
I haven’t met a camp that doesn’t have some sort of evaluation process, but I hope this post has brought to light a different, more efficient and effective way to evaluating your camp from the eyes of campers and their parents as a way to improve and enrich your own experience and how and what you offer your campers.
You are in the camp business obviously because you love working with kids, providing enriching and quality experiences for them and having a great time yourself! Make sure you make the most of this passion by making your camp the best it can be for YOUR campers 🙂
The options are really endless when you ask the right questions and filter them intelligently so you can get the biggest benefit from your summer camp evaluation forms.