The results of the member survey are in. We sent the invitation to 126 members and seventy-two responded. Thank you to those folks that participated, the feedback you provided gives the club valuable information that we can use to improve the club. The numbers noted in the report below are based on the responses provided in the survey. The numbers reflect the facts/opinions of members who complete the survey, and there is sure to be a degree of correlation between their opinions and those that didn’t complete the survey; of course, there are always outliers and this report does not reflect their opinions.
When looking at member retention, we noted that 29% of respondents joined this year, 43% joined 1-3 years ago; 17% joined four or more years ago; and 7% joined more than 10 years ago.
We had improvements in almost every field this year – save for members that joined this year (this number may be skewed because more members renewed). This data reflects the growth in new membership and a better retention this year over the previous year, but also illustrates that we have more work to do to retain members. Some possible causes for this will be outlined in the subsequent data.
Overall trip participation went up this year. This is likely a reflection of the increased number of trips offered. Twenty-six members volunteer their time and offered 125 hiking trips, 34 days of climbing, workshops and courses. Combined, this created more than 210 days of activities. Thank you to the 26 members that volunteered to lead a trip.
60% of members participated in 4 or fewer trips in 2018 (down 4), and 39% participated in five or more trips (up 4). 22% participated in none (down 12); while 10% participated in more than twenty trips (no change).
While it’s great that some members are participating in twenty or more trips, we have a lot of work to do on the other end of the spectrum. Many cofactors play into these numbers: cancellations, full trips, and types of trips available. Some of those factors are examined in the upcoming questions.
Overall, it important that the club makes a better effort to connect with new members in the early months of their membership, to get them connected and involved with the club. This connection will help ameliorate member attrition and over time result in a positive impact on the development of leadership, and that could lead to more trips /opportunities for connection.
Unable to join trips because they were full:
24% (down 7) of respondents were denied participation on trips because trips were full. Leaders control participation numbers and so this may indicate either high demand for certain trips, or a lack of trips of that type/style. The overall decrease is likely due to the increased trip offerings. However, for those members that were denied permission to join more than one trip, it must be very frustrating.
It’s difficult to identify any one strategy that will help reduce this number. An obvious solution might be to offer more trips; but this year several trips cancelled due to lack of interest. Another option to consider is the use of co-leaders, to develop more leaders that can lead more trips and, so, when a trip is full, it’s possible that the group could be split and led by a coleader by utilizing a staggered start. This was a suggestion from last year but, in general, there is a lack of interest in taking on the responsibility of leading, and this strategy was only used once this year.
18% (down 6) of respondents indicated that they were part of a trip that was cancelled. In some ways, this is a silly question because there are many factors that lead to cancelled trip. However, it offers some insight into the overall club rating offered by members.
This year we changed the wording for this question and included an option that allowed members to choose both day trips and multiday trips as an option. This question gets to the heart of the type of trips that individual members most want to do and offers data that allows interpretation of answers in other questions.
22% of people are only interested in day-trips, 7% are only interested in multiday coastal trips and 6% in only multiday mountain, and a whopping 65% are open to everything.
It’s useful to know what types of trips people are most interested in, as it helps us understand why some members may not be participating in more trips. Although we offered a good diversity of mountain/coastal trips, these numbers are more meaningful when we compare them with the trip difficulty people are comfortable doing (more on that later).
The 2019 schedule already has a selection of multiday coastal and mountain trip,s so it will be important to find volunteers to lead a variety of daytrips to round out the schedule. It also illustrates the need for the club to invest in leadership development to meet the needs of the membership.
Last year, I hosted more than 25 A/B trips. The intent was to lead a good number of easy trips to satisfy member interest, promote member retention through participation, and to model trip leading. The results of that effort won’t be known until we see who renews, and how many –if any—members that have never led volunteer to lead one trip. Sadly, several of those trips had just two participants and I had to cancel two because only one other person was interested in joining.
Over the long term, we need to develop a leadership training program and recruit from outside the club to find new members that are interested in leading. In the past three years the club has seen rapid growth and our numbers are getting close to our historic high. The best news I can see is that although we need more leaders and more trips, there are members who are stepping up and doing a great job! Six years ago, there were only four leaders and, last year, we had more than twenty-five! That’s something to celebrate because it shows that we are improving, and over time it will improve.
I’ve often said that there are two ways to build a schedule: one person can lead fifty-two trips; or, fifty-two members can lead one trip. They each result in a full schedule but one creates undue strain and leads to volunteer burnout.
If you know a trail well and feel like you could lead five members on a loop around Heart Lake, Camus Ridge, Kinsol Trestle, or anywhere really, give leading a shot! I’m here to help. I’ll sit with you and help you create your trip plan.
Types of Trips:
This question asked members to select the level of challenge (how many hours and how much elevation gain they prefer when participating in trips. The letters denote the general toughness of a trip, how many hours and the amount of elevation gain throughout the day. It has nothing to with the type of terrain or skill needed for the trip.
1% (down 6) selected A; 36% (down 8) selected B; 44% (up 11) selected C; and 17% (up 3) selected all of them. These numbers allow us to analyze our 2018 calendar and compare to see if we are meeting member’s needs, and helps inform the coming year for the types of trips we hope volunteers will lead. In 2018 there was a trend for members wanting longer trips with more elevation, as compared to 2017.
One interesting note: when we compare member interests to the request trips for 2019, there are almost no B trips, no A trips, a lot of C trips and a variety of D trips.
In 2018 we had 17 A trips (up 15), around 57 B trips (up 27), and 41 C/D trips (up 6). In counting the trips, I didn’t include climbing days or club social events. When comparing these numbers with the types of trips people like most, we oversubscribed A & B trips and undersupplied C/D trips, however, these trips were often hosted on the same weekend and it created a well-rounded schedule with lots of options.
The open-ended questions informed us that some members want trips that are in or closer to Nanaimo, but haven’t indicated what their outer limit is for driving. I created this heatmap to help people identify approximate driving from Nanaimo for the variety of hiking locations. If you examine it, you can see that almost all the objectives require more than an hour of driving to reach the start of the route. In fact, most will take more than 2 hours of driving each direction. Even many of the peaks in the Alberni-Clayoquot district, which at least mentally seems near, take between 2 and 4 hours to get to.
This map only features peaks over 4000 ft (1219m) and peaks in Island Alpine (Stone 2002), therefore, is doesn’t have any of the popular lower elevation objectives like Prevost, Tzouhalem, or Maple Mountain. If you have a GPX or KML file with these lower elevation objectives, I can add those to the map too. More than half of all last year’s trips required more than 2 hours of driving each direction, and more than 90% of all trips required a minimum of ninety minutes of driving each direction. Please consider hosting a trip to Mount Benson, as this peak is in the sweet spot for driving times.
I’ll also note that there were several comments about people wanting more trips at a beginner level and intermediate level. These phrases are somewhat subjective, I’m not sure if these ratings have to do with time/elevation or terrain type.
Club sponsored education events
This question is important because these courses are essential to developing leadership and attachment to the club. 32% (up 5) of the respondents participated in a club sponsored education event. It’s good to see members are engaging with our education opportunities but there is a lot of room for improvement. We may not have offered the right types of courses or offered them at the right time. In 2019, the club will send out a survey to query the membership on which education opportunities they are most interested in and when they should be hosted.
To develop leadership, the members need more skills and experience and, so, in the coming year, we need to host more volunteer-led workshops like Trip Planning, GPS Data Management, packing light for multiday trips, and intro to general mountaineering courses (self-arrest and crampon use). Further to this, we should continue to offer discounts for courses taught by professional groups like Island Alpine Guides or MB Guiding for courses like Wilderness Navigation and GPS Navigation, intro to rock, crevasse rescue, etc. Although we have some of these courses on the schedule already, we need more and, thusly, need members that are willing to teach these courses for other members.
We asked members to rate their overall experience out of ten. We earned an 8.53 (up 0.58) The range reached the full spectrum, lows of 1 and highs of 10. By examining the individual answers, it’s difficult to make any sweeping statements; some members that participated in 1 trip offered a rating of 8 and even some a ten, but some members who participated in more than 20 trips offered a 6. These ratings are not entirely based on trip participation, but rather overall satisfaction. It’s good to see that we improved over the previous year. Yet, it’s disappointing to know that we really didn’t meet the needs of some members, and that’s something to work on.
What can we do that will improve your experience in the club for 2019?
This open-ended question allowed respondents to provide feedback about their experiences in the club, and offer suggestions for club improvement. We received many positive comments, some critical, and several suggestions for improving the club.
For those folks that wrote positive comments, thank you. By comparing the complimentary comments to the previous nine questions it’s clear that we are doing well at hosting and promoting multiday trips and longer day trips. Since the question was based on club improvement, there were many comments to that end.
As expected the comments were wide-ranging and, to make them more meaningful, I’ve grouped them together into a variety of categories to make them easier to parse: Education/Skill Building, Schedule and Trip Leading.
As outdoor enthusiasts, many members are committed to developing the skills that allow them to safely travel in terrain. In past years the club has hosted different types of skill-developing workshops to help the members develop their own skill set. However, in our increasingly litigious world, a world that has created a certification for everything, there are limits to what we will offer.
The 2019 schedule already has a variety of workshops scheduled: Garmin Basecamp for track management, Packing for Backpacking, Rappel Workshops, and beginner snowshoeing events. Most other skills like using crampons and self-arrest are skills that have been offered in the past and they could be offered again; providing a member is keen to host the event. Otherwise, these skills are easy to learn while in terrain; though not all trips are suitable for learning these skills.
But when it comes to learning skills like glacier crossing and roped traversing, these skills –notwithstanding the fact that many argue against the use of roped-up travel–require advanced knowledge of crevasse rescue and best taught by certified professionals. Fortunately, there is some relief offered by the club. These types of courses qualify for our education rebate program and, as a club member, you qualify for a 10% discount from Island Alpine Guides.
Scheduling and Trip Leading
This is the most challenging section of the survey to address because the leaders are volunteers and, traditionally, they lead the trips they are interested in hiking themselves. Although we have a trip planning meeting and there are efforts to fulfill the member wishes, the reality is that there will be many trips that won’t be possible because leaders are not interested (or sometimes unable to) lead trips to some of the destinations.
In 2018, there were multiple requests for more easy/beginner or family trips. We hosted many extra trips in this category, though they were often not well-attended. Regardless of attendance, these trips are essential for the health of the club because these introductory trips foster attachment to the club and help members develop their skills (which should be reinforced by leaders). Further, these types of trips are perfect for first-time leaders who are looking to give back to the club and hone their leadership skills. Additionally, these are the best trips for learning to lead. Fortunately, there are long-time members who have expressed interest in mentoring beginning leaders (contact me for more information).
Another area of demand is intermediate hikes (without climbing). Our trip rating system doesn’t use this nomenclature so I can’t ascertain what constitutes an intermediate hike. Our Trip Rating System offers insight into the terrain type, including which has climbing and which don’t and perhaps that can help clarify what someone might call a beginner, intermediate or advanced trip. When I examined the 2018 schedule, I found very few climbing trips (rated four or higher); more than 95% of our trips are rated three or easier (hiking).
One area of confusion may be the periodic use of the work beginner or intermediate in the title of a trip. This may create the notion that anything not labelled beginner or intermediate is therefore advanced—and that’s not the case. My recommendation is that we stop this practice because it’s creating confusion around what the nature of trips is. Instead, we should include those words only in the description of the trip.
From several comments, it’s possible to infer that the club is not communicating well. A few respondents requested international trips and trips “farther afield” (the mainland?). In the past three years, there have been several options for trips off the island –including trips that were requested for 2019. Unfortunately, these past trips were effectively cancelled because no members signed up for them. Trying to understand why only leads to speculation: leaders offered the wrong trips, at the wrong time of year, or we didn’t communicate about the trips well enough. In 2019, I will do more to promote the international and trips farther afield. Currently, I send out information in four different ways: Facebook, our website/schedule, newsletter and direct mailing. If you have a recommendation on a better way to communicate about our schedule please connect with me and I will start using that system too. For those individuals that selected trips that are difficult to schedule, I’ll connect you each through email so you can form your own groups and trips. In doing so you can choose the date of your choice.
Lastly, there were a few requests for the club to start using Meetup.com to manage the club events. Some reasons offered for the use of that system is transparency in joining trips, and a place to post photos, etc. On at least two occasions the executive has reviewed this system by communicating with clubs who use this system and had conversations with our leaders.
Our leaders indicated that they want to have direct contact with individuals trying to join trips. When we talked with other clubs that use the system, they have numerous complaints about members indicating that they were attending a trip (taking a spot on the trip) and then not showing up; or cancelling the day before the trip, leaving the leader struggling to communicate important information with replacement hikers at the last minute. One final consideration is the time involved with setting up and managing the system. The club is struggling to fill several volunteer roles as it is, and no one has stepped up to volunteer to manage the system. It’s a topic worth exploring again, but it’s one that will have to wait for someone that is interested in doing the legwork to research, set up, implement and manage the project.
A number of respondents commented on the need for more trip leaders and calls for developing leadership within the club. This is made clear by the comments about the a lack of A and B hikes on the schedule. It’s a clear request for more local day trips, within one hour drive to be hosted by more trip leaders.
Lastly, there was a request for trips to have co-leaders that could turn around with members if the going gets tough. On any trip, any member can turn around at any time providing that one other member is willing to turn around. If you are ever on a trip and you are not up to the challenge, be sure to communicate with the others on the trip. Leaders should frequently check in with participants. In many cases, leaders may be very familiar with their participants and forget that newer members may not be as comfortable. For example, I’ve done more than two hundred days of trips with Phil and Rick, often we aren’t checking in with each other because we know what each is capable of and can read each others body language; that’s not always the case when others join our trips. Be sanative.
I learned a few things from this survey and will be sure to adapt next year’s survey in response. We don’t have a clear indication of how many trips members feel is an ideal number for them to participate in. I know that some members participated in more than twenty-five and wish they could have joined more; while some folks joined five and are Satisfied.
Even though we had more than 25 A/B trips on the schedule, it’s clearly not enough –we need more! I noted earlier that I won’t be able to lead as many A/B trips this year, nor will I be able to lead five multi day trips in the upcoming summer (like I did in 2018). My children are getting older and, as such, family obligations are becoming more numerous. Further, my intent in leading those trips was to lead by example to give people exposure to a variety of different trips and model how trips may be led. It’s time to see if the plan worked.
By my estimation the club needs at least fifteen more leaders, over and above the twenty-eight that led in 2018. By distributing the leading across more members, it will improve the health of the club by offering a greater range of diversity in both trip types and leading styles.
So in 2019, what am I going to do I do instead of leading fifty days of trips? I have planned a variety of workshops designed to teach members skills which could transfer into leadership skills. Although I won’t be leading as many Saturday A/B trips this year, I will help you plan any trip that you want to lead. I am willing to use my weekday evenings to come and sit with you.
If you have picked a trip you want to do with the club, I will help you research trip reports, help plan your route, offer advice on GPS routes or maps, and guide you through the process of posting the trip, communicating with participants, and helping you plan logistics around tides, transportation, and park fees.
2019 is my last year as president and the club is still looking for someone to take over the role, but it’s not the only area of need.
Here is a list of current roles we still have need of:
Benson Project Manager, New Member Coordinator, Website Administrator, Education Coordinator, Loyalty Coordinator, Leadership Development Coordinator
And in 2019 we will need a President and a Vice President and possibly a Treasurer. If you any interested in any of these roles, please contact me now for more information. It would be great to have any candidates attend executive meetings (2 a year) and be party to executive discussions through email, before they take on the role in 2020.
Let’s set the intention to develop the Island Mountain Ramblers’ sixty-first annual schedule to be the busiest yet.