With another summer finished (and hopefully debriefed and organized), it’s time to start planning for next year. Hopefully your camp has collected feedback throughout the summer, and you have some idea of what areas are strengths and what areas need improvement. Now it's time to figure out what you’re going to do next.
While observed and written feedback are important parts of data collection, conversations with stakeholders allow you to ask follow-up questions, talk about “what ifs” and engage people in a different way. Focus groups can open these conversations with multiple stakeholders at once, saving you time and allowing you to get different perspectives.
What Are Focus Groups?
A focus group is usually a relatively small group of people brought together to answer moderated questions. Focus groups are a type of research method that are usually fairly affordable and easy to set up.
What Do Focus Groups Look Like at Camp?
There are many different ways you can use focus groups at camp. You may want to put them together to debrief the summer, talk through a specific issue you’ve noticed, provide opinions for a master or strategic plan, discuss new programs you’re considering or any other number of reasons.
Depending on the type of information you’re hoping to collect, you may consider segmenting your stakeholders into certain groups, such as campers, caregivers, staff, alumni and community members. This isn’t a requirement but can help when you’re still talking broadly about big ideas (like master and strategic plans). Segmentation allows you to understand the wants and needs of different groups; as you move into more concentrated conversations, you may want to mix stakeholders together.
When you’re inviting people to be part of your focus groups, be sure to consider all the populations you serve. Ensure each population has adequate representation and prepare moderators to minimize power imbalances when they occur. Here are some tips to ensure all voices are heard.
How Are Focus Groups Beneficial?
They Show You Care
So often our camp community members fill out end-of-summer or end-of-session surveys and don’t hear from us again. They don’t know that we’re really taking that feedback and using it to guide our decisions. Often, by the time the next summer rolls around, they’ve totally forgotten the feedback they’ve given.
Focus groups show that you are committed to making improvements and are actively taking steps to make change. Don’t just share your focus groups with those participating—share them on your social media, in email blasts or on other platforms you use to disseminate information to your community to help show everyone your commitment to progress.
They Let You Dream Together
With their conversational nature, focus groups are great for brainstorming, testing new ideas, imagining what things could be and making things bigger and better. Moderators can continue to ask follow-up questions, and group members can add to eachothers’ thoughts. Especially when you’re master or strategic planning or solving a difficult problem, this is an invaluable benefit.
They Give You the Perspective You’re Probably Missing
Again, sure, you probably have a survey for caregivers, campers and staff, but we all know that keeping surveys short is a requirement to get responses. There are most likely questions you still want answered, and there is also likely more information that your community wants to share. People can’t steer the conversation on a survey (well, most of the time), but they can steer the conversation of a focus group (if the moderator allows). You’ll get perspective you may not have had previously, and you’ll have a better understanding of what your stakeholders want and need.
They Give You Language
So often when we communicate to our stakeholders or when we’re marketing, we use language that we think a) pinpoints the most important/impactful parts of our program and b) has the broadest appeal. But sometimes we’re wrong. We can often get so excited about different projects or different aspects of what we do that we focus on those when stakeholders don’t always value the same things. Focus groups can help us home in on what stakeholders find the most valuable and help us talk about those things with the right language.
ACTIVE Network Is Here to Help
ACTIVEWorks Camp & Class Manager is for more than summer camp. It has tools for marketing, registration, payment, analytic reporting and so much more. We are dedicated to finding faster and easier ways for you to run your sessions. With our team of specialists, we are sure to find the perfect fit for you and your organization. Schedule a demo today and start getting your time back.