3 Tips for Evaluating Your YMCA’s Recreation Program

As your YMCA grows, you’ll begin serving more groups in your broader community, including youths, adults, and senior citizens. One of the most popular ways to do this is to provide well-designed recreation programs that make a positive impact on your community. However, you also want to be sure that your programs provide value to all the groups you serve.

If this is the first time you’re sitting down to make choices that will improve your programs, you might not know where to start. That’s why you need to start with an evaluation, where you consider the effectiveness of your recreation programs.

In this guide, you’ll learn why it’s so important to evaluate your YMCA’s recreation programs for effectiveness and three tips for evaluating your program. Let’s get started!

Why evaluate your program’s effectiveness?

As someone working within a YMCA, you regularly see and understand the value of your organization. You see how your facilities provide safe places for members of your community to exercise and how the programs you provide help shape the next generation firsthand.

However, as a staff member rather than a participant, you’re still a step removed from the value of your programs. Through careful evaluation and subsequent recreation management changes, you can ensure that you’re providing a worthwhile experience for community members.

Additionally, because your organization is a nonprofit, it’s important to relay and prove your positive outcomes and impacts to those who don’t see them daily. This is especially important when your YMCA is seeking grant funding. Grantmakers, foundations, and other philanthropists will require you to prove the effectiveness of your recreation programs.

Evaluating Your YMCA’s Recreation Programs: 3 Tips

The best step you can take to evaluate your YMCA’s programs is to monitor and report performance metrics. This is vital to understanding your program’s operational health, and it allows you to both identify areas that can be improved and seek additional support for programs or initiatives that are performing well. Plus, these performance reports can help you maintain and increase funding to boost your YMCA’s budget, allowing you to improve facilities and programming.

To help you determine actionable next steps, we’ll cover three tips to help you monitor your programs’ performance:

1. Track relevant data points.

Because you’ll need to collect data over months or even years to demonstrate growth and prove strong performance, it’s key to know which metrics to record. Here are some of the essential metrics to track:

  • Registration and attendance. Record how many visitors register for and attend your recreation programs to measure event success. If you’re finding that not enough people are registering, or if they’re registering but not attending, then you may want to take steps to boost these metrics.
  • Memberships. As a YMCA, you offer membership packages to community members and visitors. Calculate the number of memberships you obtain as another way to evaluate your success. Keep track of how many memberships renew and lapse to get a better idea of how valuable your programs and memberships are.
  • Facility rentals. Depending on your YMCA, you may have facilities that community members want to rent out for events, parties, and athletic use. Track this data to identify how often you rent facilities, when most visitors rent, why visitors need the facilities, and how much revenue these rentals supply. Using these reports, you could illustrate how many people use your park’s facilities and advocate for additional funding to improve them.

In addition to these metrics, carefully track your YMCA’s finances. Make sure to create a detailed budget, record any costs you incur, and carefully note all sources of revenue. You should also keep records of how you allocated funds to clearly show the impact of support from specific funders later on. The right recreation management software solution will make it easy for you to track and store this information.

2. Collect participant feedback.

Aside from directly tracking the data points associated with your programs’ performance, you can go straight to the source and ask program participants for their feedback. According to Wild Apricot, it’s a chance to check in with your YMCA’s community members, determine what’s important to them, and encourage long-term memberships.

Here are a few questions you should consider including on a survey:

  • How did you hear about our programs?
  • How satisfied are you with the quality of our programs?
  • What parts of our programs do you find most enjoyable or valuable?
  • What parts of our programs do you find least enjoyable or valuable?
  • On a scale of 1-10, how likely are you to recommend our programs to your peers?
  • What suggestions do you have for improving our programs?
  • On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate the quality of our facilities and equipment?

With the information from these surveys, you can guide any future improvements you make to your recreation programs. For example, if individuals report that they want to hear about your YMCA’s programs more often, you can bring your marketing strategies in line with that feedback. Or, if your senior community members have complaints about the accessibility of certain programs, you can work to prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion for future programs.

3. Invest in recreation management software.

Just as schools invest in school management software and other nonprofits purchase constituent relationship management software, your YMCA shouldn’t be afraid of using and buying tools that help you further your goals. When collecting and reporting data related to your programs’ performance, it’s key to invest in recreation management software that will streamline data into one easy-to-use platform.

According to CommunityPass, the right software solution will include the following features:

    • Pre-built reports. With pre-made reports, you can easily select the best template for your program, load data in, and start analyzing. It makes data analysis simple and convenient, without having to worry about designing a report.
    • Custom report designer. If your YMCA needs a report that is more tailored to its specific needs, look for solutions that also offer a custom report designer. This feature is helpful if you want to compile data from various sources and timelines into a single report.
    • Different export formats. Easily export data to different formats, including on-screen renders, Excel sheets, and PDF files. This will make it easy to display your information to funders as a presentation, share it over email, and choose files that fit into your office suite software.

Aside from helping with reporting, recreation management software can streamline time-consuming tasks for your YMCA’s staff. Many solutions offer features like online registration, payment processing, facility management, communications management, and more. With the right software, you can objectively evaluate your recreation programs, prove your program’s worth to funders, and automate tasks for staff members.


Offering great programs to visitors is the first step to building lasting relationships in your YMCA’s community. Make sure to take the time to properly evaluate your programs and implement processes that simplify that process for the future. Re-evaluate on an annual or quarterly basis to continue improving your YMCA’s offerings and ensure that you provide value to your community.

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