Gathering Survey ResultsGathering Survey Results

Every year, GNI invites the men who attend our event to let us know how we're doing through a post-Gathering survey. We collect only information that is needed to identify areas of concerns that need to be addressed while acknowledging compliments where they are given, whether they are for specific individuals or activities.

Because the survey design is qualitative in nature, the survey questions query attendees to respond with commentary rather than checking boxes and assigning numerical values to questions. This provides much more useful feedback to the leadership and helps us in the decision-making process to determine the likes (or dislikes) and interests of our members. But going through the comments of every survey responder takes time.

At the Gathering-planning Board meeting held in late October / early November, the survey responses are compiled and sent to the Board for review. This gives the Board a chance to review the responses and identify any glaring issues before we start to create registration materials for the next year. If we need to make significant changes to the workflow or logistics for the event, we have time to do so before any registrations are received for the following year. Then, at the Winter Board meeting held after the first of the new year, a more in-depth analysis of the comments are completed and summarized.

We've found over the years that in any set of data analyzed, there is a pretty normal distribution of responses on a regular bell curve. This means that data points show us that our attendees can love and hate the exact same thing with statistical regularity. We're not really concerned about that normal distribution; we understand that this is statistically expected and no matter what you do to change the event, we'll continue to have this normal bell-curve distribution. What we look for in the responses, though, are patterns, i.e. issues that are recurring, possibly trend setting. That kind of feedback is most useful for us to use to help make our event better.

Following are more of the salient comments made. Commentary is paraphrased to capture the meaning of many respondents, though in some cases, we will leave exact quotations in place. We also take this opportunity to respond to the comments, if necessary. GNI's responses are in bold.

2023

  • Number of respondents: 175  (Approximately a 35% response rate overall.)
  • Average number of Gatherings for respondents: 11
  • Number of first timer respondents: 40
  • Number of returning attendee respondents: 135

Praises

As always, the two most commented on features were the FOOD and the DANCE CLUB MUSIC. We didn't bother to count the percentage of comments on the food, but they ranged from highly satisfactory to the "worst ever."  There were quite a few comments on the salt content, none of this is anything out of the ordinary (one of the normal bell curve distribution issues).  There were almost 20 total comments on the dissatisfaction with the music at the Dance Club.

This issue has been discussed thoroughly with the Dance Club and an issue that we will talk to them about again. Regarding food, we continue to work with the camp on providing nutritious, healthy, varied, and tasty meal options. We understand the complexity of the logistics of cooking for 600 - 700 men over the course of the week. The issue of salt continues to come up every year and we have been assured that the kitchen staff does not supplement the food with additional salt, rather, the manufacturing and preservation process is where most of the salt is found. We will be working with the camp on identifying other food suppliers who offer low-sodium and no-sodium options.

Several suggested that the Consent notifications should be more frequent and regular.

Sure, but there is a fine balance to strike though in reminding people about their behavior. We like to do gentle urging, but not become a nag, nor do we want to become the behavioral police; thus, these notifications are found in the mobile app (which we encourage everyone to read) and occasionally announced from the stage during the evening show. If we are constantly reminding people, they'll tune us out and that doesn't accomplish anything either. We are all adult men and consent should always be asked anytime, without being reminded from others to do so.

Several comments on non-carbonated drink offerings, and, a few comments about there not being enough water dispensers.

Non-carbonated options: We'll see what we can do. GNI is responsible for procuring beverages; it is not provided by the camp. When we are ready to leave for the Poconos a couple of days before the gates open, we are literally running from Costco to BJs and Walmart, and other retail outlets, buying out complete lines of stock. The amount of beverages we go through is truly impressive. At many of these locations, there are purchasing limits on the quantity that you can buy at any one time. While we try to offer varied options, we are limited to what's available in the local retail stores.

Water dispensers: In 2023 we actually had 25% MORE water dispensers than in years' past and placed those around camp. We would bring in more dispensers, but dispensing locations are limited to areas that have accessible electrical power. In 2023, we maxed the number of locations where water dispensers could be placed by the camp because we ran out of locations that had power outlets. In 2024, you'll find that the camp will have installed permanent water dispensers throughout the facility, though we may still need to supplement areas with portable dispensers supplied by GNI. We hope this upgrade of the camp will expand the locations where water is available.

More seating at the Social Hours.

We will see what we can do about that.

More reminders to wear name tags would be good.

As with the issue of Consent (above), we don't want to constantly nag people to follow the rule of the camp so striking a fine balance is essential. When you register for The Gathering, you agree to the Terms and Conditions and we trust that you will simply follow the rules (most of you do (thank you!) so this is a statement to those that need reminding.

Offer camp tours (suggested in the past, too).

Great idea - now we just need a volunteer or two who would like to be a tour guide. If you're interested in volunteering, sign up! Also, if you feel an activity like this is lacking, don't wait to tell us on a survey; stop by the GNI Business Office to volunteer to oversee an activity and we can add it to the schedule immediately!

Move the Business Meeting and Feedback Session to Saturday morning?

There was only one person suggesting this, but it caught our attention. Moving the meeting is not impossible, it just affects a number of people. Before we would decide to restructure the day that has multiple impacts on people, we would invite those who would be most affected to offer their comments on whether they would like to do so and what changes they would have to make to allow this to happen.

S'mores around the campfire.

Another fun idea and something we've done numerous times over the years. The camp usually supplies S'mores but if they don't, we're certainly able to do so. Chances are very good that S'mores supplies are available simply for the asking, just come and see a staff or Board member, or stop by the main camp office. This also doesn't have to be a formally scheduled activity; if you're sitting by the campfire and want to roast S'mores really any time, we can probably make that happen very easily.

Criticisms

Coffee urns running out often.

We'll address this issue with the camp, but honestly, why wait to let us know in a survey? Simply see a staff or Board member when this occurs so we can address and correct this right issue away.

Hand sanitizers at the start of the food lines?

We'll talk to the camp and ask them to move hand sanitizing stations to the front lines in the Dining Hall or outside the entrances as you walk in. Good suggestion.

"More prepared Announcement reading" (during the evening shows)

We'll speak to the Board about this. Copies of announcements are given to the Board member-on-call a few hours before the show to help them familiarize themselves with the content. They may also be shy or afraid to speak in front of large groups, so no matter how much preparation there is, those kinds of personal challenges may not be overcome no matter how much preparation one has. We toyed with the idea of printing the announcements and displaying them on a projection screen prior to the show, but that suggestion was not received well and it was decided we would not seriously pursue that. Perhaps, we just have one Board member do announcements every night? We'll look into this for 2024.

Finally, one of the most amusing comments was made by a first-timer (R) who arrived mid-week. He said, "the man who led the Zoom meetings is awfully dictatorial.  He needs to loosen up."

OK, we found this to be an amusing comment. Admittedly, we have a lot of information to discuss and while all of the information may not apply to everyone, it's important that we share it all and members can take away what they want from it. Many of the "rules" we discuss are camp rules, not specifically GNI's rules, and we're obligated to not only inform everyone of those rules and policies, if we have to enforce them, it shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. This makes for a good experience for all attendees.

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