Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Few Thoughts on This Year So Far

At the end of the quarter, I spend a lot of time looking at feedback from our members and the few numbers I have about our group. This year I found something exciting in our retention rates that I want to reflect on openly.

Retention rates in RAPP are something I have limited data on. We know some limited numbers on RAPP XVIII through XXII and more thorough information on RAPP XXIII through now.

There are three numbers we keep track of nowadays:
  • Acceptance - How many people we have on our roster at the first meeting.
  • Commitment - How many people continue after the second meeting (meaning, they could come to the first two meetings to try us out, but we consider them committed if they attend retreats/meetings after that).
  • Completion - How many people participate all the way through to the end of the schoolyear.

We calculate retention by dividing the commitment number by the completion number.

Given that RAPP is a time-intensive, energy-intensive co-curricular, my goal is a retention rate of 80% - which can be a challenge to reach. The years that we do have data for our retention rate has ranged from ~50% to 80%.

Part of why we calculate from commitment rather than acceptance is that it can take folks those first two meetings to figure out if they can make the commitment of time and energy in a co-curricular way. There's a natural drop in numbers after the first meeting or two every year. From there people continue to withdraw their commitment as academic and personal demands may pull them away.

Here's why I tell you all of this: RAPP XXV is currently at 100% retention. This is amazing, and in some ways absurd! It's a pleasant surprise, to say the least. We accepted 71 people into RAPP XXV and 68 committed. From there, so far we've kept all 68 - not something we have a precedent for.

I don't really know why this is as it is at this point. I'm going to throw out a few ideas I'm starting with:

  • We have an amazing group of committed individuals! It's shown true to me so far. During their interviews, we explored issues of commitment and group development and why they wanted to be in RAPP. To a tee, folks were able to give well thought answers, demonstrating an understanding of what they were getting into and what it took to be successful.
  • We have an amazing team of Peer Leaders and facilitators! DeVorah, Emma, Krystal, Nancy, and Tad have been doing amazing work supporting RAPP XXV members - they challenge them to think in new ways, they support them through the difficult times, and they bring a lot of fun and friendliness. Sarvani and Tar have been blowing me away with their insight, facilitation skills, and planning of interactive sessions.
  • We have an amazing group of committed individuals! People have been doing their best to demonstrate commitment through attendance and engagement. Communication has been key, with folks communicating clearly why they're there and why they're not when they're not.
  • We're a bit exclusive! We accepted 71 people - which in the end left several people still on a waiting list to get in. For me, this seems like it's a bit of incentive to make sure that I demonstrate my commitment - I know that my spot was wanted by someone who didn't get the opportunity to participate.

I've got more information to wade through because our evaluations from members came in this week. I'll hopefully have more insight into why our group is rockin' awesome soon!

(pic - RAPP XXV Wednesday folk at fall retreat)

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