2018 Member Survey Results

Every two years we poll our community to ask what's working and where we can improve. Find out what we learned in our 2018 survey tracker.
The Mountaineers The Mountaineers
March 31, 2018
2018 Member Survey Results
SIG Practice on Mt. St. Helens. Photo by Ida Vincent.

In early 2018, we invited our members, past and present, to participate in a membership survey. We wanted learn how their perceptions, activities, and experiences with our club have changed since our last surveys in 2011, 2014, and 2016. We compared these responses with past survey data to track patterns showing how we’ve grown and changed, and to identify opportunities to improve. 

Of the 17,000 people who received the survey, 2,750 responded. Nearly 2,500 members responded, translating to a member response rate of 26%. We also reached out to current guest members and former-Mountaineers to learn why people don't join and why they leave. We were pleased to get so much feedback. 

Executive Summary

  1. We're generally trending high in satisfaction, but as we grow both our member and non-member community, people are having more varied experiences. This leads to lower perceived value in the overall feedback. 
  2. The sense of community is improving within our ranks, especially among volunteers.
  3. The key factors in renewal are volunteering, course participation, and tenure.
  4. Volunteers continue to place a high value on leader development, and we should continue investing in these areas.
  5. Members want more! More classes, more activities, more stewardship opportunities, and more chances to volunteer.

The most exciting thing to come out of this survey is our consistently high rate of member satisfaction. Members today indicate they are 15% more satisfied with The Mountaineers than they were in 2011

A few more interesting learnings:

  • In 2014, our membership was 94% Caucasian. Today, we are 87% Caucasian, which is higher than the 2010 Seattle Census Data of 74%, but it's a step in the right direction.
  • We've had a big surge in membership in the last two years, growing from 11,500 in February 2014 to 13,150 in February 2018. As a result, 24% of the people who took the 2018 survey had been members for less than a year, vs. 16% in 2014 and 25% in 2016.
  • The average membership length for a Mountaineer is 11 years.
  • The #1 reason people join is to take a course or improve a skill. In the open text comments, folks often say they joined for a class but stay for the community. 
  • Volunteers remain more satisfied than members, and more likely to renew and recommend our club. The number one reason they renew? To continue the lifelong friendships made in The Mountaineers. 


  • 41.8% of our volunteers hope to volunteer more in the coming year than in the last year, and 10.5% hope to volunteer less. The most cited reasons to volunteer more include wanting to pay it forward, hoping to improve personal and leadership skills, and a love for the community. The most common reason for wanting to volunteer less is due to a change in life situation. 
  • The more courses and activities people participate in, the more likely they are to renew. Participating in just one course increases renewal probablity from 67% to 84%, and going out on one activity with us increases renewal intent from 70% to 80%.  


Key Takeaways

Overall, the survey validated top priorities for our Vision 2022 Strategic Plan: to LEAD innovation in outdoor education, ENGAGE future Mountaineers, and ADVOCATE fiercely for our wild places. 

One of our our biggest opportunity area lies in being more welcoming to people who come to us with outside experience. We've worked for the past two years to amp up our equivalency processes, and need to continue that important work. Because The Mountaineers invented the early techniques off of which modern-day exploration skills are based, we tend to hold-tight to the past and continue to do things which have always worked well for us. Finding a balance between safety and inclusion is the key for the future.

Comments also supported our focus on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Our early DE&I work is generally recognized and appreciated, and we have more work to do. Read our recent blog to learn what DE&I means for The Mountaineers.

People want more. As we grow, we've experienced difficulty serving all of the students who want to participate in our programs. Our volunteers lead 100% of our programs, and they are our super power. In order to serve a growing interest in outdoor recreation, we must work to support and grow our coalition of volunteers and work with our local land managers to assure we are recreating responsibly. 

Looking ahead, we're amping up support for our volunteers, doubling down on our DE&I efforts, and working to reduce our carbon footprint and grow our community of fierce protectors for the places we love. We want everyone to have the opportunity to get outside in a positive way, and we will continue to be inspired by bringing new outdoor experiences to those in need.

We appreciate the thoughtful feedback shared with us during this process. We hope you are as excited about the future as we are!

Bonus Feedback

At the end of our survey we asked “Do you have anything else you want to say about The Mountaineers?” In most surveys, 0.005% of people fill this out. Well, not at The Mountaineers! We had 810 responses – a 29% response rate.

Some comments were positive, some were negative, and all were helpful insights for our organization. Overall, the constructive feedback increased, but it was more specific in the past making it easier to be actionable. We also saw an increase in the number of kudos. Sometimes comments contained both!


The most common thread among all comments was related to the "red tape" in our organization. Specifically:

  • We NEED to make it easier/more transparent for folks to earn equivalencies.
  • We need to be more welcoming to folks joining us from other organizations and with prior experience.
  • We need to offer more actual entry-level courses and activities for people without a baseline of fitness

We also received a lot of comments related to DE&I and some celebrating our amazing community. Here are our favorites:

Course Challenges

  • "I've found it incredibly difficult to get on climbing trips (too much demand) and options available to members not currently enrolled in a course are limited (not enough supply). For this reason, my feelings about the Mountaineers are mixed."
  • "I've found it difficult to get involved with the Mountaineers. It's not clear where I should start...there are just a bunch of classes/trips and not a clear progression one should take to learn the basics and build on them. Then many of the classes/trips are full when I find ones that are interesting. It's been frustrating."
  • "I think it is ridiculous that you require people to come back and retake courses every 2 years for things like wilderness first aid and navigation. What a convenient way for you to inconvenience members and make more money."
  • "Some of the leaders make their activities exclusive to people they already know. I understand there are situations where this is necessary, however, there were occasions where they just denied the request to join because they feel you are not fit enough based on their assumptions. If there was a way to standardize fitness level or any other prerequisite for a given activity, that would be helpful."

Entry Level Opportunities

  • "One of the main reasons I am a member is because there are many outdoor experiences that I want to participate in, but either don't have the knowledge to do them on my own or prefer to participate in a group activity. I've found that it can be very difficult to get into activities because they fill up so quickly, and that many are on the more extreme end, it would be nice to have more activities and a wider variation in technicality/strenuousness. I'd be happy to lead, but don't have enough experience yet to do so, and getting that experience has been challenging."
  • "Something you don't address is what I call the fitness gap. There are no true beginner options for adults in The Mountaineers. Everything (even an activity labelled Easy or Basic, or the CHS) assumes a level of fitness that beginners may lack. It's discouraging to go on an Easy hike and have to run to keep up, it isn't fun, and it makes those of us who are less able reluctant to sign up again. That becomes a vicious cycle, since idleness reduces fitness, while a lack of fitness makes it hard to participate."


  • "The Mountaineers is an amazing organization that has literally changed my life. I am very proud of our efforts to improve ourselves, but I think it's worth remembering that we already do many things very well! One important way we are trying to improve is our diversity and inclusivity. All the blogs and facebook shares won't do much to help this if we don't get more POC, women, and LGBTQ folks into positions of leadership. When people start to see others who look like them, in charge, they will KNOW they have a place here."
  • “More focus on diversity! The Mountaineers can really feel like an old boys club. The people, especially the white men involved with The Mountaineers, need to learn how to make space for women, people of color, and queer folks. I've had female friends who left The Mountaineers because they felt excluded and marginalized. Also, please ask peoples' gender pronouns on trips and during events/classes!”
  • "I know The Mountaineers are trying to be inclusive, but it is still -- largely -- white male dominated. Anything to increase female and especially minority participation would be appreciated. I know you've started....amp it up!”

We're Awesome! 

  • "I started my journey with The Mountaineers to take a class and learn some skills. I did not expect to make so many really good friends. Now I have lots of hiking/climbing partners and people I enjoy being with even outside of The Mountaineers."
  • I"'ve been mostly a non-active member for 7 years. I am really liking the new initiatives and seemingly more public mission of inclusiveness, so I am planning to become more involved as a volunteer. Thanks for the hard work!
  • "I don't think there's really anything in the world like The Mountaineers. I consider myself very lucky that it's here, where I live, and I'm very grateful to the thousands of volunteers who have built it."

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Vince Stanton
Vince Stanton says:
Apr 04, 2018 12:28 PM

It is very cool that The Mountaineers makes an effort to gather this sort of information and find ways to act on it! It’s important that the organization take into consideration members’ concerns around inclusivity and accessibility. However, in my opinion, The Mountaineers should not dilute the value of their courses and/or group activities in the interest of growth (in other words, recruitment and retention of new members). After all, there are other organizations offering “true beginner” hikes and things of that sort. Meetup.com comes to mind. One of the key values of The Mountaineers is that it consists of an elevated base of skill, knowledge and experience from which folks with elevated aspirations can learn and develop.