User Days Should be Your Cornerstone Metrics

Measuring User Days is not new.  Camp software companies even have reports that calculate a version of user days (also called camper days or guest days). The formulas they use and the ones created by individual camps vary – weighting meals, day use, and overnights differently.

The problem arises for camps and retreat centers when quantifying is inconsistently measured from season to season. For example, if a camp measures a User Day during the summer as an overnight and three meals, but includes day users in their non-summer statistics, the measurement becomes untrustworthy. 

Further, when an organization is only using their User Days data to measure success, they are missing an opportunity to capitalize on an opportunity to inform expenses per user day and, therefore, set fees. Camps will report total numbers of people served to their boards, but unless it is quantified with a standard unit, the number they report can be misleading. 

In addition to providing transparency and accountability from a staff to it’s board, this practice allows us to establish norms that will give us industry standards and best practices that will help us all do better.

Let’s Start by Defining User Days.

1 User Day = 1 Overnight and 3 Meals

Each element is weighted at .25:

  1. Overnight stay
  2. Meal 1
  3. Meal 2
  4. Meal 3

If you have a group of 10 that stays two nights and has five meals, it looks like this.

Total IndividualsTotal Overnights (Individuals x number of nights)Total Meals(Individuals x number of meals)Elements (overnights plus meals)User Days(elements x .25)

User Days is the same for campers and retreat guests. 

The number one question we get about this formula – “What about day users?” You may not like our answer — typically they don’t factor greatly in your operation. In fact, we will go so far as to say that most camps  shouldn’t be seeking to grow day only use. It’s not worth it! We’ll get into this in a future post.

Using User Days Data to Inform Organizational Decisions

When you know your User Days, it can inform future decisions around finances and staffing size and structure. 

Because of the work that Kaleidoscope has done in tracking  industry norms  for User Days, we can quickly see where you might be over or under funded or staffed. 

For example, we know that an organization that has 10,000 User Days is typically  in a budget range of $1M  – $1.25M  per year. If this is out of whack, you need to right-size your organization for the sake of sustainability and health.

On a more practical level, knowing your budget and User Days, we can quickly determine the expense per user day. This number, especially when determined by area of work (i.e. camp vs. retreat), can help you determine fees, fundraising needs, salary levels and more. 

Industry Standards – Where Do You Fit?

The good news is that we have been measuring user days for all of the organizations we have served for the past 35 years. What that means for you is that we already have industry norms defined. 

How Do We Start?

The basis of our camp assessment is user days. It’s the primary thing we measure when we start working with your organization. Creating a baseline understanding of your user days is as easy as hiring us to do an assessment. 

In this process, we’ll determine your user days for the past year, taking into account all guests – campers and retreaters that have stayed at your site. 


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