How do we measure success?

Helping our campers develop the skills and values that help them thrive is only possible if we know  how we are doing. Data helps us understand what our true impact is, what is working, and what needs to be improved. These five  Essential Questions provide a yardstick by which to measure our progress, keep us focused as we grow, and—most important—help us keep the promises we make to our students and their families

Who are our Children and Families?

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What we have known to be true through many enjoyable alumni and parent anecdotes, research data also confirms: the Trail Blazers program approach helps young people develop skills and values proven to contribute to a thriving and productive life. We build values for life.

We believe in utilizing data to ensure we are delivering the program quality and life-long impact for which we are known. We utilize several methods to measure our programs’ impact, including qualitative reports, parent surveys, and statistically-validated camper evaluation surveys (learn more about our evaluator, Algorhythm, their age-appropriate statistically-validated tools, and the underpinning youth development research here). The results of these evaluations are reviewed by the Executive Director and Senior Program Team and play an instrumental role in effecting the logic model and program implementation strategies for the coming year. We believe that it is through on-going program evaluation and improvement that we ensure that our children and teens step into the world more prepared for its challenges.

97% of Overnight Campers grew in at least one competency

Overnight Camper Survey
  • 97% of campers in Grades 5+ demonstrated statistically-significant growth in at least one competency with a proven correlation to long-term success, 77% in 3 or more competencies. The competencies with the highest levels of growth were: Academic Self-Efficacy, Social Capital, and Positive Identity.
  • 100% of campers in Grades 3-5 demonstrated statistically-significant growth or maintained baselines* in at least one competency. The competencies with the highest levels of growth were: Academic Self-Efficacy, Mastery Orientation, and Self-Management.

*For youth in Grades 3-5, this evaluation tool incorporates research demonstrating that young people in Grades 3-5 are nearing and entering the transition from late childhood into early adolescence, a period in which dramatic social, cognitive, and physical change is beginning to occur. One implication of evaluating this age group is the definition of success being defined as growth in skills as well as being able to maintain baselines in these skills, especially relating to empathy development and school engagement.

Overnight Parent Survey
  • 78% of parents observed an increased interest in nature/being outdoors
  • 74% observed increased knowledge of topics having to do with environment and outdoor skills
  • 80% observed an increased perseverance through challenges
  • 74% observed an increased level of self care
  • 67% observed an increased ability to understand and relate to others
  • 63% observed camper behaves in a way that is appropriate to the emotion and the setting more
  • 76% observed an increased sense of self-worth
  • 74% observed an increased belief in ability to succeed at tasks
  • 70% observed camper engages positively with family more
  • 80% observed camper engages positively with community more
Overnight Parent Quotes

I think this is an important life experience on so many levels and that every kid should have a chance to go to camp and experience those things.

Weeks after camp ended, I would still hear my kids sing songs they learned during campfires, and I would hear them talk among themselves of the experiences they had and shared.  They really enjoyed it, which surprised me because I was very concerned about them being away from home for so long.  They want to go back!

My sons are excited every year to go to camp. They come back with more motivation and confidence.  We see them full of excitement when they speak about all the things they’ve learned and all the friends they made. The experience has always been more than exceptional and we  look forward to continuing with the trailblazer tradition.  My oldest is even talking about eventually becoming a counselor himself.  We are thrilled!!

Just wanted you all to know the amazing time that he had this year with you all!  He was so excited about being a Leader in Training! He was just so proud of himself and all of his many accomplishments.  We are so proud of him and so glad that you Riel took the time with your staff to visit his grammar school years ago when he was just a little boy full of energy and ready to go and explore. You have really proved to me that facing your fears head on is hard but very much needed so you can excel to the next level.  I just want to say thank you so much for giving my son the opportunity to grow and glow. Thank you!

100% of After School Campers grew in at least one competency

After School Camper Survey: PreK – 2nd Grade (pre vs. post program)
  • Percentage of campers who could identify an action to help the environment (Environmental Awareness) increased from 64% to 74%
  • Percentage who could identify a specific thing that they are the best at (Positive-Self Identity) increased from 96% to 98%
  • Percentage who could identify a positive interaction between friends (Social Skills) increased from 91% to 97%
  • Percentage who could identify an action to feel better when they feel bad (Self-Management) increased from 75% to 93%
After School Camper Survey: 3rd – 5th Grade (pre vs. post program)
  • Percentage of campers who agree with the statement, “I think it is important to take care of our environment (eg. recycling, picking up litter, taking care of plants and animals)” increased from 92% to 93%
  • “I enjoy spending time outdoors and in nature” remained the same, at 90%
  • “I like to try new things, even when they are hard” increased from 88% to 95%
  • “I really like being a leader” increased from 77% to 88%
  • “I have the skills to lead a group” increased from 81% to 88%
  • “I am good at sharing my ideas and feelings” increased from 79% to 83%
  • “Other people’s feelings matter to me” increased from 85% to 88%
  • “I can stay calm, even when things get tough or stressful” increased from 73% to 78%
  • “It is important for me to work hard in school” increased from 92% to 95%
  • “I am proud of who I am” increased from 88% to 93%
After School Parent Survey
  • 95% of parents are satisfied with their Trail Blazers experience
  • 75% of parents observed increased knowledge of environment/outdoors knowledge
  • 56% observed increased interest in nature and being outdoors
  • 65% observed child perseveres through challenging situations more
  • 63% observed child behaves in a way that is appropriate to the emotion and setting more
  • 62% observed increased belief in the ability to succeed at tasks
  • 65% observed increased interest in leading others
  • 69% observed increased ability to understand others
After School Parent Quotes

He has learned how to play chess, tie knots, create beautiful crafts, make goop [oobleck], and more. I love the projects and games that he takes part in.

Expanded vocabulary and knowledge of the environment.

My daughter is always excited about the days she stays late for Trail Blazers. I had worried about the longer days at school, but she always walks out of there happy and energetic. Trail Blazers has proven to be a positive way to keep her engaged outside of school hours.

Trail Blazers has a great afterschool program and I feel safe sending my child here. Also my son loves the outdoors now even more and is learning new and exciting things about nature I am so happy about that, go Trail Blazers.

Under One Sky is an exceptional after school experience. The ratio of kids with instructors is beneficial. My son is happy, busy and safe. He really grew and learned to get along with others.

64% of Alumni (1941-1980) say Trail Blazers influenced relationships with family and friends

Alumni Survey
  • 64% reported Trail Blazers influenced their ability to work in a team/with others on their job
  • 53% reported Trail Blazers influenced their curiosity and interest in learning
  • 51% reported Trail Blazers influenced the role of environmental stewardship in their lives
  • 62% reported Trail Blazers influenced their ability to relate to and get along with others
  • 66% reported Trail Blazers influenced their current relationships with family and friends
Alumni Quotes

I do very much enjoy adventure – climbing up a mountain, rafting on a river, exploring new places. I prefer nature and adventure to fancy cruises, meeting different peoples to “society”.

I had a TV program for children Hodge Podge Lodge on Md. Public TV 1970-1976 using info from my camp experience.

It helped me decide to become a teacher – I did it for 35 years.

I was so used to one culture, one race, one community. Being at TBC you had to expand your mind in order to get along with others.

However I think it’s made me a better person and that helps me be a better parent.

I can still light a fire with flint and steel (shocked my children!) I’ve taught my children so much of the skills and core of nature I learned – 3 bite rule, nature vacations, leave no trace and songs.

The training that was a part of the summer experience had a great influence on how I approach my family, friends and other professionals. The close sense of community that TBC encouraged was like a large family. I was able to develop my communication skills with individual and in relation to larger groups. I still teach “I feel” statements in my college course. I still apply a few key ideas to my life today that I got from my friends and coworkers at TBC…”I can’t make anyone do anything, but I can provide them choices and feedback and allow them to make their own choice.” “Remember the importance of playing and fun.” “It is ok to agree to disagree and move on.” “Once you build a relationship with someone it is always there simmering even when you don’t see them on a daily basis.” I learned how to have healthy relationships, set expectations, and healthy boundaries.


Who are our leaders?

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Do we have a sustainable people model?

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Do we have a sustainable financial model?

In the last few years Trail Blazers has grown from a predominantly single-service program to a multi-tiered youth services organization Like all non-profits, we have had to consider how the economic underpinnings of the organization support financial health and longevity.

Trail Blazers considers each program arm’s (Overnight Camp, Day Camp and School Programs) contribution to the overall stability of the organization; each program arm carries allocated portions of the core functionality expenses, the backbone of the organization that supports the full program portfolio.

Decisions on program development, expansion or contraction are made strategically, considering programs in relation to each other, and in light of both short term and long term goals. With a focus on equity in access to our programs, financial performance of individual programs, or components within programs do not follow a “one-size-fits-all” model. At any given time, strategic decisions are made about programs’  individual financial performance.

A common challenge for growing nonprofit organizations like Trail Blazers is the need to develop sufficient operational capacity, including operational reserves. For too many non profits, operating on a break even budget each year is considered sufficient, but we know this is not a sustainable approach.

We have developed an internal model that guides our planning and budgeting, and that considers both short term financial challenges, long term financial investments, and initiatives to build financial stability.

For more information, visit our Financial Reports page.


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