Three Metrics to Evaluate your Community

Photo by Nia Richardson

Ask any Affiliate owner or Coach, “What’s something great about your gym?” You’ll get the same response. Every. Single. Time: “We have a great community. 

Which begs other questions: If every community is great, is any community great? If great is the standard, why are some Affiliates more successful than others? Why are “great communities” going out of business? Can a great community get better? 

I think we can measure the health of a community with data. Even better, we can gain insight as to whether our community is improving or on the decline before members feel the shift. 

More than a Feeling 

Typical things I hear when a gym owner praises their great community are: 

  • My members hang out after class to socialize.
  • Our athletes started a rec league volleyball team.
  • I see our members posting on social media hanging out all the time.

While these are all markers of a strong community, your bank isn’t going to give you a line of credit based on how many mimosas your members have together on a Saturday morning. Here are a few universal metrics you should start looking at on a regular basis to get a true temperature of your community’s health. These are each listed in order of importance — each has a trickle-down effect on the next. 

Utilization Rate

Utilization rate is the percentage of your total members who attend a session on a daily basis. It is calculated by dividing the number of check-in’s for a given day by your total membership. 

Example: You have 200 members. On Monday, 115 people check in for class. Your utilization rate is: 115/200 = 57.5%

Why is utilization rate the most important metric you can track? 

Simply put, your community will “vote” with their attendance. Do you have the best programming in the world? Your utilization rate will reflect that. Best Coaches? Popular Coaches? You get the idea. Your members will tell you what they want when they step in the door. 

Furthermore, when you see a big swing in utilization rate, it will give you a clue as to where you need to improve and where you can stay the course. 

Utilization rate will also be your first indicator of a member who may cancel their membership. If their average attendance dips from five times per week to two, you’d better believe they’re on their way out the door. 

Net New Members

My least favorite question in the Affiliate world is: How many members do you have? Some of the least healthy businesses I’ve worked with have 400-plus members. It’s clearly not a marker of financial nor communal success. Can we please all agree to stop asking this? 

I’d like to replace this question with: How many net new members do you get in an average month? Net New Members is calculated by taking the number of new members in a given month minus the number of cancellations in that month. 

Example: You gained 12 new members this month and nine members left in that month. Your net new membership equals three. 

Why is Net New Members an important metric? 

This number tells you two very important things: Is your community healthy enough for folks to stick around and is your community’s story compelling enough for the outside world to “get it.” 

Net New Members has two components: New members and retention. Let’s say your new member number is really high, but your net number is less than half of that. Your community isn’t that healthy. You need to fix the leaky boat before doing any more marketing. 

Now let’s say your lost members numbers are low or zero but your new member number is also very low. You have a story and a sales problem. The story of your “great community” is getting lost when translated to the public. Or you have a problem with your website, sales and follow-up processes. Likely all of the above. 

Full Time Staff

I put this one last because it’s the hardest one to achieve. But also because the previous metrics will directly inform this one. It seems to be a universal business principal that the more staff on board with your mission, the more compelling the mission. 

But that takes money. A lot of money. It’s much easier to swap coaching for membership or to pay a Coach $15 a class part time. But you’ll always be looking for that next Coach and you’ll go crazy wearing all the other hats in the business. 

If you find people are unwilling to pay a membership rate that is sustainable for you, your family and your employees — you have a community problem. No matter how many brunches or pick-up soccer games your members play together, your community contract is out of whack. If you sacrifice everything for your members, resentment will creep in. There’s no sustainability in this model. 

Start by looking at your utilization rate every week for twelve weeks. You may be surprised at how many people actually see the value of community. Once you’re in that habit, you can begin to track the other metrics. You’ll find you have a more confident pulse on your community and will know where to make change. 

Matt Scanlon is the owner and founder of CrossFit Memorial Hill and TheHillKC in Kansas City, Missouri. He is also the co-founder of BUILD — a CrossFit program and research project dedicated to improving health outcomes for cancer survivors.  Matt's professional career began in healthcare management. As a result of this experience, Matt is focused on using CrossFit to improve health metrics for a broad population of people historically underserved in the fitness industry.  Located at the base of the National WWI Memorial, CrossFit Memorial Hill was founded in 2011 as a free community fitness resource. After gaining a following of nearly 1,300 participants in community pop-up WODs, Matt Affiliated in 2012.  In 2016, CrossFit Memorial Hill expanded to incorporate a private coaching business, BUILD, a TRX and bootcamp series, and various other specialty programs under the umbrella of TheHillKC.  Contact him at