Systematic efforts to track participation will pay off over time. You will learn which events were marketed effectively, which responded to actual needs, and which members (or groups of members) were served and which were ignored.
Develop a database-driven tracking system
Actual data will be more helpful than vague memories or impressions. As we explain in the Metrics section, your best guide to program management will be actual data on how many participated and who they were.
Not all activities can be expected to draw a large crowd. But you can state expectations, measure actual vs. expected, and then measure year to year.
You also want to look for diversity of participation. If the same handful attend every event, your offerings need to be more diverse and need to be marketed more effectively.
A useful database need not require advanced technical skills. An Excel spreadsheet can work, so can a simple database using Microsoft Access. The point is to capture the data and not leave it to memory.
You want to track numbers (expected vs. actual) and names of persons, and then correlate those data with other factors such as gender, age and tenure. You want to discern trends, such as consistent low attendance at new member events despite a large number of new members.
Anticipate end-points for specific activities
Most groups, events or programs benefit from having a stated end-point. Churchgoers tend to resist open-ended commitments, both as leaders and as participants. An end-point helps to shape the activity's trajectory. It provides a recognized time for expressing gratitude. If a program has been poorly led or attended, an end-point provides a graceful exit.