A cabin spider that your counselors can’t catch, a camper who keeps getting injured—these are the small challenges a camp faces on a day-to-day basis.
If only that was the end of the list!
On top of these minor mishaps, camp directors face far more nuanced and difficult issues, from finding qualified staff to catch those loose spiders to keeping parents in the loop about their rather rambunctious kid.
Budgeting, meeting parent expectations, and spotting opportunities for growth are all challenges that, if solved, can lead to huge improvements in camp revenue and profits.
Today, we’ll cover some cost-effective ways for overcoming the most common challenges confronting your camp’s team.
- Finding and Hiring Enough Qualified Staff
- Decreasing Costs While Increasing Revenue
- Marketing the Camp With Limited Resources
- Meeting Parents’ Expectations of Convenience
- Maintaining Communication With Parents
- Making It Easier to Perform Camp Evaluations
Finding and Hiring Enough Qualified Staff
Campers rarely go home to their parents raving about the amazing basketball court or the cool facts they learned about bugs.
Instead, it’s often the counselors and other staff members that make the camp so special and stick in the memories of the attendees.
Therefore, you want to focus on finding talented, passionate people who share your values to work at your camp.
Of course, that’s always easier said than done. It can be tough to identify quality candidates, not to mention separate the best from the average.
Here are some of the most effective ways to find the most qualified camp staff:
|Leverage word of mouth.
|Ask connected people in your community to spread the word about the job opening. Consider offering staff a cash referral bonus.
|Reach out to former campers.
|Whether it’s a stay-at-home parent or a college student, former campers often make the best camp staff. They know the values and little details of your camp and can be great leaders to the other staff.
|Use online job postings.
|Make it easy for applicants to find your job opening and apply on their mobile devices. Indeed and ZipRecruiter are excellent places to attract ideal candidates.
|Consider hiring a vendor who specializes in job placement, especially if you’re hiring for an upper-level position like an operations officer, which can be harder to find than a camp counselor.
Though some people still might be working mostly for the paycheck, the majority of younger workers want their work to be meaningful. They also want career growth opportunities.
Therefore, in your job postings and interviews, it’s a good idea to highlight the impact they’ll make in the lives of campers, and the transferable skills they’ll learn on the job that’ll help them grow in their career.
In interviews, share stories about camp staff members who have gone on to do great things, either at your camp or at another company.
Showing applicants the possible career paths they can take after working at your camp is inspiring and supports your claim that they’ll learn valuable skills on the job.
Seeing the future open up to them, they’ll be more likely to accept the offer and give it their all.
Decreasing Costs While Increasing Revenue
To increase profits, camp directors must find ways to either decrease costs or increase revenue—or, preferably, to do both at the same time.
Unfortunately, they’re often working in an environment where operating costs continue to rise due to inflation and other factors.
One thing directors can do to decrease costs is to cut back on expenses.
That means taking inventory of all of your camp’s costs and deciding which supplies and services you can do without.
Another way to reduce costs is to maximize operating efficiency—in other words, creating processes and investing in technology that enable you to do more with less.
For example, purchasing a new camp registration software platform can save you a lot of time and reduce the number of people you need to employ because parents can register online without the help of staff.
Most camp registration platforms also come with billing features like automated invoicing, online payment forms, and payment reporting that allow you to manage payments with a smaller team.
As for the other side of the profit equation, the best way to boost revenue is to increase camp enrollment.
There are plenty of free marketing techniques you can use to do this, from social media management to referral-based marketing.
Sometimes something as simple as email nurturing past customers can seriously improve your retention rates.
Also, don’t be afraid to get creative and expand your revenue sources. Selling camp merchandise like hoodies, sweatpants, or pens can give you a serious boost to revenue.
Source: Camp Burgess & Hayward
Consider building an online store where you can sell these goods. Dedicated campers won’t be able to resist buying a comfy hoodie with your camp’s name written right on the front.
Marketing the Camp With Limited Resources
Sometimes a limited marketing budget makes it hard to spread the word about your camp to new customers.
Unlike big tech companies that can afford to spend thousands of dollars a month on social media advertising, camps have to be a bit more frugal.
But limited resources can easily be offset with a little creativity and hard work. There are plenty of cost-effective and even free ways to market your camp.
Here are just some of the marketing methods to try out:
|Advertise in schools.
|Community centers, schools, and any place that caters to children are ideal spots to put up flyers advertising your summer camp.
|Host a free event in your area.
|Give parents and children a preview of your camp by hosting an event or festival that offers the activities available at your camp.
|Create a referral program for parents.
|Offer parents a discount or gift card if they successfully help you secure new business for your camp.
|Improve and grow your online reviews.
|Create a Google My Business profile and start accruing customer reviews. Ask parents to leave reviews after it comes to an end.
|Get on social media.
|Use Instagram, Facebook, and TikTik to share videos and photos of campers having fun.
Marketing your camp doesn’t have to be expensive. If you create a marketing mix of a few of the above strategies, you’ll increase registrations without surpassing your budget.
Most of them cost no money at all, and take only a bit of time each day.
Meeting Parents’ Expectations of Convenience
Parents expect a high level of convenience these days. They want easy online registration, fast communication, and flexible payment options.
When camps lack a strong technological foundation, it can be hard to meet these expectations, which can lead to unhappy parents and fewer registrations.
That said, it’s important to use camp registration software to improve the convenience of your customer experience.
In the quest for customer satisfaction, online registration forms are essential.
They allow parents to sign their kids up for your camp on their mobile devices, tablets, or laptops in just a matter of minutes.
Most tools will allow you to build these forms and embed them on your website:
Some tools, like Regpack, even offer the ability to build conditional logic forms.
These adaptive, personalized forms guide parents through the registration process and only show them the fields that relate to their specific scenario, thus limiting confusion.
For example, if a parent clicked “yes” to sleepaway camp, they’d see a whole set of questions that the parent who clicked “no” wouldn’t have to see.
Quality software will also allow parents to pay through the online form, in a variety of payment methods, from ACH bank transfers to credit cards.
To add further flexibility to the payment experience, consider offering personalized payment schedules like the ones shown below:
That way, parents who can’t afford to pay in one large payment can spread the cost of your camp over a couple of months.
Be sure to also find a camp management tool that automates email communication, so that parents automatically receive the information they need, be it invoices or camp event updates, without having to reach out to your staff.
Maintaining Communication With Parents
Establishing communications with parents off-the-bat can be tricky, yet maintaining it is often even harder.
It’s crucial to set up a standardized process for communicating with parents.
Otherwise, you’ll end up with annoyed parents who expect more communication with your camp, and a dozen different communication channels to manage.
To start, choose a preferred communication method. Email often works well since most parents are familiar with it.
Use phone calls only for emergencies, as they tend to drag on, while emails are short and sweet.
Right when a parent becomes a customer, tell them how you prefer to communicate, and be sure to collect their email address, phone number, and other critical contact info.
Also, establish some expectations around the following:
|How long does it usually take your team to respond to emails?
|Is there a certain time when they might expect a delayed response?
|If the parent needs to get in touch with you ASAP, how can they?
This will prevent the parent from becoming angry with you later on. The parent will know what to expect.
It’s also a good idea to answer these questions in writing and put them into a communication policy.
You can then send parents a copy of it so that they can refer to it when they need to get in touch.
To manage communication with parents and eliminate human error, look for opportunities to automate email communication.
Most camp registration software will allow you to create trigger-based email automations, meaning parents will receive a personalized email when a specified event occurs.
For example, you could configure your system to automatically send payment confirmation emails to parents after they’ve made a payment.
Here’s a glimpse at Regpack’s trigger-based email automation:
Automation like this keeps parents in the loop without costing your team any time. It’s a win for everyone involved.
The best part about these automated emails is that they’re personalized. A tool like Regpack will use information about the parent (stored in your database) to create these emails.
Maintaining communication with parents that’s up to their expectations can be challenging for camp directors.
But as long as you set communication expectations and leverage automation, you shouldn’t run into many complaints.
Making It Easier to Perform Camp Evaluations
Camps often struggle with identifying ways to improve their camp’s customer experience. It’s not always easy to figure out what you’re doing right and what needs work.
Directors not only have to collect and analyze camp evaluation feedback from camp evaluation forms.
They also have to decide which questions to ask their customers to spot the areas that are coming up short and that, if improved, would have a large and positive impact on the camp’s revenue.
Asking families the right questions is the best way to spot these high-impact opportunities for improving your camp.
Below are some to ask before running any reports or analyses:
|Who was your favorite counselor and why?
|Which field trip was your favorite and why?
|Did you have a favorite activity?
|Were there any activities you didn’t enjoy? Please explain why.
|On a scale of 1-10 how much did you like the food?
|How easy was registration, from 1-10?
After receiving the filled-out evaluation forms, look for trends. For example, do the most commonly cited “favorite counselors” share some key characteristics? What are they?
The recurring themes will help you decide what actions to take to improve the camp for next year.
For instance, if the common attribute among the highest-rated counselors was “funny”, you might look to hire more people with a good sense of humor.
This whole process is easier with the help of camp management software that allows you to build and send out custom online camp evaluation forms.
Digitized forms trump paper ones because they’re easier for families to fill out and lend themselves well to analysis.
Most camp software will offer reporting and analytics features that make it easy for you to uncover the insights that’ll help you improve your camp.
Camp directors can overcome challenges, like finding qualified staff and meeting parents’ expectations, by implementing new strategies and tools.
For most camps, the easiest way to turn these tricky challenges into simple tasks is through the adoption of camp management software.
To figure out how to find the right tool for your business, check out our article on what to look for in camp management software.