We’ve been working with Mike and the Bay Area Christian Church since 2015.
BACC is a nondenominational church with 6 locations in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Every year, the team at BACC runs a camp for their middle school and high school students.
Regpack is happy to support the team in making registration and payment collections hassle free, so they can focus on the experience of camp, not the paperwork.
Learn more about Bay Area Christian Church and how they run their camp in the interview below!
Tell me a little about you and your camp and what makes you guys unique.
We are a church with about six different locations around the Bay Area.
Every summer we put on a camp for our middle schoolers and high schoolers that lasts a week. We see about 200 to 250 kids for each camp so a total of 400-500 kids in addition to a hundred or so volunteers, counselors, and folks helping out in different ways.
For our church community, it’s one of the highlights of the year. Kids love it and look forward to it every year. Parents love it. I think it’s a great thing for the kids to be able to experience, getting away from screens and a busy life.
Our focus as a church camp is to give a good balance for kids to spend time with friends and build those relationships.
We have different classes that introduce spiritual themes, teach them different things about relationships and God, how to talk to each other better, how to let their hair down and be themselves, and how God fits into all of that through games and activities.
I think the thing that they walk away with the most is just the memories, they really love that. Some of the best times are made in camp.
Camp is a week long, but it’s something that kids are thinking about year-round.
The first half of the year, kids are looking forward to it; the next half, they’re talking about what next year’s going to be like. It’s one of the best things that we do, and we’ve been doing it for almost twenty years.
It’s really nice to hear that it’s something that they look forward to and then once it’s over they keep talking about, which is pretty impressive and a testament to what you’re doing.
Yeah, with the memories that are made, the friendships that are made. They do talent shows where they perform songs, skits, things like that. There’s lots of sports, games, crafts, and I think even the discussion groups which we have based around different speakers, help the teens start learning how to express themselves, how to talk, how to let it down, how to ultimately be okay with who they are and getting away from how their routine.
Camp is a place where they can get to thinking without being so encumbered by insecurity. It’s a unique time when kids can let down their guard and open up in a way that’s really difficult to do in their busy lives, especially in the Bay Area.
You’ve only been doing online registration for 4 years with Regpack. What were you guys doing to manage the registration for the camp before you started using Regpack?
We were all paper before Regpack. It was a total mess!
We have a lot of people who work at the Church who are very good at what they do. Dotting all of the i’s, crossing all of the t’s in terms of liability and what the important things are for registration and information we need.
What was challenging was, because our church is so big, it spans the whole Bay Area, we have thousands of people coming in our doors every week. It gets very difficult to manage that volume efficiently. We didn’t have a centralized process that made sense.
There’s just so much leg work to track the amount of forms parents needed to complete. By the time we were preparing for camp, our administrative offices were keeping in touch with these parent-volunteer coordinators who were on the ground collecting registration and payments. And because there was no one centralized way we collected all of those things, it just took a lot of time and energy to ensure we were ready for camp each year.
I don’t want to say we were “missing stuff,” we had everything that we’d needed in the end, but the amount of work it took just to collect everything, and get the kids there, and make sure that they had all of their medical information, their doctors’ notes, their medicines turned in, all that kind of stuff, was really difficult.
Then when the camp was over, we had this giant spring of papers that we had to store or file away or bring back, and they were taking up a ton of space. No one wanted to go through and digitize it. Imagine doing that year after year after year! It was very tedious, and eventually we wanted to move online because it’s more sustainable.
How was managing payments for your program without an online option?
Basically it was all checks and cash. Managing that and then making sure that we’re in compliance in how we’re collecting the money from people was challenging. There was a long process of hand offs from the parent to the coordinator and then to the administrative staff, then getting it all deposited.
I think a big part of the push to go online was there was so much room for being out of compliance or user error, and we didn’t want to risk that. We wanted something that was more secure and way less of a headache.
It just makes for a better experience for the parents ultimately. We wanted to make sure that they could complete things at their own pace.
They had eight to fourteen forms, depending on how complicated the registration was for their kids, given their different special needs or medical challenges. And then they would have to come in “oh, I’m missing another form,” and then “oh, I’ve got to go back,” and there was this back and forth, so it was a bad experience for them as well.
In terms of looking for an online solution, what landed you on Regpack in the end?
We looked at a number of them and eventually narrowed it down to Regpack and a couple of others.
Regpack definitely seemed to be the more flexible option.
The other two were more specific for camps, which was nice, but the challenge for the competitors was that they were built for camps that were year-round or multiple sessions. So there was way too much stuff out-of-the-box; way more than we needed, and also they weren’t as flexible.
They had these here-or-there structures or processes for trying to run camps. Because we’re a shorter camp, it didn’t really make a whole lot of sense for us to change our approach to kind of become one of the big camps. We’re not trying to be like the YMCA but then with that came the second challenge, which was price.
We kept throwing our use-cases at Regpack and the boxes were checked every time. So I think what was important to us, Regpack did, and there was no need to look much further.
I know that in your system you’re using Auto-Billing. How does that make payments, just collecting and the funding of your program, different from when you were getting primarily cash and check?
We knew that we wanted to give parents an easier way to pay.
We didn’t even know it would help parents with the ability to pay online over time. Because sometimes it’s expensive, especially if you have multiple kids – they’re like ‘I’m putting three kids into this camp, each one’s like, $350, I don’t have $1,000 to spare.
The payment features sort of introduced things to us that solved problems that we didn’t know we had.
To have payment plans, where parents can throw down a deposit and pay the rest off just before the camp, was a relief. We were able to provide parents with that. It was a solution we weren’t even asking for!
So, it solves problems for parents and then it solves the biggest problem that we had in our administrative staff, which was accurately tracking all of the payments.
Now we can say ‘Here are all of our kids, here’s how much money we should be seeing, here’s what we have collected so far.’ That simple ability had just been missing before because we were tracking down six different parent-coordinators who weren’t even using the same system for tracking down payments to get the information we needed.
It’s been great for us and for the parents. They really appreciate having this online interface, where they can get on and not worry about it after they enter their card, because they’re on an auto-pay.
You’re using some of our conditional logic functionalities, specifically on ages for different products that you’re offering throughout the process, so can you speak a little bit more about how that is benefiting you?
We have two camps, so having products where you can say ‘middle school camp, high school camp, and add the correct product to the cart based on what age or grade they select,’ is probably the biggest one.
We have a lot of different forms and several forms not everyone needs to fill out. We use conditional logic within the first couple of forms that they fill out, which will trigger different forms, if they meet certain criteria.
There are a lot of things that we use to map out a registration flow, which is nice.
There’s a lot of different products and product options and a lot of different forms, but users just need to follow the registration path that’s easiest for them, which allows us to put everything in the right bucket.
We can make sure that no one is overwhelmed with all of the paperwork, and we get everything that we need for all of the different kids, even when they have different needs.
You have over 22 report templates in your system. How do reports help you manage your camp?
We have our administrative team that does the finances and operations stuff, and then we have our ministry staff that does our on-the-ground running of services, coordinating and planning the camp. They focus not as much on the logistics but a lot of the content, like what are the classes going to be about, what are the games, what are the cabin groups going to be for the teenagers. They’re the one’s working with the parents finding out which [campers] are coming, which ones need financial assistance to get to camp, that sort of thing.
The way that reports help is usually internally in the office. We go through reports and say ‘show me all of the campers with incomplete payments or medical issues’, If we want to have a meeting to discuss where we are with payments, we can do that.
For the ministry team, it allows us to give them the info, that they need to know in their group: who are the kids that are signed up, or the new kids, the ones they don’t know. The thing that makes our camp work is that we really get a good sense of every kid and who they are and how to make sure that they have a great experience, so everyone really needs to know who their friends are, what their life situation is, how do we make sure that they’re not in a position where they’re going to be too overwhelmed or do they have special needs and how do we build that inclusivity.
Our team really values that inclusivity, and we put a lot of energy into making sure that if a kid has autism or down syndrome or a physical disability, that they’re not going to get to camp and be under a tree by themselves the whole week. We want to be sure that they can be a part of things, so giving the ministry team the tools to say ‘hey, here are all of the kids that are coming in, new, returning, and who’s hurting financially,’ etc.
It allows the ministry staff to have private conversations with folks because of the data that they get to see.
It gives us the tools that we need to have a more personable approach, so the kids that turn up can have a great experience. Otherwise, we’d just be taking in paperwork with no way to make sure nobody falls through the cracks.
You’re also having counselors register using Regpack, so how is that for you that you can send people on their own path whether they’re a camper or a counselor?
Yeah, that’s been very helpful having two separate databases.
In the paper days, counselors would come and they would have incomplete stuff because it was just difficult to keep track of what they needed. I would spend weeks trying to get all of the right things down, so being able to go online with them was huge.
And then there are all of the same functionalities, like being able to sort:‘Are all of the counselors registered? Are we missing anybody?” It becomes important once the campers are getting signed up because we need a certain ratio of campers to counselors so we can go ‘Are we a little short, are we kind of more in one location?”
It gives us a lot of flexibility, knowing where we are at with the counselors and the volunteers, and being able to manage that separate from the campers is helpful.
We have a separate team who will kind of head up the counselor effort, and they can have this space where they can keep track of the counselors, and where they’re at, and the other volunteers. The other team, that’s working with the parents, can work independently without stepping on each other’s toes. That’s been very helpful for us as well.
How about using the email tools to help automate your communication?
We do a lot of emails to parents, mainly reminders: payment reminders, incomplete form reminders.
We push hard to make sure, and Regpack allows us to do this, that we get all payments completed and all forms done prior to camp.
We’ve been in positions, back in the paper days, where parents come, and they don’t have certain forms that they need, because, for whatever reason, it wasn’t clear that they needed it, because they didn’t have a screen in front of them prompting them.
So at worst, it’s been that we couldn’t take certain kids or parents were calling doctors and stuff while at camp.
It was a mess, so having better communications with parents is great.
Having reminders of pick-up times and a schedule for that, updates on how camp is going, and all sorts of things – parent communication is really important, and the email function in Regpack has provided that for us.
There’s a lot more communication with parents in a centralized way now, so we’re not as reliant on parent coordinators that we don’t see. We can have one person in an office just send an email.
It sounds like you guys are really happy with Regpack and just generally being online instead of on paper. If you were talking to another professional who was running a camp, what would you explain to them about what they need in an online solution and why you would recommend Regpack?
I would just tell them to take a moment and think about what kind of experience you want to provide to the kids and their parents or whoever your patrons are because ultimately, if you’re putting them in a position where most of the elements are on them to provide information, it can be a really rocky experience that can kind of take away from giving them time to prepare for and enjoy the event that you’re trying to put on.
Giving them something online is going to give them the ability to focus on what matters so that they can use most of their mind-space for going ‘this is going to be a really great experience for my kids’.
Just thinking about what kind of experience you want to give them – something where they can just log in, do whatever they need to, come back if they have to, pay and just be done with it, is way better than doing a bunch of leg work and putting them in a position, where they could forget stuff, and then be put in a bad situation, where they have to be turned away, because they forgot something.
Regpack has given us a solution that is both easy to use and affordable. I looked at a lot of apps out there when we were first getting set up, and nothing came close price-wise or ease-of-use-wise and with the quickness to ramp up.
Check out some of BACC’s interactive devotions. They regularly publish bible studies and devotions for teenagers and adults to help them grow in their spirtual life. This content is used exclusively at camp and gives a great understanding of the things they teach and discussion during camp sessions.
You can find BACC on social media, so give them a follow!