Whichever way you look at it, organizing and running any camp (be it a summer, sports, day, or overnight one) is no small feat.
In fact, when camp staff can focus on providing campers and parents with a great end-to-end user experience, this usually indicates that the camp organizer or director is using a smart combination of people skills and technological solutions.
Against this backdrop, here are seven ways to improve camp management.
Set Time Aside for Brainstorming and Planning
Yes, when camp organization is concerned, there’s a lot to do before, during, and after each camp iteration.
Actually, there’s so much going on that camp directors often don’t have time to think about the future, how to address different challenges, and make their camp better.
That’s why, despite their busy schedule, camp directors should regularly set aside some time to strategize and plan ahead.
An essential part of this process is brainstorming—also regularly—potential improvements with other camp staff members.
Examples of brainstorming sessions include focused staff meetings and informal discussions, as explored in an article by Camp Business.
Source: Camp Business
These group sessions can help generate many practical ideas to improve camp planning and, as we’ll see later, are also a great way to build team spirit and collect staff feedback.
When brainstorming and making plans, camp directors should take time to:
- look more closely at their competition (programming, marketing, pricing, etc.)
- read about camp management trends and best practices
- research different camp management technologies
Long story short, taking the time to brainstorm potential improvements and plan for the future can prove to be a very productive approach to long-term camp management.
Start Leading by Example
Maybe even more so than in other organizations, there is simply no substitute for good leadership in camp management.
In other words, the camp director serves as a role model for all other staff members (administrators, counselors, volunteers, etc.).
For example, using a harsher tone of voice while addressing someone can ruin that person’s day, reduce their motivation and efficiency, and perpetuate negative behavior models.
Conversely, kind communication and constructive conflict handling can boost staff morale, build mutual trust and respect, and increase productivity.
That’s why leading by example should be a key management competence of any successful camp director.
To check whether your leadership skills fit this description, you can ask yourself the following questions:
In practical terms, leading by example involves showing you’re ready to:
- work hard alongside your team
- protect your team
- stand by your word
- own your mistakes
That way, you’re modeling the kind of positive work culture you want to foster and showing your staff that the accountability and ethical conduct you’re asking from them go both ways.
Since such a management style rubs off on other staff members, it promotes these values across all camp operations.
This approach saves you much time and effort that would otherwise have to go into dealing with issues caused by poor team communication, lack of initiative, or blame-shifting.
All things considered, leading by example—while keeping yourself accountable through self-reflection and feedback—can be the most powerful people skills-based camp management tool in your toolbox.
Create Online Registration Forms
If you haven’t already, it’s time to create online registration forms for your camp.
In today’s world, parents and guardians expect the ease and convenience of their usual online shopping experience to extend to registering their child(ren) for camp.
Therefore, if they have to print registration forms, fill them out, scan and email them (or even send them by regular mail), the parents of potential campers are more likely to abandon their registration and leave, never to return.
Conversely, when they can complete the entire camp registration and payment process online in a few steps, parents usually take this as a sign of a well-organized and trustworthy camp.
As a result camper attraction and retention increase.
Here are five best practices for creating online camp registration forms:
As you can read more about these practices in our above-linked article, we’ll just say that your camp staff will also enjoy the benefits of a streamlined registration process, including simplified communication with parents and easy data analysis and reporting.
Of course, to create a really seamless online registration process for your campers, you will need the right digital tools, i.e., software.
Simply put, you just need to know what info you want to collect from your campers and then drag and drop these elements into your online camp registration form.
You can ask registrants any questions you want, and the form’s conditional logic feature will ensure that different applicants see only the data fields relevant to them.
For instance, if their child has no allergies, the software will automatically skip the medical details that the parents of allergic campers will be asked about.
This creates a smooth and logical registration process that parents see as more personalized, maximizing user convenience and satisfaction.
As for Regpack’s unique website-embedded feature, this means that parents will at no point in their registration and payment process be directed to a third-party website to actually register and enter the relevant info.
Naturally, this further adds to user convenience, improves online data security, and builds parents’ trust in your camp organization.
As we’ll see next, Regpack also provides camp organizers with the tools for securely collecting online payments on their website.
Overall, the camp management software you select should allow you to easily create custom online forms that follow the above-outlined best practices, creating a smooth camp registration and payment experience.
Make It Easy for Families to Pay for Camp
This section is a natural extension of the previous one: if families expect to easily register their campers online, they also expect an easy and convenient way to pay for camp.
And, again, that’s where camp management software with integrated payment options plays a key role.
In other words, if receiving online payments and invoicing are your organization’s pain points, find a software solution that integrates registration, payment, and invoicing automation tools.
Simply put, your software should provide camper families with payment flexibility.
For example, this means you can set up different payment plans that campers can choose from (e.g., full payment, deposit plus scheduled payments, installments).
Moreover, when parents opt for a particular plan, the software will automatically create their family billing portal, where they can manage their payment plan and other info, get reminders, and make payments.
Of course, this payment flexibility extends to enabling camp registrants to choose which of multiple payment methods is most convenient for them, e.g., credit card, debit card, or other electronic (ACH) payment.
The ability to select the payment plan and method that best suit their specific needs is probably the key ingredient that can compel families to register for camp.
As for your organization, this also means:
- easy creation of online payment forms
- secure processing of online payments (for a processing fee, preferably transparently disclosed by the software provider along with the price)
- automated billing and invoicing features that simplify accounting procedures and streamline payments
Wrapping up, camp management software should enable you to provide a flexible and convenient online payment experience for families of potential campers.
That, in turn, significantly increases the chances they will register.
Take Full Advantage of Automation
As the last two sections on digitizing and streamlining camp registration and payment processes have clearly shown, taking full advantage of automation features provided by your camp software is a great way to improve camp management.
For instance, you should look for software with automated communication tools.
Your staff can use it to set trigger-based emails that are automatically sent when a specific action is performed or a particular date has arrived.
In other words, you can automate the sending of invoices, registration and payment confirmation emails, upcoming and/or late payment reminders, and any other required notifications.
Such email automation features allow camp staff to create email templates for different purposes.
Staff can use those features to generate automatically personalized emails, filter registrants according to various criteria (e.g., missing forms, late payment), and email them all at once.
Naturally, this feature can also be used for marketing purposes, i.e., to send important messages, offers, newsletters, and other info to camper families.
Automation also covers the creation of the family’s self-service billing and info portal we mentioned, which allows parents to review their payment balance and past invoices and update camper info.
Another automated feature enables parents to register more than one camper under a single account and ensures that the system remembers the data they entered.
This facilitates faster data entry.
These and other similar features offered by camp management software are primarily focused on enhancing user convenience and increasing your staff’s productivity.
They help with minimizing manual, time-consuming administrative work.
To wrap this section up, a technologically based approach to camp management focused on maximizing automation opportunities in different camp operations is a smart way to go.
Give Continuous Feedback to Your Staff
When camp is underway, there’s rarely much time where the camp director can give official feedback (like a mid- or post-camp performance review) to their management team.
This holds even more true for camp staff.
That’s why, as we mentioned in the lead-by-example section, it’s good practice to give continuous feedback to your staff.
Your aim should be to clearly establish and communicate what is expected from them regarding their respective job and general conduct.
You can, for example, schedule weekly short, one-on-one feedback sessions with senior staff members.
However, these should be used not to criticize their mistakes but praise their strengths and actually listen to their feedback.
In the below-shown article by the American Camp Association, you can find out more about how camp leaders can improve their feedback skills.
To quote them, a survey of camp staff:
…showed the importance of staff feeling supported (not just camp leaders thinking they support their staff).
Therefore, make time to give and receive feedback whenever possible, and encourage your team leaders to do the same, ensuring that all staff members are aware of their role and value to your organization.
Take Feedback From Families Into Consideration
Finally, another excellent tool for improving camp operations: feedback from campers and their parents.
The best time to gather feedback is, naturally, after camp.
Therefore, at an appropriate time (a few days to a week) after camp, you should send camper parents a link to your online feedback survey.
To do so, you can use the tools provided by your camp management software: an online form builder and automated email communication.
You can learn more about specific questions and processes in the article shown below.
Generally speaking, feedback from campers and their families should allow you to evaluate what parts of your programming and camp operations work well and which could be improved.
When an online survey is ready, you can use the group emailing feature to send it to families whose children are fresh off the camp.
Naturally, you can use these same features to create, distribute, and collect staff feedback, another essential component to consider.
Overall, taking feedback from campers and their parents (as well as staff) into account and making appropriate improvements for the next camp iteration is a highly effective approach to camp management.
Having covered seven ways to improve camp management, it’s clear that camp directors need to be well-versed in both people- and technology-related aspects of camp operations.
Therefore, successful camp management requires a combination of a couple of main factors.
You need smart management techniques (brainstorming or planning, leading by example, two-way feedback) and the right software (ensuring automated camp registration, payments, and communication).