Running a summer camp is a noble pursuit. You have the chance to offer your campers the summer of their lives and teach them important skills along the way.
But, as in every other business—and that’s what a summer camp is when you get down to it—running one is not always simple.
You have to manage many things—from taking registrations and payments, communicating with families, and organizing activities to maintaining facilities, training staff, and more—all by staying within a budget.
It’s safe to say that your hands are full every summer.
Luckily, we have compiled a list of seven important tips that can help you keep track of everything you should be doing to run a successful summer camp.
So, we invite you to keep reading.
Automate the Administrative Tasks That You Can
Apart from creating fun activities for your campers and spending time with them, you and your staff have a lot of administration to do.
This work starts way before the summer—registering campers, collecting payments from their parents, getting all the signatures you need, and communicating with families.
If you do all this manually, you know how time-consuming it can be. Instead of focusing on creating new, fun, and useful activities, you are burdened with all the administrative work.
Of course, without this work, you can’t run a summer camp. But why wouldn’t you help yourself and automate the administrative tasks if you can?
So, our first tip is to consider automating administrative tasks in your summer camp.
You can do that with camp registration software like our Regpack. Let’s see what this software can do for you.
First and foremost, in Regpack, you can create your own online registration forms. That means you can ask whatever you need—and extract only the information you actually need without burdening the parents unnecessarily.
The best part of Regpack’s registration forms is that they work on the principle of conditional logic, which means that forms will intuitively ask for relevant information only.
And you know what that means? Your families will fill out forms easily without calling and asking for help. This will give you more time to focus on other aspects of your summer camp.
Second, these same forms can be used to collect payments from your families.
You can even set up whether you want one-time payments from parents or offer them payment plans where recurring payments will be collected automatically. You won’t have to send numerous emails reminding and asking parents to pay.
And last but not least, Regpack is a great tool to automate your communication with parents—probably the most time-consuming and burdensome task.
From those first emails reminding families of which forms they still have to fill out to notifying them their payments are due or that they’ve successfully paid—writing each and every one of these emails yourself is just too much work.
Instead, Regpack’s communication works through triggers. All the things we just named (and more) can be triggers you can set up in your settings.
So when, for example, software notices that one family still hasn’t filled out all forms for registration, it can notify them about which forms they still need to fill out with an email like this one:
As we’ve just seen, camp registration software as our Regpack is an all-in-one solution that can take the burden off you and your staff by automating some of your tasks.
This can give you more time to focus on other things you must take care of to run a successful summer camp.
Pay Close Attention to Your Spending
Another valuable tip for successfully managing your summer camp (or any business) is keeping a close eye on your expenses.
In your summer camp business, you’ll encounter two types of costs: capital and operating expenses.
Capital expenses are those long-term investments, like if you decide to purchase land for your camp. Operating expenses, on the other hand, cover your day-to-day costs.
Once you understand the nature of your expenses, it would be wise to track and analyze where your money goes.
You can make this task easier with accounting software. It can help you create a comprehensive list of all your expenses, including all checks, invoices, and bills.
You can go into more detail and monitor who’s making purchases and when.
This clear overview can help you catch mistakes, such as potential duplications within your team’s equipment orders. You can also notice if you are ordering overpriced or unnecessary items.
In addition, having all your expenses in one place allows you to compare spending to the previous year and spot price increases from vendors—and take action accordingly.
All in all, keeping an eye on your spending can help you make informed decisions about where to cut unnecessary costs.
However, remember not to compromise on your team’s needs. After all, it’s your staff that makes your summer camp a memorable and great experience for your campers.
So, make sure to allocate enough resources to your staff’s salaries and counseling—if you pay them fairly, it will increase their productivity and happiness, and they will do their best.
As a result, you will have an exceptional team of individuals, and that is, in the long run, the only way to manage a successful summer camp.
Provide Your Campers With a Balanced Diet
A balanced diet is extremely important. For all of us—but especially for children. It provides essential nutrients for their growth, development, and overall health.
That’s why the results of this study by Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health are very discomforting.
In 2013, they observed five summer camps in Boston, MA, and the food they served to campers. The results were as follows:
What is most concerning is that over a quarter of campers didn’t drink anything during the entire camp day, and vegetables were rarely on the menu.
Some parents are extremely strict about what food their children eat in summer camps—and rightfully so if we take this study into account.
Just read through this mother’s blog post about her experience of a summer camp giving junk food to her daughter.
On a funny note, she asks herself if she ever signed a permission form (in the sea of registration forms) for her daughter to be given junk food in a summer camp she goes to.
But what she also emphasizes is how summer camps are, in fact, role models for young campers and how “we (parents and camps) need to come together to change our food environment on behalf of our children.”
She shows that parents do care about what their children eat in summer camps, and diet options can also be one more reason for parents to send their children to your camp or not.
So, how can you go about this and provide your campers with a balanced diet? The following tips will help you out:
|Start by asking about dietary preferences and allergies already in registration forms to learn if you will have to adapt some ingredients.|
|Make sure the food you serve is healthy and rich in vitamins and minerals. Also, it should give energy to campers so they can actively engage in all activities.|
|In your meals, include the following:
|Be cautious about where you source your ingredients. Try to choose local and organic options and read labels carefully.|
|Hydration is vital, especially in summer, so set up water stations across your camp to ensure campers can access water at all times. And encourage them to drink as much as possible.|
Now, we don’t say you can’t treat your campers to a snack or two once in a while, but overall, the food you serve them should be healthier, filling, and balanced.
In 2023, when numerous organizations promote how important a healthy diet is and when parents are concerned about their children’s nutrition, it’s the only way to run your summer camp successfully.
But you will get peace of mind, too, knowing that your choices are good for your camper’s health and well-being.
Maintain Strict Hygiene and Sanitation Standards
Summer camp is all about fun, adventure, and making lifelong memories. But, it goes without saying that the environment in which that is happening should be clean and safe.
Not only is this crucial for the health of your campers and your staff, but it is also a legal requirement.
In the United States, summer camps must obtain a license to start working.
Licensing rules vary by state, but every camp must adhere to specific sanitation and food inspection regulations to get a permit.
In New York State, for instance, camps must meet the State Sanitary Code requirements, which also include regular camp inspections, as you can see below:
Source: New York State
So, how can you maintain hygiene and sanitation standards in your summer camp?
Apart from the specific sanitation rules in your state’s regulations, you can implement the following relatively simple practices:
- Teach your campers about the importance of hand washing and make sure they wash their hands before and after every meal and more times throughout the day.
- Set up sanitizer stations across the entire camp.
- Make sure you have enough bathrooms that are at all times equipped with toilet paper, soap, and paper towels.
- Encourage campers to take responsibility for their environment by scheduling times to clean their rooms/tents and the common areas.
If you include these in your summer camp, you, your staff, and your campers are on a great way to maintaining a healthy camp environment.
Plus, this is a great way to teach your campers how important it is to take care of the safety and cleanliness of their environment.
Keep Your Camp Facilities Well Maintained
Today, we mentioned that your camp has two types of expenses—capital and operating expenses.
If something breaks in your camp and you must fix it, that is an operating cost.
If that happens often—for example, your refrigerator in the kitchen breaks down, your roof starts leaking, and the septic tank is full in the middle of the summer camp season—fixing all this can significantly increase your operating expenses.
However, if you regularly do facility maintenance, you’ll always know in what condition your camp is. So, it becomes less likely that these situations will happen. That means no unexpected cost, which is excellent for any business.
To keep your facilities well-maintained, prevent extra costs, and avoid unpleasant or potentially dangerous situations, consider doing the following:
|Put a portion of your budget aside for unavoidable repairs.|
|Routinely inspect all camp facilities, including cabins, bathrooms, kitchens, and common areas, to spot potential issues early.|
|Create a maintenance schedule covering various aspects of your camp, including checks for electricity, plumbing, and septic systems.|
|Don’t forget outdoor maintenance, such as regular tree trimming, fence repair, and more, to ensure a safe environment.|
|Train your staff to report any problems they notice during their daily activities to start fixing them immediately.|
By following these steps, you can ensure that your camp facilities remain in good condition, minimize unexpected costs, and, most importantly, provide a safe and enjoyable experience for your campers.
Perform Regular Staff Performance Evaluations
We all appreciate praise for a job well done, but we also value knowing when we can improve and need guidance.
But, it’s crucial to receive feedback while we’re in the middle of a task, not just after it’s completed when the opportunity for improvement has passed.
This principle applies to camp staff as well.
Unfortunately, summer camps often provide feedback only at the end of the season. This might be because summer camps are fast-paced, and directors are busy.
However, implementing regular performance evaluations and feedback for your camp staff can significantly improve your camp’s management.
Daniel Shore from the American Camp Association surveyed 100 staff members across various camps to understand the importance of regular evaluations.
The results showed that staff members who felt supported by their supervisors early in the summer displayed more enthusiasm and performed much better.
Hopefully, these results will encourage you to show support to your staff by providing more frequent feedback.
One practical approach is to have brief one-on-one meetings with staff members to highlight their strengths and areas for improvement.
You can evaluate different aspects of their performance, including the points on this checklist:
By doing this, you can help your camp staff improve, which will result in a more enjoyable experience for everyone involved. Your team will appreciate it, and you’ll run a higher-quality summer camp.
Stay in Touch With Your Local Community
Your summer camp’s success goes beyond what happens within its borders. It’s deeply connected to your local community.
As the old saying goes, “A good neighbor makes life sweeter, while a bad one can turn it into a nightmare.”
Believe it or not, this wisdom applies to your camp’s neighbors and the local community, too.
Let’s explain what we mean by this.
For example, your camp’s neighbors may not appreciate the noise, laughing, or loud music coming from your camp. And in a way, that is reasonable.
So it’s your responsibility to do everything you can so this doesn’t create bigger issues with your local community.
One thing you can do is to be more mindful of noise levels, especially during the evening, as this will prevent complaints from neighbors.
Another thing that could significantly improve your relations with your local community is helping them out.
For example, you could involve your campers in community service projects, like this camp from Slovakia does:
Source: LEAF Academy on Instagram
Whether it’s sprucing up a local library or helping out elderly residents, these actions foster goodwill and make your summer camp part of these people’s community.
Then, even if you organize an evening party with live music for your campers, your neighbors won’t mind much when they remember how your campers helped them out.
But it’s more than that.
The positive reputation you get from small things like these can also help you partner and collaborate with local businesses and organizations.
And in the long run, this can be very helpful for your summer camp business and even help you get more interested campers.
In summary, satisfied neighbors matter—if you want to run your camp successfully, keeping in touch with them is key.
The seven tips we discussed today offer a solid foundation for running a successful summer camp.
From automating administrative tasks and tracking your spending to fostering good relations with your local community, these seven pointers can guide you in the right direction.
So, keep this article as a handy reference for maintaining a thriving summer camp business.