Pre-camp planning and implementation are of significant importance in order for the campers, parents, staff and camp administration to have a successful camp season!
From the day that camp closes to June of the next year the camp director's responsibilities continue. Though many of the enclosed recommendations below are well known, written reminders can be helpful.
As camp days "dwindle down to a precious few", memories of the summer experience are magnified by the campers and staff at the closing banquet, which features a traditional ceremony and awards as the major highlight of the season.
Many special activities during the last week will be presented in the camp program as a commemoration of the summer. This is the first step in the marketing of re-enrollment and re-employment for the next summer at camp. Yes, camp is a business, which must be re-energized for the next season.
• Those staff members who have been responsible for the buildings, activities and other facilities must complete their inventory as standard operating procedure at the end of camp and also project their department's needs for the following summer.
• If a catastrophe takes place (like a fire) at the camp during the off-season, the director and the camp's insurance carrier must know what has been damaged or lost.
• The physical or psychological transition of campers and staff to their real world at home or college involves separation from the camp community where friendships, activities and relationships have thrived. A monthly newsletter with contributions from campers, their parents and staff can help bridge the gap from the camp to home or college and keep the momentum and enthusiasm of the season alive.
• Distribution of the campers' and staff names, addresses and telephones numbers at the end of camp can have a positive effect. However, a privacy issue could be raised by parents, staff and others. They may not want the information available to everyone in and out of camp and want their privacy to be maintained and protected. A complete list of campers and staff information could also be used by a competitor in their marketing program. Therefore, campers and staff can ask their peers how they can communicate with them after the season, rather than the camp itself providing the information.
• The inevitable lost-and-found items left at camp must be attended to and mailed promptly to the camper's parents and staff in order to help keep the relationship compatible.
• The customer satisfaction questionnaire sent home to the campers' parents and staff several weeks after the camp has ended concerning their child's camp experience or the staff member's comments and recommendations from the past and future season is of paramount importance. Responses can be returned anonymously or signed in order to provide the director with vital information for the next season and to communicate to those whose responses must be clarified and further discussed.
• In addition to the customer satisfaction questionnaires being completed and returned, an insert for referrals requesting the names, addresses and telephone numbers of prospective campers or staff will be most helpful to the camp director. Perhaps a special prize can be given to the "referral agent" for the camper and staff who do come to the camp the next summer.
• Completion and return of medical, accident and worker's compensation reports and claims for the campers and staff to insurance companies at the end of camp must be done within a reasonable time limit, though limits may differ with each policy and state. Follow-up by the director of the status of the campers and staff who were to continue or to seek medical treatment at home is a professional responsibility of the camp director.
• After forwarding the next season's registration applications and brochures in the early Fall to parents and contracts to staff, a telephone call, personalized e-mail or fax can help reinforce the reality that camp enrollment and employment, though months away, should be considered ASAP.
• Invite parents and staff to communicate with the camp director to discuss the past and the next camp season in order to retain their interest.
• A reunion at a specified place for all of the members of the camp community should be held before Thanksgiving. The yearbook should be distributed as well as the use of videos and slides to reinforce re-enrollment of former campers and staff. Early-bird tuition deposits can also be offered as an inducement for the purpose of re-enrollment.
• Consideration of the supervised use of camp facilities and equipment before and after the camp season by local organizations, with their being completely responsible for insurance liability coverage for the use of the property. This will further community rapport and compatibility with the surrounding towns, even if a camp does or does not pay taxes, though, some camps do make substantial contributions to their municipality.
Yes, a camp director's work and responsibility must be maintained 52 weeks a year!
Dr. Charles B. Rotman is Professor of Psychology, Emeritus, at Babson College in Wellesley, Mass., and is a licensed psychologist. Dr. Rotman is the author of "Camp is Business, Customer Satisfaction" and "Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) in Camp Management" (1998. Babson College Press), and is president of CBR Associates Inc., a mental health consulting service for camps. For questions, he can be reached at (781) 235-4105 or firstname.lastname@example.org.