Powers Of Persuasion

By Jeff Dick and Jason Hedrick

Camp directors are often limited in advertising funds and must make decisions annually to determine how to get the most for their money.

Before deciding where to direct marketing efforts, it is important to identify who influences the decision as to whether or not a child attends camp.

In a study of fifth- through eighth-graders in Arizona, Wendy Hultsman found that parental influence was perceived as a greater influence than other groups (other significant adults and peers) in the decision whether to join an activity.

The constraints, such as transportation and cost of participation, can be influential in the decision of parents to restrict involvement in a potential activity.

Meanwhile, Howard & Madrigal (1990) found that the decision to participate in an extracurricular activity is first pre-screened by mothers. The duo found that mothers made early decisions about potential activities before allowing children to be involved in the final decision-making process.

According to Hultsman, marketing efforts of programs should shift from parents toward youth as the youth age and gradually become stronger influences in the purchasing of leisure experiences.

Little research has been done to explore the nature of the camp-enrollment decision. However, a recent survey involving 12 residential 4-H summer camps in Ohio attempted to determine the significant influences for attending camp.

It is the hope that these findings will be valuable to camp-program directors as they target their marketing methods.

Of the camps in Ohio that service the state’s 88 counties, a stratified random sample was selected to ensure representation from each of the camp facilities.

The survey consisted of multiple five-point anchored Likert-type questions, developed to measure the level of influence (from “no influence” to “high influence”) and the level of effectiveness (from “not effective” to “very effective”).

Various demographic questions were also included to analyze subsets of the population and ensure diversity in sample responses. Descriptive methods were used to analyze group response rates. Means score tests were run to compare variable responses. Cronbach’s Alpha was used to determine the reliability of this instrument at .719.

Table 1

Who Influenced the Camp Enrollment Decision?


The nature of influence, from parents, the respective child, friends and other adults on the camp enrollment decision, was evaluated. The highest influencers, as reported by the parents, were the respective child and the parent/guardian (Table 1).

The child’s friends, advisors and siblings were moderately influential. Other parents were low on the influence scale.

Table 2

How Did your Child Learn about Camp?


In marketing 4-H camps to potential campers and parents, various methods were considered. When asked how they learned about camp, 56 percent found out about camp from their 4-H club advisor, 51 percent from a newsletter, 24 percent from a specific camp mailing, 19 percent from the child’s friend and 12 percent from another parent (Table 2).

Direct Contact
Although various marketing methods are used to promote the availability of programs to potential youth and their parents, direct contact by adult volunteers and organizational newsletters are the most effective.

Camp promoters may still want to pay attention to the potential of expanding enrollment and reaching additional families through additional channels, such as mailings and direct contacts by peers and parents of those peers.

Applying these findings, camp promoters should concentrate their efforts primarily on youth and their parents.

Brochures, informational meetings and general advertisements should have the “child in mind,” yet meet the threshold of acceptance set by parents.

Parents have also explained that “word of mouth” and other methods of direct and interpersonal communication are the most effective ways of marketing camp programs.

Camp decision makers should build methods of communicating the camp message through volunteers, youth and other parents as a secondary means of effectiveness when finances allow.

Methods of this study can also provide a framework for individual camps to evaluate the decision of youth to participate and the effectiveness of their marketing techniques in reaching their audiences.

With an ever-increasing array of opportunities for youth and their families to participate in, it is important for camp directors to be proactive in seeking the feedback of their clientele.

Jeff Dick has served as an Ohio 4-H educator and camp director for 19 years, 4-H Camp Palmer Board trustee for 16 years and Interim Camp Manager for 13 months. He can be reached via e-mail at dick.7@cfaes.osu.edu.

Jason Hedrick, Assistant Professor of the Ohio State University Extension, and Greg Homan, Ph.D., Assistant Professor at Wright State University, also contributed to this report.

Howard, D., and Madrigal, R. (1990). “Who makes the decision: the parent or the child? The perceived influence of parents and child on the purchase of recreational services.” Journal of Leisure Research, 22, 244-258.

Hultsman, W. (1993). “The influence of others as a barrier to recreation participation among early adolescents.” Journal of Leisure Research, 25 (2) 150-164.