Summer's Over; What Now?

Editor's Note: This timely Week-Ender is from our Camp Business archives. It originally ran on Aug. 26, 2011.

If you are like many camp directors, the summer turns into a black hole of busyness. From the first week of staff training through the final camp staff banquet, the camp director is involved in many (make that all) aspects of the day-to-day running of a small company -- or a small country, depending on your perspective.

Back to school for camp directors!

Now that the staff have left, the customers have checked out and you have an opportunity to exhale, it is now what I like to call “investment time.”

The next few months on your calendar will do much for the long-term success of yourself and your camp if you take advantage of the opportunity.

The summer camp world can seem like a race at times. Sometimes it’s a sprint and sometimes it’s a marathon.

Here are a few reminders to make you successful in this R.A.C.E.:

Read - The summer season at camp isn’t always the best time to do heavy reading on staff leadership, board development, budget management and new marketing ideas, but as a professional you cannot put off this investment in yourself. If you don’t know where to start, I recommend looking on to see what the top-selling leadership, business or management books are, ask a friend or get on and see what other professionals have on their reading lists. If you need someone to hold you accountable, set up a book club with other camp professionals, staff or board members.

Ask - I think the most powerful tool you have at your disposal is the ability to ask questions of those around you. With the power of social media, you have the ability to connect and engage with professionals around the world and ask questions. Twitter and Linkedin are great tools where hundreds or even thousands of summer camp and non-profit professionals are at your fingertips, ready to answer your questions.

Connect - My hope is that you took the opportunity of the summer camp season to invite board members, donors and stakeholders to visit camp, but if you missed that window, it is not too late to connect. Be intentional about connecting with your board members on a regular basis, whether it is in person or by email, phone or hand-written letter. They want to hear from you more often than just when it is time for your annual fundraising campaign. Invite them into discussions about the future of camp and the challenges you face. If you are not a member of a civic organization, this would also be a great opportunity to visit a couple and consider joining. Raising the profile of your camp in the community is always a good thing.

Evolve - Over the last few years, I have evolved from a program-focused camp leader to a process-focused camp leader. Camp should be fun, and we can’t lose sight of that expectation, but my focus is no longer on learning the 10 new camp songs a year or the greatest all camp game. I have program staff who are specialists in this area. My focus now is on streamlining our processes so we can better serve our customers, be better stewards of our resources and develop higher-level staff. This evolution has occurred from the books I have read and the interactions I have had with other business professionals. I run better camps today than I did five years ago because I knew that I needed to change. I look at camp through a different filter now. How will you evolve over the next few months?

Take a couple of days to re-energize, then begin the investment time in yourself. You will benefit, your camp will benefit, your staff will benefit and your community will benefit from the investment you make over the next few months.

It’s a R.A.C.E. -- ready, set, go!

Dave Bell has directed day and resident camp programs for more than 15 years. Currently, he is the Executive Director of Camping Services for the YMCA of Greater Seattle. He is a former American Camp Association Southeast Section board member, a certified Y-USA Day Camp Director Trainer and a Y-USA partner YMCA camp consultant. Reach him via e-mail at