3 Decisions I’m Making This Fall That I Didn’t Make Last Fall

“All growth depends upon activity. There is no development physically or intellectually without effort, and effort means work.” –Calvin Coolidge

Last month I shared with you 5 Tools I’m Using This Fall That I Didn’t Use Last . I’d like to follow that up this month with some “things” that I’m choosing to do this fall. You see, growth and progress are incredibly important to me and I would bet they are to you also. Benjamin Franklin reminded us that without them, “words such as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.”

Here are three things that I’m doing as signs of growth and progress.

  1. I’m making some incredibly important phone calls. It’s normal for us around this time of year to send out surveys to evaluate the past summer and gather some ideas for the next. This year I’m calling parents. This will allow me to ask follow-up questions to their answers. "Too expensive" could lead to asking, "How much would you be willing to spend?" Professional camp consultant Gary Forster (www.garyforster.com) says, “I've found talking to as few as 12 moms is more useful than sending surveys to hundreds and getting 40 back (with no idea if it's a representative sample or not.) A key problem with any survey, including satisfaction surveys, is that people who don't like you much won't waste their time responding; making camp surveys notoriously more positive than reality. How do you know? The "average" camp return rate is only 55%; but the average response to end-of-summer surveys have over 90% saying ‘we'll be back.’ Most of those not returning can't be bothered with your survey. Call. You'll learn way more than you expected.”
  1. I’m connecting the dots between my personal and professional online brand. As camp professionals we are incredibly in tune with protecting our camp's brand. We keep a close watch on Facebook posts. We monitor our Google analytics.  We analize the retweets, hashtag the instagrams, and boost the YouTube views whenever possible. We know both how to promote and protect the image of our camps. But this fall I’m thinking much more keenly about my own personal brand and how it impacts my camp and my career. As someone who has spent much of this year hiring full-time staff, Google became my reference check. I made interview and hiring decisions based in part on what I found out about candidates online—and that included drawing conclusions based on what I didn’t find.
  1. I’m choosing parent convenience over ease for our camp. This one is a lot harder than it sounds. For years our registration process for summer camp has been incredibly convenient for everyone but the parent who is registering the camper. From the amount of duplicated paperwork to the very limited methods of getting said paperwork to camp. From archaic forms of payment to delayed communication. The entire system of camp registration was built around “what works for camp.” This fall we are doing the hard work of a massive system change to make life better for the parent. The cost and time involved is a huge sacrifice but a much needed one. We’d also love to take our camp completely paperless, including our summer program guide. But we realize that this isn’t what our parents want. They want the guide in their hand and they want to register online. The surveys verify this. Would it be a cost savings to not print brochures and have them mailed out? Of course. But this fall we are making the difficult choices for the sake of our parents. Parent convenience is our top priority for this upcoming season.

These are the top 3 decisions I plan on making this fall. Please leave your top decisions in the comments section.

Cory Harrison has directed resident camp programs for more than 10 years with The Salvation Army and the YMCA. Currently, he is the Executive Director of the YMCA Camp Benson in Northwest, IL. He is a life-long camper, an avid reader, and daily cereal eater. Reach him via Facebook: facebook.com/coryharrison