Out in Front

When a camp director can get their team to the point of working on one summer while conducting the current summer, the energy of change and innovation takes place. The current summer is continually tweaked, improved upon and used as inspiration for future summer programs.

I find more creativity comes from the freshness of being in the summer experience with the summer staff and getting their ideas about possible changes in the program. The very last week is difficult because they are tired and focused on their next steps, but if a camp director can get their ideas, work with their full-time staff to implement them and then give our parents and campers a heads-up, then you make the future easier to bring about.

A fall newsletter, a winter newsletter and spring newsletter are essential to the idea of repetition and to creating an informed client base.

We have experienced over-mailing where our parents and campers were getting something from us every couple of weeks. We became part of the junk mail system that most households have to deal with.

Quarterly, with important announcements sporadically placed, has yielded the best results for us. Also, informational mailings through your group camping and conference groups will also help get the word out about new programs.

New Clients

After covering the retention field, we look for new clients. First off, use your existing clients! Send multiple brochures home to existing clients asking them to pass them along to a friend. Two things are accomplished… 1) The printed material gets into the hands of someone not on your mailing list 2) Your existing camper and camper parent becomes your salesperson, and they tell people why they go to your facility. That’s the best salesperson you can ask for… a participant.

We mail the brochure to our existing campers three times, in January, March and May.

Here are some ideas for cold contacts:

1. Churches and youth group mailings: Use informative postcards about the experience.

2. Movie theater slide show advertisements: The population of campers you are looking for still go to the movies, and this gets the idea in front of them and their parents. Use great pictures.

3. On-line search engines for camps.

4. School fliers: These informative fliers go home with the student and directly into the hands of the parents.

5. Local summer activity fairs: A lot of communities have summer activity fairs for children. Check with your local school district and reserve a booth during the fair.

6. Board and volunteer recruitment drives: Challenge your board and volunteers to recruit first-year campers through their friends and family. Make it a race or competition between volunteers and offer a great reward for being the year’s best recruiter.

7. E-mail recruitment: Ask contacts, volunteers, board members and friends to forward an electronic version of your brochure to all their contacts and organizations! Very quickly and electronic flier will go out to thousands of people. It’s free.

Now take it a step further and give your parents and campers the information they need to also be working a year in advance. I once heard a camp director say that for every bad year of programming it takes three to outrun the poor reputation created, because you lose your sale force with a poor quality year. Your campers and parents don’t represent you well and your retention goes down, forcing camp directors to spend a fortune in new recruitment and blanketing approaches to finding campers to try them out.

Make working a year in advance fun, use your summer staff while you have them, and talk to campers and parents and keep them in the most honest loop possible about your plans for the program, fees, and future. They will help you because they believe in what we do and the experience we provide. Good luck!

Jeff Merhige is the executive director of YMCA Camp Kern, Dayton YMCA, Dayton, Ohio.

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Related posts:

  1. Flow & Tell
  2. Summer’s End
  3. The Ultimate Survivor
  4. Orient Before Orientation
  5. Off-Season Prep

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