Reevaluating the Camp, Part 1

So the interviews are done, the proposal has been accepted and the start date has been set! You arrive on your first day and introduce yourself to the staff that you have not met through the interview process. They show you to your office and you read the welcome cards from other members of the organization (if you’re lucky to get some). Now what?

Related Article: Reevaluating the Camp, Part 2

Taking over a new operation or reevaluating your current one is always a daunting task. There are an overwhelming number of places to start.

On my first day at YMCA Camp Kern I was aware of some of the possible problems I would be facing — personnel, budget, annual campaign, board development, program failure, retention, facility enhancement, marketing and customer service. Which one to start with?

Each one is vital to a camp’s success. In my case, the path chosen had a very happy ending by the end of the first year. The order approached was as follows: Personnel and budget, board/committee development, program restructuring (training and operation), customer service, marketing and retention.


On arrival a new director would love to re-write the budget, but nine times out of ten the new director inherits the previous director’s budget.

Sometimes this is great, if the camp has been doing well. Or, it can be awful if the camp has not been meeting its financial needs for success.

It is essential that a new director find out how the budget was being managed. Does each department head run their departmental budgets or does the director attempt to control all financial matters directly?

In the case of our example the budget had been written and the staff did not have individual department budget control… Priority one was to dissect the budget and understand it while comparing it to previous years.

Become a budget detective by viewing the budget in its most easily grasped form — department revenue and expense. Compare last year’s actual to the previous years, and farther back if the data is available.

This internal, individual audit gives you a financial view of when programming was changed and departments were switched around. You can see the highs as lows and compare them to where things changed. Also, this allows you to understand the reasons for the current budget. Now you come to a conclusion based on your research.

In this case it was found that there was $150,000 unplanned in revenue.

In our example, department heads were immediately trained in budget management. Each director was given an Excel spreadsheet outlining their current budget. Columns were added for them to place in actuals and to do future projections.

Both revenue and expense lines were recorded and given to the department heads. Procedures were created for writing variance reports, making monthly review of yearly projections and the recording of monthly actuals as they were established.

The mere returning of ownership to the directors changed the attitude and approach to camp budgeting.

Next, create an atmosphere of total honesty with your supervisors. I informed my supervisor of how we could work within the budget mainframe but needed a little leeway in monthly spreads.

When a director shows their conclusions and their plan for managing the finances it makes it easier for a new supervisor to work with you. We received total support in our new financial management approach.

Training! Training! Training! Teaching the department directors how to manage their budgets and giving them control changes attitudes immediately. The beginning of approaching the personnel issues is the changing of the supervisor’s attitudes!


It comes from the top down! And by leadership! The first best piece of advice that this director ever received is to meet with everyone on the payroll. That means everyone!

Why? They get a feel for you and you get a chance to see what hand you have been dealt. Nine times out of ten just being heard relieves the problems and stress that staff is under.

I met with some staff who had never spoken with the camp director in their time at the camp. It cannot be stressed enough the importance of listening and learning from your staff.

Whether you’re new to the position or have been at camp for awhile, it’s important to talk to everyone, especially if you’re in a reevaluation phase.

In the individual meetings you want to establish the vision direction you bring to the camp. Here it’s the idea and practice of Kids and Guests First!

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Related posts:

  1. Reevaluating the Camp, Part 2
  2. Collaborative Programming
  3. Collaborative Programming
  4. Flow & Tell
  5. The Recognition Factor
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