Summer’s End

Effectively Using Your Early Registration Data

If you’re successful in drumming up early registrations (and each year should be more and more successful), you now have the information and time you need to create and renovate programs so they meet the needs of your campers – before your new brochure comes out. You have an inside edge. You know the trends and camper needs based on your early registrants and you can design your programs around them and maximize their potential in recruiting the rest of the way.

This is my favorite part of the job. The joy of working on programs is made even better when you have time to work on program details while registrations are already in the computer!

Program Renovation & Creation

When it comes to program renovation and/or creation the only worthwhile advice is feedback from your kids. Read your camper evaluations. Listen to them. Campers will let you know what needs tweaking, what is needed to stay fresh. Ask questions. Train your staff to ask questions throughout the summer.

If you didn’t do this over the summer don’t worry — it’s not too late!

Pick up the phone and call some of your campers and parents. Conduct a phone survey with both of them. Have mom, dad and the camper on the phone with you at the same time and ask all the questions you would in a standard evaluation. Then, take the information and make some changes they can recognize.

You don’t have to make every change they suggest, but the ones you do implement, make sure everybody knows you made the change because of their suggestions. This simple call has an added benefit – it builds loyalty and trust. The deeper the trust, the more information you receive, the better your programming. (It’s also nice for parents to hear from you when all you want is advice – not money.)

Final Analysis

In the end, all camps deliver the greatest summer they are capable of delivering. We all know the very best way of guaranteeing your retention rate is to deliver the greatest possible experience to our current camper’s day in and out.

Unfortunately, we’ve all also had summers when we knew in our guts we just didn’t hit the mark. Something was off.

If and when this happens, it’s essential to call campers and parents during the off-season and listen to their feedback. This approach can not only ease the negative word-of-mouth, but also reassure parents their camp is still on track and fighting to give their child and their family the greatest experience possible.

Likewise, early registration is a great barometer of your summer season and also a great way to identify (and ward off) possible negative issues before they are allowed to fester and grow over the off-season into reputation-damaging rumors. As we all know, the greatest form of advertising is “word-of-mouth.” Turns out, it can also be the worst.

Congratulations on completing summer 2006 and good luck getting going on 2007 and 2008!

Jeff Merhige is Executive Director of YMCA Camp Kern, Dayton YMCA, Dayton, Ohio. He can be reached via e-mail at

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Related posts:

  1. Beyond Summer
  2. Out in Front
  3. Flow & Tell
  4. Orient Before Orientation
  5. Off-Season Prep

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