Unplugging to Connect at Summer Camp

As adults, when we think about summer vacation we remember riding our bikes to the local pool.  We recall the sound of the ice cream truck.  We think about the friends we made at summer camp.  As a child of the 80s or 90s, summer camp was an opportunity for us to meet new people, try new things, and test our independence in a safe and supportive environment.

The world has certainly changed since I was a child, but the basic goals of most summer camp professionals for their campers have not.  We want the kids in our care to make new friends, develop confidence and independence, try new activities, practice leadership, develop interpersonal understanding and empathy – AND WE WANT THEM TO HAVE FUN!

New friendships, new skills, new understandings – these experiences and moments can occur on the zip-line, in the pool, on horseback, at the craft shop, or on the archery range when counselors and staff are trained to encourage and support campers in this growth.  They can’t occur if our hands are full of tablets and phones and MP3 players.  Real personal growth and interpersonal connections require focus and attention.  That’s why I believe summer camp is the perfect place for kids to unplug and connect with one another.

At the South Mountain YMCA Camps, where I have worked for the past 8 years, our campers have the chance to try their hands at canoeing, kayaking, and sailing.  They are able to experience target sports from archery to shooting trap.  They can choose to play any one of a dozen sports and games.  Most importantly, our campers have the opportunity to meet new people from Pennsylvania, across the country, and from around the world.  They are able to talk, share stories, and truly connect in a place that values the worth of each individual.

Every good camp in the country has a story that illustrates how their staff and programs have positively changed lives.  The really good ones probably have research and statistics supporting those stories.  Let me share some South Mountain YMCA Camps statistics, specifically from our sleep-way program, Camp Conrad Weiser:

  • In 2017, 96% of our campers reported making a new friend.
  • More than 90% of our campers believed they were given the opportunity to help others or lead a group.
  • More than 95% of the young people at Camp Conrad Weiser felt they connected with someone who was different from themselves.
  • More than 95% of our campers reported they learned it is important to treat everyone fairly and that everyone has something to contribute.

Like all camp staff, we are proud of our facilities.  We are proud of our program.  We are proud of our staff.  But we are most proud of our campers – who they are, how they have grown, and who they will become.

We hope we have an opportunity to unplug and connect with your family this summer.  We can’t wait to welcome you to YMCA Camp Conrad Weiser.

We’ll see you at Camp!


For more information on Nathan’s programs, YMCA Camp Conrad Weiser and Bynden Wood, visit the South Mountain YMCA Camps’ website at WWW.SMYMCA.ORG.  


Recently, a new camp director asked me for some thoughts on marketing a shiny, new summer camp.  I started writing a paragraph and wound up with a novel.  So, I did what any self-respecting camp director and blogger would do – I broke it into 3 parts.  For you, dear reader, this means you can eat the elephant one bite at a time.  For me, it means I get three posts for the price of one!

Tomorrow we’ll begin the series with Part 1:  Marketing Summer Camp Without (a lot of) Money.  Before we launch, I wanted to share a few disclaimers.


  1. No amount of marketing can fix a broken program, run-down facility, or poor customer service.  Fix these things first.
  2. Use high touch as well as high tech.  Commit to getting out of camp and meeting people.  Whenever feasible, bring people to your site to interact with you and your staff.  Use high tech marketing to promote your appearances and camp events (e-blasts, FB Ads or Invites, online ads and listings).
  3. Know your camp’s strengths and what makes your program unique.  Being able to distinguish yourself from the pack is critical.
  4. Know your target market and the demographics of your current campers.  This will guide you as you decide how to spend your precious marketing dollars.
  5. Every camping guru will tell you that word of mouth is the holy grail of marketing.  Your task is to determine how to nurture and encourage this form of camper recruitment.  Again, knowing the demographics of your camper family populations is crucial.
  6. No one has ever decided to be a camping or recreation professional because they were great at marketing.  When you’re putting together your program’s marketing calendar, ask for a second opinion, and then get a third.  Make sure these opinions come from someone with some expertise in sales or marketing.
  7. I am not a marketing guru, graphic designer, web developer, or sales genius.  I am just a camp guy.  I’m not sayin’ – I’m just sayin’ . . . .

Don’t Gamble!  In my experience, marketing is both an art and a science.  More often than not, we lean on the art rather than the science.  As Jim Collins made clear in Great By Choice, great efforts in business were rarely a moment of pure insight or innovation.  Rather, successful enterprises used empirical research to guide them to that success.  Another good point by Mr. Collins involved the notion of firing bullets before cannonballs.  In marketing, this might mean you try a particular promotion in a limited launch to determine its efficacy before committing all your resources to it.  Move quickly.  Be innovative.  But more importantly, be smart.

Finally, I’d like to share my favorite quote of the week.  “Do something. If it works, do more of it. If it doesn’t, do something else.”  This advice comes from Franklin D. Roosevelt and it has served me well in marketing.

We’ll see you at Camp!


For more information on Nathan’s programs, YMCA Camp Conrad Weiser and Bynden Wood, visit the South Mountain YMCA Camps’ website at www.smymca.org.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 10,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

This might be the easiest resolution you could make in 2012:  Get out and visit a summer camp.

If you are a parent of a potential summer camper, there is no substitute for the information you can glean about a summer camp during a camp visit.  Sure, you can read the glossy brochure, watch the videos, and visit the website.  You will digest a lot of information.  You might even feel like you’ve done your homework.  You haven’t.

Go for a visit.  Walk the trails, sit in the chapel, put your hand in the water along the shoreline – and talk to the staff.

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This afternoon I had the good fortune to visit a friend and fellow camp professional, Dave Bell, and YMCA Camp Colman outside of Seattle, Washington.  It was a needed reminder about the importance of taking the time to connect with the people and places that will become important in our children’s lives.  Camp Colman is beautiful, but Dave and his staff make it magical.

When you are looking for that special place this summer for your new camper, look for good people first.  When you find that, the rest will fall in place.

We’ll see you at Camp!


For more information on Nathan’s camp programs, YMCA Camp Conrad Weiser and Bynden Wood, visit www.smymca.org

For more information on Dave Bell’s summer camps, visit http://www.campcolman.org/ or http://www.camporkila.org/.

I read.  I read a lot.

Last week I read Great By Choice by Jim Collins.  If you read Good To Great and wondered if Collins was speaking to you, if his book applied to your work in the camping industry, I doubt you will have the same concern with his most recent effort.  Great By Choice is worth your time.

But this is not a book review.  Read the book and write your own review.

"Great By Choice" - Jim Collins

It did make me think, am I choosing greatness for my camps?  Am I preparing my organization to be the best camp and conference center in the country – regardless of economic, political or social turbulence?  The truth is, I can do more.  I am betting there is more you can do, too.  Using the lessons I gleaned from the book, I will offer you a few points to consider as you prepare for a lifetime of greatness.

First, look at yourself as a leader.

  1. Are you a disciplined in your approach?  Are you a fanatic about good customer service?  Are you ruthless when it comes to ensuring your programs are of the highest quality?  Are you a benevolent dictator when it comes to ensuring the positive experience of every camper, family, and visitor that crosses your threshold?  Do you invest the extra minute in developing your staff . . . even when you would rather take a minute for yourself in the shade.  Are you “filling your bucket” by attending conferences, reading books, and seeking wisdom outside your field?
  2. Are you paranoid?  I know, we work in camp – we are all paranoid.  We are chronic worriers.  We worry about our staff.  We worry about our campers.  We worry about whether or not we will hit our fundraising goals.  The real question is, does this paranoia make you productive or does it cripple you?  Use the paranoia to drive you.
  3. If you are left-handed, do you balance your creativity with empirical evidence?  If you are right-handed, are you balancing the empirical evidence with creativity?

Second, are you using the 20 Mile March mentality?

Collins talks about the 20 Mile March.  Often the best leaders in their field make changes 20 miles at a time.  They do not seek to cover 100 miles a day, nor do they take a day off.  They pick up their packs and polish off 20 miles each and every day.

Which do you fire first, bullets or cannonballs?

Bullets are a low-cost and low-risk means of testing a new strategy.  A cannonball is a high-risk, high-cost means of launching a new program, a new pricing approach, or entering a new market.  In your camp, do you fire bullets first, wait to see the result, and then launch the cannonball?

Are you leading above the Death Line?

  1. Are you planning for the worst and preparing reserves?  Do you have a contingency plan before you lose that big conference group?  Do you know exactly how you will respond to that fire or flood?
  2. Have you assessed the risk, but not let yourself be crippled by it?
  3. Are you able to “zoom out” and “zoom in” to make sure you can assess changing economic or social conditions that impact your program?

Are your operating procedures Specific, Methodical, and Consistent?

I like to ask my summer camps director, Sue Williams, if you were run down by a rabid deer tomorrow, could summer camp run without you?  Is the camp program durable, replicable and consistent?  There is an interesting point in this question.  We put a lot of emphasis on “out-of-the-box thinking” and innovation, but the empirical evidence shared by Collins indicates that successful leaders and organizations experience less than 15% change over 20-30 years.  Less successful organizations experienced 60% change in the same period.  Consistency seems to trump innovation.

Finally, are you prepared to be lucky?

The answer to this question is answered by how you responded to the previous 5 queries.  I can tell you, I believe I could be more prepared for luck to come my way.  I could be more disciplined and more diligent about planning for the worst case scenario.

I wish you be best in preparing for the luck that will come your way!

We’ll see you at Camp,


Can Summer Camps Battle Summer Learning Loss? 

Well, we better!

If you haven’t watched the video on summer learning loss produced by Horizons National and narrated by Brian Williams, please take the time to watch it.


This piece clearly illustrates how the achievement gap grows from summer to summer and year to year.  Our summer camps need to be ready to address it – intentionally.
I work for a YMCA Camp & Conference Center, the South Mountain YMCA (www.smymca.org).  As an organization, we believe it is our responsibility to make sure that every child can attend summer camp, regardless of their families ability to pay our fees.  In fact, it is this belief, this promise, that gets me out of bed every morning.  I want to make sure our summer camp programs are available to all kids.
I saw this video for the first time last spring and my jaw dropped.  It made me re-evaluate everything I was working so hard to build.  I had been focused on creating excellent programs imbued with values and skills development, building premier facilities with an eye on safety and comfort, hiring and training superb staff that encourage friendships and our campers’ self-esteem, and raising the funds to make it available to all kids.  I was not focused on reading, writing, and arithmetic.  I am looking at my personal mission a little differently today.

What Can Camps Do? 

  1. Intentional Involvement.  Make sure our programs are available to all kids – regardless of a family’s socio-economic background.
  2. Intentional Enrichment.  Camp Professionals know our programs provide enrichment activities.  We teach new skills, values, and promote the development of trust, communication, and teambuilding.  Are we providing opportunities to read or write through camp library programs, camp newsletters, story time, songwriting, etc.?  Are we providing “math moments” by scoring archery tournaments, when we set tables or put out chairs at meal times, or when we do bird counts in our nature programs?
  3. Intentional Motivation.  Are we letting our campers know how important we think it is for them to continue to learn, grow and develop?  We need to encourage achievement – and then celebrate it.  We need to celebrate academic achievement, athletic achievement, and service achievement.

Summer Camps make a tremendous, positive impact on a child’s life – but I believe we can do more.  Good Luck!

We’ll see you at Camp!


*For more information on Nathan’s programs at the South Mountain YMCA Camps, visit www.smymca.org.

Dave Bell from www.CampLeadership.org asked me to write a post about transitioning to a new camp a couple of months ago.  I did my best to procrastinate, but this proved too interesting a topic to put off.

While some of us may be fortunate enough to spend our entire careers at one camp, most of us will work for multiple programs at multiple facilities.  Each camping program has its own traditions.  They sing their own songs.  They play their own games.  We, as camp professionals arriving at a new facility, need to figure out how to acclimate – fast.

How do we ensure this transition is successful?  Having worked with 3 YMCAs in the last 15 years (and 6 camps), I thought I’d share a couple of observations:

  1. Make sure you know why you’re there.  You were just hired for this great new camp gig.  Congratulations!  While you may be charming, witty, and good-looking – chances are that those are not the reasons you were hired.  The person or people who hired you believe that you can do something for their camp.  What is that thing?  Did they hire you to grow their program or maintain it?  Were you brought in to create a new teen camp or build a ropes course?  Which is more important, growing revenue or increasing participation?  If you want to keep this job for more than 18 months, make absolutely certain you know why you are there.
  2. Slap a logo on it.  Alright.  You are transitioning to a new camp.  Chances are you are also transitioning away from an old camp.  Get rid of all your old camp t-shirts.  Tear the bumper sticker off your truck.  Give your old camp fleece and hat to someone who can wear them – because you can’t wear them anymore.  You have a new camp.  Make sure you are your new camp’s biggest cheerleader.  Visit the Trading Post and purchase your camp’s stickers, t-shirts, and caps.  Yes, it may cost you a few dollars – but you make the big bucks now, right?
  3. Walk every inch of the camp and turn every door knob.  In preparing this article, I walked upstairs to Sue Williams’ office (she’s the Summer Camps Director at the South Mountain YMCA Camps), and I asked her what advice she would give a new camp director.  This one is 100% her suggestion.  Sue recommends taking your first day and visiting every nook and cranny of your new camp.  Turn every door knob to see what is normally locked and what is normally left open.  Read every sign at every program area.  Taste the coffee and hot chocolate in the dining hall.  This research will prove invaluable on many levels.
  4. Make nice with the camp staff.  You would think this goes without saying.  In my experience it bears repeating.  Take the time to get to know your colleagues and the staff that works for you.  Invest in them, listen to their views, and take advantage of their experience.  Ensure the first real conversation you have with your peers is not to ask them for help.  Focus on building the relationship and reap the rewards of those efforts later – when you really need them.  It is critical that you understand – that you believe – that every member of your camp’s team makes a positive contribution to the success of your program.  Believe it because it is true.  From food service to the facilities crew, from the office to the summer camp cabin – every staff person has the ability to positively contribute to the camp experience.
  5. Shake some hands.  Meet with one alum per week.  Call one current camper family per day.  Bring the summer camp staff in for a retreat weekend (or at least give them all a call).  For all of these interactions, listen more than you speak and be sure to validate their camp experience.  This process does not end after the first 6 months.  Shaking hands and sharing with key stakeholders will continue as long as you have your shiny new camp job.  However, there is something you need to keep in mind while you are having these conversations.  If you take nothing else from this post, please, at all costs, resist the urge to spout these words, “Well, at my last camp . . . .” 
  6. Be a sponge.  Visit your camp’s website.  Read the old blogs.  Watch the videos.  Read the menus.  Visit your camp’s Facebook page.  Read the evaluations.  Listen to how your phones are answered.  Study your new camp like you are preparing for the SATs.
  7. Know your dollars and cents.  Dave Deluca, from YMCA Camp Mason, shares this one.  Make it a mission to learn your budget – whether you’re the assistant summer camp director or the CEO.  Know your budget.  Which programs generate money for your organization?  On which programs is your organization choosing to lose money?  If you provide scholarships or financial assistance for your programs, where does it come from?  Follow the money and you will determine the strengths and weaknesses of your camp.
  8. Don’t try and change the world in your first 6 months – unless you have no choice.  If you have the luxury of stepping into a program that is doing well (i.e. hitting budget, attracting new participants, demonstrating good retention rates), be patient.  Observe a season.  See what your new camp does well.  Ask “why?”  Determine what areas you can plus and make a list of what you feel needs to change.  Make those changes with respect.  If you don’t have this luxury, avoid making decisions out of fear.  Watch, listen, and be decisive.  If you have to act quickly to repair the program, go with established best practices in the first 6 months.  After 6 months, prepare to get radical.  Write the “big outrageous plan” and get feedback from people you respect in the field.  Listen to that feedback and then write a better plan.  Don’t hesitate.  Trust the plan and run with it.
  9. Start saying “we.”  When you’re talking about your new camp’s programs, staff, and heritage, you need to use the words “we” and “ours.”  You may not have been canoeing Lake Swim-a-lotta since 1924, but you need to talk like you have been.  It matters.

Congratulations on your new job.  You were chosen for a reason.  If I may offer one more suggestion, leave it better than you found it.  With each major decision you make at your new camp, ask yourself if this change will leave your camp better than you found it.  I ask myself this question at least once a week.  Quite frankly, it helps me sleep at night.

We’ll see you at Camp!


For more information on Nathan’s camp programs, visit the South Mountain YMCA Camps website at www.smymca.org.

Unlike many of my posts, this one is not for parents – this one is for summer camp professionals.  If you are a camp professional (or just a parent who wants a look behind the curtain), read on!

Last week, I wrote about a balanced approach to summer camp recruitment.  This week we’re going to look at summer camper retention.  As such, it’s time to share my retention mantra with you –  in rank order of importance:

  • Run a good summer camp program, one that engages a camper’s interest and provides a progression he or she can build upon in future summers.
  • Hire a good summer camp staff with young people that campers can look up to and that parents hope their children grow up to be like.
  • Ensure that every camper leaves having formed at least 1 friendship.

“But wait!” you say, “Summer is over.  Do you mean we can’t do anything about retention until next year.”  Don’t fret.    I gave you the most important factors in summer camp retention first.  The list rolls on:

  • Make a pledge to contact every camp family at least once a month.  If you haven’t done it already, send out summer camp evaluations to kids and parents.  Send birthday and holiday cards.  Utilize an email service like Constant Contact each month to update campers and families about happenings at Camp.  Use Facebook.  Use Twitter.  Use the social networking sites and methods you and your organization are most comfortable with.
  • Run year-round programs intended to keep the camp community strong.  Hold a summer camp reunion – at your site or a location that is central for your campers.  If you’re a camp that utilizes campfairs throughout the winter for camper recruitment, combine those camp appearances with reunion events.  Do the same thing for your camp staff and alumni!
  • Personally call every camp family once during the winter.  I am willing to bet you think of your campers and their parents as family.  Well, treat them like family!  Drop them a line every once and while to see how things are going.  This is easily the most intimidating of the potential retention efforts you could employ – but it has the greatest potential pay-off.  Just like a donor begins to resent the fundraiser who only calls when they are asking for money, a camp family can begin to doubt the sincerity of your “camp family” if you only call them to remind them to register.
  • Develop a strategy for returning summer camp counselors to reach out to their campers and invite them to return.  Who is the best person to remind your campers about the fun they had last summer?  I am going to go out on a limb and say that it is the their camp counselors.  Have you summer camp counselors sign the holiday cards.  Have your summer camp counselors man the phones and encourage last year’s campers to re-register.


I hope I’ve given you something to think about as you plan your marketing efforts for next year.   Building the camp community doesn’t end on September 1st, it just changes the methods you use to build that community.

If you’re hungry for more, check out Dave Bell’s marketing article in Camp Business entitled “Small is the New Big.”  You can find it at http://www.camp-business.com/articles/cb/small-is-the-new-big.

We’ll see you at Camp!


Unlike many of my posts, this one is not for parents – this one is for summer camp professionals.  If you are a camp professional (or just a parent who wants a look behind the curtain), read on!

Tis the season to start planning summer camper recruitment for next year.  As such, I want to share my recruitment mantra with you –  in rank order of importance:

  1. Bring Families to Camp (High Touch)
  2. Take Camp to Families (High Touch)
  3. Use the Vast Digital Billboard (High Tech)

Bring Families to Camp

I did not write “bring kids to camp” (they aren’t the decision-makers), and it is no accident I didn’t write “bring parents to camp,” (they won’t pay the deposit without knowing their child is very interested).  Bring Families to Camp!  I’ll bet it even fits your mission.  Throw free events like Spring and Fall Festivals!  Hold Community or Family Fun Days!  Heck, if you’re looking for revenue streams, run more Family Camp Weekends.  The point is, get families to camp.

Bringing a family to camp allows:

  • Parents to get comfortable with your facility – and the drive to reach it.
  • Parents see their kids interacting with your staff.
  • Parents interact with your staff

You can’t pay for this sort of promotion and recruitment – which is why these events should be free!  I want to stress, these are not Open Houses.  The traditional Open House Event is a tour of camp and a sales pitch.  I am suggesting you bring families to camp, let them play, and let camp sell itself.

Of course, some of our camps are too remote to make good use of all of these events, but don’t let your location be an excuse.

Take Camp to Families 

Many camps utilize Camp Fairs as their sole opportunity to personally interact with families interested in learning about summer programs.  If you have the budget to pay the registration fees, staff time, and travel – good for you.  But don’t let that be the full extent of your outreach efforts.

Where does your camp traditionally recruit well from?  Make a list of those locations.  Then, starting in September, attend “Back to School Nights,” community fairs and festivals, etc.  At each appearance, do something fun with kids – don’t just show up with brochures or dvds.

If you are an independent or private camp, you probably lack storefront locations.  So, identify places that can serve as your storefront.  Starting in December and January, ask libraries if you can hold camp information nights (and then promote those nights online).  Ask a restaurant.  Ask a  college.  Make sure there is adequate parking at whatever location you choose – and make sure families are comfortable going there.

Use the Vast Digital Billboard

If you’re reading this post, you are already using technology to better your camp and its recruitment efforts.  I bet you are placing Facebook or Google ads.  Well done.  If not, let me try and sell you on why you should be.

In the old days, we used newspaper/magazine ads, phone books, cable spots and billboards to raise the awareness of our programs.  The problem is, very few of these efforts were easily quantifiable.  Quite often, it felt like we were shelling out a lot of cash for very little return.  Online ads answer this particular concern.

With an online ad, a potential camp parent can click your ad and follow it to your website.  Try doing that with the Sunday paper.  Not only that, if you are cheap like me, you can choose to pay only when someone actually “clicks through” to your website.  A million people may see your ad before someone follows it to your site, but you only pay for that single referral.  There’s a lot to love about pay-per-click advertising.

If you’re watching your pennies, I recommend you put your money into search engine ads (ex. Google or Bing) before you invest in ads on social networking sites.  Your ad will be more effective if it is shown to people who are already searching for summer camp.

A final word about online ads.  Your first inclination will be to promote your summer camp program this way.  May I recommend using it year-round to promote your efforts to bring families to camp and to take camp to families?

Of course, all the online ads in the world will not make a difference it your website is awful or the person answering your phones is rude.  Make sure you are ready for the calls and web visits.


I hope I’ve given you something to think about as you plan your marketing efforts for next year.   As your looking at your calendar, give priority to those efforts that put you in front of both kids and parents.  Work to bring families to camp.  Use online marketing to promote your summer camp – but also to encourage families to come to your facility or other camp events in their region.

Stay tuned for thoughts on Camper Retention!

If you’re hungry for more, check out Dave Bell’s marketing article in Camp Business entitled “Small is the New Big.”  You can find it at http://www.camp-business.com/articles/cb/small-is-the-new-big.

We’ll see you at Camp!


In preparing for summer camp, parents ask a lot of questions – as they should.  What happens when a child get homesick?  What kind of activities will my child be able to participate in?  How will your staff help my child make friends?

All of these are good, valid concerns.  But my favorite question, hands down, is “How far away is too far away to send a child to summer camp?”

How Far is Too Far for Summer Camp?

If you are a reader who likes his or her answer up front, let me satisfy your curiousity immediately with a 2 part response:

  1. It depends on the child attending camp.
  2. It depends on the parent who is sending the child to camp.

Now its perfectly clear, right?  Perhaps not.  But it was helpful, right?  Again, perhaps not.

This summer, I ran a poll on LinkedIn  and asked adults this very question (http://linkd.in/mMvo0b).  With a few votes shy of 200 responses, my results are less than definitive, but the comments were pure gold.  I simply asked, “If you were sending a 10 year-old to sleep-away camp, what is a comfortable distance?” 

When framing my responses, I used times (less than 1 hour away, 1-2 hours away, 2-4 hours away, anywhere in the country, and anywhere in the world), but I did not define how a camper might be travelling.  In my opinion, once campers are travelling more than 4 hours away (by car, boat, train, or plane), they are too far away for parents to rush to their aid in the same day.  When campers are 4 or more hours away, they are “beyond reach.”  Coincidentally, this is how I picked a college.  I wanted a school that my parents could not easily visit.  I chose Grinnell College in Iowa, a full 16 hour drive from my home in Pennsylvania. 

As you might expect, responses to this simple question were all over the map (pun intended).

  1. 21% of respondents felt comfortable with their child attending camp less than 1 hour from home.
  2. 34% of respondents were comfortable with their child attending camp 1-2 hours away.
  3. 27% of respondents felt comfortable with their child attending camp 2-4 hours from home.
  4. 9% of respondents were comfortable with their child attending camp anywhere in their home country.
  5. 9% of respondents felt comfortable with their child attending camp anywhere in the world.

If you take the time to review the results in more detail, you would find a trend towards older parents feeling more comfortable with their children traveling further from home than younger parents.  You wouldn’t see significant differences between men and women.

My Advice to ParentsThe perfect camp will be where you and your child’s comfort levels intersect.  Some kids are ready at 7 to fly across the country.  Some parents will never be ready for their children to be an hour away from them.  As my father is fond of saying, “moderation in all things.”  Look for the compromise. 

Look for the point at which your comfort and your child's comfort intersect.

Please keep this in mind:  Your goal should be to challenge your child and push her a step beyond her comfort level.  If you keep her too close, she may not feel challenged and/or independent.  If you push her too far out of her comfort zone, she may not benefit from the experience.  The same thing goes for you as a parent.  If you’re a parent who believes you can’t live without your child sleeping in the next room, look for the camp that is an hour away or less.  Don’t immediately send your camper across the country.  Moderation.

My Advice to Camp Directors:  “What?” you may wonder, “What does this post have to do with the art of camp management?”  Well, it should impact how you look at your marketing work.  Most parents responding to this poll, 55%, are comfortable sending their child to a camp less than 2 hours away.  82% of all parents who responded to the survey are looking for a camp that is less than 4 hours away from their home.  So, if you are on a limited marketing budget, focus on promotional events and ads that are within 2 hours drive of your camp.  Half of all parents looking for sleep-away camp next summer will be comfortable with your location.

We’ll see you at Camp!


Be sure to visit Nathan’s camp program (YMCA Camp Conrad Weiser and Bynden Wood), The South Mountain YMCA Camps, at www.smymca.org.

Summer Camp Source: Nathan Scott Brant