With summer 2022 just around the corner, day camp and program leaders have to prepare for a new normal after the pandemic. Whether your camp last year was open or not, you’re likely going to get an influx of campers eager to participate in person this year.
On top of the normal tasks of managing and enrolling campers, hiring staff, fundraising, facilitating fun activities, and keeping everyone safe, camp leaders will also need to keep in mind the lasting impacts, considerations, and regulations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Key software and camp management strategies can help your leadership stay on top of tasks and greatly reduce their administrative workload, leaving more time to meaningfully engage with the camp community.
To prepare you for the upcoming camp season and set you up for success for all future summers, we’ve put together this camp management guide that will help you prepare for:
In terms of timing, registration for the summer 2022 camp season is just getting underway. Typically, day camps start planning in February and March and open registration from March to May.
If you want to stay organized before your camp starts and throughout the season, it’s recommended to invest in capable and reliable cloud-based camp registration software.
Not only does this ensure that you accurately capture all the necessary camper information, registration details, and payments, but it also supports safe practices necessitated by the pandemic. This adds another level of trust and convenience to families.
With camp software, you can:
- Ensure that parents can easily register their children and pay for camp online.
- Support a contactless registration process by minimizing any unnecessary face-to-face engagements.
- Offer convenient payment capabilities, like multiple payment options and saved cards on file.
- Host customizable online forms, waivers, permission slips, and any other documents that require a digital signature.
- Run multiple sessions, set capacity limits, and use waitlists to ensure that you can keep kids socially distanced if needed.
- Refer to past summers’ data to plan safe and exciting activities that campers actually enjoy.
- Market your camp to community members using your email or text messaging tool. You can reach out to past attendees, those who have participated in before and afterschool programming, and other community members who have children.
- Use social sharing to encourage parents to share their camper’s registration status on social media or email, which can bring even more campers on board.
According to CommunityPass’s guide to navigating the new normal of parks and recreation management, you should also meet with your staff and leadership to go over any new guidelines. This is especially important in the first couple of summers after the pandemic since COVID vaccines are rolling out more slowly for children.
Some safety guidelines you might consider include being quarantined or vaccinated when possible, masking (if needed), and keeping camp groups small and socially distant.
Now that we’ve discussed the best practices to keep your camp workload manageable before the program actually starts, let’s discuss strategies you can implement throughout the camp season. Two important functions you can streamline using camp management software include attendance tracking and parent communications.
Digital Attendance Tracking
First, you’ll want to make sure your staff members have access to a digital check-in and check-out attendance process. Make sure that your camp management solution has this capability not just for organizational purposes, but to increase the safety of the campers. Digital check-ins and check-outs mean that camp staff can:
- Mark off attendance for each camper on a digital tablet. They can refer to authorized signatures and photos to ensure that each camper is going home with the right person.
- Access attendance lists in real-time. You can check the system immediately instead of having to search through paper attendance forms.
- Access important data wherever and whenever you are since this information will live within your cloud-based camp software. This is helpful for any remote staff you might have.
Digital attendance tracking is convenient and necessary as your modern camp program grows. If there’s an emergency, you’ll have quick access to all of the emergency contact information you need.
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that the ability to quickly pivot operations and keep everyone updated is crucial. Using your email and text tool, you should be able to:
- Quickly update parents on programs that have urgent changes or are canceled unexpectedly.
- Automate certain messaging based on triggers, like a thank you email once a camper is registered.
- Schedule email reminders.
Your campers’ caregivers will appreciate the efforts your staff goes to in order to keep them informed and practice transparency, whether they’re getting real-time texts or seeing updates on your website. This can increase trust, which is the foundation of your entire camp operation.
Just because the camp session is over doesn’t mean your job as a camp manager is. As the program wraps up and you dismiss your last campers, it’s the perfect time to look back on the last couple of months and see where you’ve succeeded and where your program can improve.
Ensure your camp management software enables you to easily compile reports so you can analyze your data effectively. Having access to pre-built report templates and being able to create your own customizable reports are key. Specifically, these reports can help you:
- Figure out which sessions were most popular and why
- Track camper attendance, uncover drop-off/pick-up trends, and more
- Determine if your marketing and outreach efforts were successful
- Decide which fundraisers your campers’ families will respond to best
Along with compiling reports and figuring out which strategies to use next year, this is the perfect opportunity to build relationships with your campers and their families. Using your email tool, send an email to your campers’ families recapping the summer. Including photos of kids smiling and recapping big events like awards or dances are great reminders of what camp means to them.
Additionally, you can ask for feedback on the program itself. Sending a short optional survey can help determine the general satisfaction of campers and their families, especially when it comes to their experience working with your staff. According to CIRCUITREE’s guide to summer camp staffing, staff surveys can help you determine who the all-stars are that you will want to hire again for future summers.
If you want to take the relationship with your campers’ families a step further, you can also point out additional community programming, whether that’s with your recreation center’s upcoming fundraiser or before and aftercare options.
Set your camp leaders up for success with a capable camp management system. Whether it’s before, during, or after the camp season, you must have a reliable cloud-based system to manage all of your data and facilitate important engagements. In addition, if you have any remote workers or staff members that come in and out, you’ll know that they’ll always have real-time access to any pertinent information.