Planning is the cornerstone of any well-run camp. If you fail to plan you plan to fail! Proper planning prevents poor performance! Planning is extremely important in coordinating any high-level camp or park and recreation program. Planning can come in many forms and most all plans are open and customizable to how you want to operate. Below are some tips and guidelines on planning your camps:
Schedule out your program dates at least a year in advance. If you only do a summer camp, it’s easy, as summer dates are already set and dictated by your local school district. If you are coordinating programs year-round, you’ll want to have a solid programming plan in place to map out your programs throughout the course of the year. Once your schedules are set for the year, communicate them!
When it comes time for camp to start, have each week scheduled out in detail for the duration of camp. Provide a general template to parents during registration with a detailed schedule the week they arrive. They are the guide for your daily camp operations and your parents and staff will appreciate having them in place.
Plan your activities out, along with any themes, prior to the start of camp. You don’t have to plan every detail of every activity, but have an idea of the core activities, crafts, etc., pre-planned each week and add them to your camp schedules. If you rely on your counselors to constantly come up with activities on the fly, you will end up with too much repetition, downtime and lack of creativity. An activity plan is a tool for your counselor’s success when running activities during camp.
If your camp goes on field trips, make sure to have them scheduled well before registration starts. Advertise your trips when marketing your camp and make sure to put together detailed trip information for parents each week. Information such as when the bus arrives, when the bus comes back, what to bring and what the kids will be doing, are essential pieces of information that parents need to have for each field trip as far in advance as possible.
Keep a detailed inventory of all your camp supplies such as equipment and craft supplies. Place orders for new supplies well ahead of time based on the activities you have planned to avoid falling short during camp. Having to constantly make store runs or waiting on orders to arrive during camp can keep you tied up and make it difficult to focus the more important parts of your camp operation.
Marketing plans can come in several forms but at the very least have a calendar or outline on when you want to start to market your programs and what marketing channels you want to use. Narrow your marketing efforts to each of your target markets for more effective marketing and communication.
Your budget is the planning tool for your finances. Sound budgeting will ensure you only spend what you are able to spend based on your forecasted revenue and expenses. Once your budget is created, stick to it as close as possible and track every expense that comes in to make sure you stay on track.
Planning your staffing can come in several forms, such as optimizing how much staff you need, recruiting staff and retention. If you are a licensed program in your state, you may have certain staffing ratios that you have to meet, but even if you are not licensed, you should still follow appropriate staff-to-child ratios. Once you know your optimal staffing levels, you need to have a plan to recruit and retain staff. Turnover can be expensive and leave you shorthanded, so once you get good staff in the door, you want to do what you can to retain them.
Training and education are ongoing processes and should be taken seriously. Not just to make sure your staff are great with kids, but also to make sure they know your expectations, policies and procedures, as well as prepare them for emergency situations. You don’t have to do all your training in-house, as there are tons of resources out there to provide staff training. Regardless of how you want to do it, have an annual training program in place to make sure you get the most out of your most valuable investment — your staff!
Create a maintenance plan that focuses on your preventative maintenance for every aspect of your camps and facilities. A sound preventative maintenance plan will keep your facility aesthetically pleasing, increase the lifespan of your assets, and help you identify how long things are supposed to last and when they need to be replaced. Throughout camp, make sure your facilities are opened, closed and cleaned properly every day. Identify any maintenance needs and resolve them as they arise to ensure your facilities hold up to the daily camp traffic.
Regular inspections, having proper insurance, proper staff training and creating emergency action plans are all part of your overall risk management plan. Limiting your liability will prevent a catastrophic incident from closing your doors for good.
Regardless of how far in advance you are planning, you should always review and adjust your plans on a regular basis. These are fluid documents, and as the external and internal climate changes, you should adjust your plans. It is always recommended to have all of your stakeholders involved in the planning process. For example, if you are making an activities plan and camp schedules, involve your staff that will be conducting those activities in the planning process. Lack of planning will always show, so remember, if you put in the extra work up front in planning, it will make your job easier, your operations smoother and your overall camps better in the long run.
Jason Schaitz, MBA, CPRE, is a parks and recreation director in the state of Florida with 15 years of experience managing youth sports, camps and recreation programs. He also created and manages League Source and The Summer Camp Source with the goal of providing free high-quality resources for any type of youth sports or camp program. Take your leagues and camps to the next level by visiting our websites for free resources and education!