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Guide to Running a Successful Summer Camp

Updated: Feb 1

For many organizations, summer or winter camps are a primary revenue stream for their business. Whether you are planning a community day camp or a week long or longer overnight camp, there are consistent trends in how successful camps organize and structure their events. We hope you will find this basic guide helpful.

Simple registration & friendly check-in

A successful summer camp season starts with a smooth registration process. Enrollment is make-or-break time for your camp. If you do it right, you’ll be rewarded with fewer incomplete registrations, more early-bird sign-ups, faster payments, and fewer customer service inquiries.

Main Reason People Don't Finish Registration:

  • Registration Is Too Complicated

  • A Lack of Payment Options

  • Difficulty Transitioning Campers from Registration to Enrollment

  • Parents Have No Way to Check In On Progress

  • Your Registration Isn’t Personal Enough

  • You Aren’t Collecting the Right Data

  • Reporting Isn’t User-Friendly

  • Manual Communication Is Too Time-Intensive



Camp-wide welcome meeting


After the parents or campers have completed their first session and have settled into their surroundings, hold a camp-wide meeting to go over basic guidelines, rules, camp timelines, and additional details. Introduce the staff, go over the week’s agenda at a high level, and get your athletes excited for their camp experience. Provide a hand-out with camp rules so you can always refer back to it in case of any behavioral issues. A welcome meeting is a simple way to bring the entire camp together so everyone is on the same page. It builds the groundwork for a successful and united camp experience.

Implement training rotations

Whether day or overnight, most camps will break the days up into three to four sessions. The morning is the typically the most important session of the day and should be structured with shorter, 30-minute rotations. Rotations have many benefits. Not only is it fun for the campers; it also allows them to learn from different counselors. It helps keep your staff engaged! Make sure the stations all relate to a predetermined topic or theme to create consistency. The afternoon and evening sessions should then take those topics learned during rotations and provide execution opportunities in game-like situations.

Invest in your camp staff

Any of us who have gone to camp–or managed one–knows what a difference that individual counselor can make in a young life. Like teachers in a classroom, summer camp staffers wear many hats: mentor, guide, nurse, friend, and many more. So hiring, training and supporting the right staff are some of the most critical tasks of a camp leadership team.

Don't forget the swag!

Let’s be honest – we all love getting free stuff, and the same goes for the kids! Each camp you run should have a t-shirt that campers get on the first day. These shirts become sentimental objects for the campers for years to come. Plus, after camp is over, every time kids ware their camp shirts, it's free publicity for your camp. See ideas here!

Camp Promo Foods

It’s a great marketing investment, as they’ll continue to wear these after camp is over. If you have other branded items, set up a small retail shop where parents can purchase items for the campers.

Plan for the unpredictable

Make sure to have a backup plan in case mother nature strikes. If you don’t have access to an indoor facility, have some highlight videos you can project on a wall or plan some trivia games. We all know how weather and unpredictable circumstances can change plans in an instant. The last thing you want is unhappy parents who feel their kids sat with nothing to do for four hours of the day. These plans can also be used if it’s extremely hot and kids are fatigued. Make adjustments to make sure the kids have an experience that goes above and beyond the other camps they’ve attended.

Provide the wow factor

Create an experience that will sell next year’s camp for you. ​​The first thing parents will ask when driving away at the end of camp is “What did you do at camp? Did you learn anything?” Ask yourself that question, and if your answer is “we played soccer,” you didn’t do a good job at creating a memorable experience. Some added fun experiences like staff demos or giant water balloon fights can make all the difference!

Organize a final competition

Typically, on the final day at camp, there should be some type of tournament or competition that brings all of the pieces together. This is the perfect time to go full-sided and let campers have fun! If you’re doing a tournament, make sure that losing teams don’t sit out the rest of the day or when their parents come to pick them up.

Host an awards ceremony

Before the campers head home, bring the entire camp together with the parents to hand out awards by age group. It’s amazing to see how happy some kids are to win even the simplest award. You can also give

Provide evaluations for continued growth

Hand out camper evaluations to share what athletes should work on over the next year. Try not to give out many low scores. You don’t want to discourage the athletes, but you also don’t want them to feel like they’ve already made it. If you are doing a tournament, make sure all kids get and stay involved even if their team lost.

While your main goal at camp is to provide a safe and exciting time for kids, it’s no secret how much revenue camps can provide if they’re done right.

Take these tips into consideration when planning your next camp for an improved camping experience! If one kid has a great experience, next year he or she might not only return, but could also bring a friend or teammate.

There are many camps out there that parents can send their kids. Make sure you are putting in the work it takes to make your camp stand apart to turn one camper into many!


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