[This post republished from CampMinder Magazine, Volume 1]
I always love hearing camp directors’ stories about people who ask them, “what do you do the rest of the year?” These stories usually include sarcastic statements along the lines of: “It’s amazing how the buses always seem to magically arrive at the same place and time as the families and their campers!” Or, “You know, it’s unbelievable. About a week before the start of camp, to my utter disbelief, a couple hundred people just showed up claiming to be counselors!” These camp director tips can help you figure out how to make the most of your time “off.”
Buses don’t plan their own arrivals and departures, staff don’t just appear, invoices don’t send themselves, and busy parents don’t always remember to submit camp forms on time. All of the steps necessary to run a safe and successful camp take a tremendous amount of planning, care, and attention to detail.
So much so, in fact, that in 2001, when I had the idea for what is now CampMinder (at the time, I descriptively called it “the camp thing” while working out of my bedroom), I couldn’t fathom how my own camp survived from one summer to the next running on the rudimentary technology available at the time. There was no single solution available to manage all of the relevant details about the thousands of campers, parents, staff, and alumni they dealt with year-round. To add to the chaos, their core staff lived and worked in different cities during the off-season! This is a real challenge if you’re not familiar with the right camp director tips for using the off-season.
Fast-forward 17 years. I now work alongside more than 50 incredible people in an amazing office in Boulder, Colorado. My team includes former camp directors, administrators, and staff – some with children attending camps working with CampMinder. While our team is 50-plus strong (and growing), it often feels like a thousand. We invite and encourage active participation from our clients year- round, which culminates at our now bi-annual conference, CampMinder Camp. Working together with our camp friends, we imagine the future and create web-based solutions to the challenges we all share.
Technology and Camp
“Technology and camp” seems to be an oxymoron. Camp conjures up images of children enjoying sunny days in the great outdoors away from computers, cell phones, televisions, and iPads. Whatever a camper’s experience may be, a camp is a business, and it needs to be managed like one – especially as we all adjust to the realities of a new economy and digital society.
Businesses leverage technology to reduce operating costs and streamline processes. Camps must do the same while maintaining their personal, non- technological feel. In fact, the intelligent use of technology can actually enhance the traditional nature of camp. How? By allowing camps to provide a higher, previously unattainable degree of personal attention to each family and camper. Can you imagine being able to provide parents with a secure, online medical form that is pre-populated with the information they provided last year? Or what if you could offer parents our eLetters service, by which they can correspond with their child by email, and get a PDF of their child’s handwritten response delivered right to their inbox?
CampMinder pools resources from camps nationwide to create technology that no camp could build on its own. In 2005, we began development of the CheyenneTM Framework, a software development toolset and architecture that enables our developers to rapidly produce world-class, modern web applications for almost any purpose. Leveraging the Cheyenne Framework and the wealth of knowledge we’ve accumulated over the years, we’re proud to have developed groundbreaking technologies specifically for camps.
Your website’s role in camp management
In the mid-to-late 90s, it became clear that it would be important for every camp to have an Internet presence.
At the time, websites were generally viewed as a one-way street, simply feed- ing information to visitors. With the advent of “Web 2.0,” however, websites have taken on a new, interactive life far beyond that of a “digital brochure.”
In today’s day and age, your website and your database must work together seamlessly, and this requires real-time data sharing.
This is where CampInTouch comes into play. CampInTouch is an interactive system that enhances your website by integrating it with your CampMinder management system. On CampInTouch, parents and staff login to apply, fill out forms, update data, and view relevant information. Collected information flows directly into your database in real-time (without the need for data entry or synchronization), and your website provides up-to-the-minute, personalized information automatically garnered from your records.
On the flip side, once you’ve collected data, you need to be able to use it to complete the task at hand. For instance, after you receive online transportation forms from all of your families, you need the tools to coordinate master travel plans. CampMinder has worked tirelessly with camp directors to create an intuitive system that will streamline this process, regardless of whether most of your campers travel to you by plane or bus or car. We understand that a camper’s arrival and departure experience needs to be a memorable one — and memorable for the right reasons!
As you can see, CampMinder takes the database beyond simply collecting, storing, and reporting information. Our purpose is to identify the best practices in every area of camp management and to design efficient, easy-to-implement systems around these practices. Your camp community will feel the difference, and their confidence in you will reach a new level.
As you browse through this magazine and learn more about CampMinder, please keep in mind the steps you currently take to administer your camp. How much time, energy, effort, and money might you save by taking advantage of the industry’s collective efforts to simplify management?
Anything else is just a database
Over the years, since I started CampMinder, people have wanted to call it software, a website, or, even worse, a “database.” When was the last time you installed software, became a part of its development, and watched it evolve before your eyes?
CampMinder is far more than anything a website or database can offer- it’s a great place to find top camp director tips. It’s an ongoing, concerted endeavor toward creating a far better experience for you as you run your camp. Beyond that, it’s an unfolding effort to revolutionize the camp experience for campers and their families. We do it because we love it, and we want to share our love of summer camps around the world. In our ideal world, every child gets a memorable, life-changing experience at a safe and well-managed camp. We are heartened knowing that our work is a meaningful and lasting contribution toward this end.
Last week, a new acquaintance asked what I do for a living. After I briefly described CampMinder and some of my favorite camp director tips, he paused, and with a glazed-over look said, “Oh, you do software for camps. What do you do the rest of the year?”