Many camps in Alberta only run programs during the summer months. Do you have dreams of serving children and youth at your camp all through the year?
You wouldn’t be the first camp to have these dreams. Is this step right for your camp? We found some resources from the American Camp Association that share the thought processes, strategic steps and management tools that other camps have used to transition from a summer-only facility to a year-round retreat centre.
In our last post we covered some questions to ask yourself, staff, Board of Directors and members to start the process. What is the purpose of your camp and it's mission? Does expanding align with that mission? What does your camp currently have? What will you need? Read "Transition from Summer Camp to Year-Round Facility Part 1" here.
Expand what you already have
Now that you’ve asked those questions and determined exactly what your camp’s mission, assets and goals are you can start using that information to evaluate and adapt your programming to meet future needs.
Expand programs and activities
Based on your target demographic, can you expand your current programs and activities to meet their needs? Do you have enough to offer a year-round clientele? If you have to create new programs, brainstorm exactly what you need to do and what resources are required. Here is an example:
Ice Carving Activity: Requires molds to make blocks of ice, a freezer, carving tools, staff facilitator, lesson or activity plans.
You can also expand on your natural resources. If your camp has a lake, you could consider clearing and flooding a section to offer outdoor skating or hockey. If you have wetlands, consider developing a wetlands educational or interpretive program that can be worked into a school group’s science lesson.
Improve your existing facility & prepare for additional use
Program enhancements often include a facility face-lift. Utilize as many areas of your property and facility as possible and create a diverse program where many different user groups can be on your property taking part in different programs at the same time.
To do this you might have to do some renovations, repairs or even new construction to make it all work. If you’re open year-round you’ll also require more upkeep and year-round maintenance. Work that into your planning including additional staff, volunteers and cost of materials. You’ll also have to consider cost of utilities and updated plumbing or heating systems to buildings that are not usually used in the winter. Your energy use will go up, so make sure your budget includes higher utility bills.
Develop new marketing strategy & communication materials
If you’re going to be open year-round, you’ll have to let people know about it! If you don’t already have one, you’ll need to invest in a quality website that highlights your camp and its offerings to schools, churches, corporations and other user groups. A website is the first place anyone will look to learn more about you. You should also consider social media marketing and email marketing to let your current camp families know you’ll be open year round.
Update your brochures and other mail outs to show your year-round programs and offerings. You can drop these off at local schools, community organizations, churches, businesses, etc. and follow up with an email or phone call.
How else will you market your camp to attract a year-round client base?
Make a strategic plan for the future
You’ve done your research, had discussions, made notes and spreadsheets. Now it’s time to create a real strategic plan to move forward. Your plan could include:
Create a Master Site Plan Development
- Consider hiring a professional site planner to help create this for you
- Should include camp buildings and facilities, programs, land use zones, etc.
Funding: what is required and how you’ll get it
- Do you have a fundraising committee?
- Should you hire a grant writer?
An official ‘to-do’ list with action steps to achieve it
- Recruiting volunteers?
- Partnering with community businesses?
- Hiring staff?
This entire process can be exciting, but very overwhelming. Start small and take things one step at a time. Start at staff and board level. What can you and your board members analyze and improve yourselves? What is the next step? Who can help you? It doesn’t really matter where exactly you start, as long as your moving towards your end goal.