ACA Future Accreditation Model — Where Are We?

During the past fifteen months, key volunteers have been working to identify critical components of a contemporary accreditation model for ACA. Through this process, it has become clear that the accreditation conversation reaches well beyond one program. In fact, it merits conversations among stakeholders and staff working with growth strategies like membership and customer growth as well as professional development. The volunteer component looms large, as does foundational supports like technology, staff resources, and marketing. Here’s a snapshot of activity to date as well as some thoughts about what’s next. 

Occurring now — March 2014

Four work groups have been identified and are currently working to provide recommendations for the following areas:

  • Building our pool of accreditation volunteers — enhancement, retention, and recruitment.
  • Training, quality, and accountability of accreditation volunteers (specifically visitors).
  • Compliance and accountability during nonvisit years. (Determine and begin development of what is to be done to address accountability in nonvisit years.)
  • Increase the number and diversity of camps accredited. (What qualities should an accreditation model have that would attract diversity?)

From the Beginning

September 2012

A Visitor System Task Force (VSTF) was created and charged with these desired outcomes: 

  • Generate ideas for developing accreditation models that expand the camps/programs involved in ACA’s Standards Program, including systems that recognize legitimate levels of professionalism. Identify how these models would affect the visitor system.
  • Define the components of a visitor system that preserves rigor and complements today’s volunteer environment designed to accommodate an increasing number of camps and programs and adapt to new models for accreditation.

January 2013

The VSTF completed their work and made the following recommendation to the National Standards Commission (NSC). The NSC in turn made a commitment to test the recommendation. 

After a camp has successfully completed two accreditation visits, they can potentially move to a five-year visit cycle if the camp meets established criteria. All currently accredited camps would have the opportunity to move to a five-year visit cycle as long as the established criteria were met. A five-year visit cycle is common in the accreditation world.

Winter/Spring 2013

  • Input was invited and received from focus groups, LCOL, NCOL, key volunteers, and the field.

September 2013

The NSC reviewed the current criteria to be met in order for a camp to maintain accreditation and proposed additional criteria to be considered in the development of the future accreditation model.


  • Remain current in ACA camp fees (currently required).
  • Submit the Annual Statement of Compliance (currently required).
  • Receive approval from the Local Council of Leaders / Board of Directors (currently required).


  • Complete a yet-to-be-developed Annual Questionnaire/Report (PROPOSED & NEW)


  • The camp has a new seasonal director (same as in current system).
  • The camp has added a mode of operation or has a significant change in programs offered (same as in current system).
  • If the camp has a new owner/operator (same as in current system).
  • For any other reason deemed necessary by the LCOL/Board (same as in current system).
  • The camp does not provide an ACA accreditation visitor (at minimum an associate visitor) OR have a current staff member complete eight hours of professional development specific to the ACA Standards Program (does not have to offered by ACA). (PROPOSED & NEW)
  • A key administer of the camp does not complete professional development on one of the thirteen core areas of ACA Professional Development (does not have to be offered by ACA). (PROPOSED & NEW)

The NSC approved a slight rewording of the proposal that is being considered:

After a camp has successfully completed two initial accreditation visits, the camp will move to a five-year visit cycle. All camps that have been accredited for two consecutive three-year cycles at the implementation of this program will automatically move to a five-year visit cycle.

Once on a five-year visit cycle, the camp remains on a five-year cycle, although, as in our current model, the local leadership will continue to have the discretion to require an out-of-cycle visit based on a variety of factors. Established criteria must be met each year in order for the camp to maintain accreditation.

Fall 2013

  • Accreditation processes of other organizations were reviewed and served as a resource for the NSC.
  • Additional criteria developed at the September 2013 NSC meeting was shared with local leadership, standards chairs, key accreditation visitors, and ACA staff. Once again, feedback was invited.

January 2014

  • All comments received to date were compiled, shared, and reviewed with the NSC. This information will help guide next steps taken.

Winter 2014

  • The NCOL discussed and provided additional input at the 2014 ACA National Conference.
  • Four work groups have been identified.

What’s Next?

In addition to the identified steps below, we will be looking for opportunities to broaden the conversation to include related issues and opportunities. We anticipate the ACA National Board will provide a charge in that regard. We will update the timeline to include this piece once specifics are available.

End of March 2014

  • Work groups complete work and share their recommendations with the NSC.

April 2014

  • NSC spring meeting and next steps identified to be implemented over next eighteen months.
  • Share identified tasks with the appropriate groups (staff, work groups, volunteers, etc.).

Fall 2014

  • NSC fall meeting.
  • Visitor training and recruitment efforts in place.
  • Update to the field on the status of the future accreditation model.

Winter/Spring 2015

  • Future accreditation model is finalized.