We're happy you care about the successful development of children. Today the management of camps and conference centers requires skill, vision, and innovative strategies for success. The American Camp Association is a community of camp professionals and is dedicated to enriching the lives of children and adults through the camp experience. ACA's member and camp-accreditation services help you meet the challenges of change and assure commitment to the highest professional practices for camps and conference centers. With more than 9,000 individual members, ACA is the nation's largest and oldest association of camp professionals for agency, private, and religiously affiliated resident, day, and travel camps. The following general guidelines and accompanying information will help you develop your new program.
In addition, ACA's Web site provides a number of resources to supplement these guidelines. Especially visit the Camp Knowledge Center  which has tons of resources in each of the 14 core areas of camp. If you have more questions, contact:
Denny Elliott , 765-342-8456 ext. 538, or Brigitta Adkins , 765-342-8456 ext. 535.
Several essential decisions need to be made before you proceed with your plans to start a camp.
- Determine your mission statement or the purpose of your camp.
- Who are the clientele you plan to serve? Are they a new market niche or an existing group that you serve or that need service.
- What kind of an environment will enhance your ability to accomplish your mission and serve your clientele?
- Do you want to start a day camp, resident camp or travel camp?
- How many weeks do you plan to operate? Summer only or year-round?
- Do you plan to incorporate? Will you operate as a for profit or non-profit organization?
Your business plan will be built to accommodate or fulfill the essential decisions outlined above. The Small Business Administration (SBA) or a business center at your local college are two good resources for assistance with your business plan.
- Where do you plan to get funding for capital and/or operations?
- Consider options from the SBA Loan Programs  page.
- Do you have an ongoing funding source or pricing strategy?
- What is your existing competition?
- How do plan to market your program?
Federal, State, County, Municipal Regulations and Taxes
There are a number of regulations and taxes that apply to the camp industry. These will vary by state or local governmental bodies. It may be helpful to secure the aid of a lawyer to assist you in the legal requirements. Your state health officials are also valuable resources.
- What are the permits/licenses required in your area? Which offices handle them?
- What wage and salary laws affect staff salaries ?
- What are the health and sanitation laws concerning sewage disposal and operation of food service including food storage, food handlers permits, dishwashing, garbage disposal inspections, water purity tests?
- Are background screening checks required for staff?
- If you plan to provide transportation, are special licenses required? Do school bus laws apply to camp vehicles in your area? Is insurance required?
- Is a health center required for health care? What kind of certification or license is required for health care personnel?
- What of the following state and federal taxes are required?
- Federal income
- Federal unemployment
- State income
- State unemployment
- County and state bed/tourist
- Social security
- Workman's compensation
- Sales and property
Most camps secure insurance  to cover their operations. A few camps are self-insured. Most insurance companies will want to do a safety audit before insuring you.
- You will probably need the following insurance coverage:
- Property: percentage of actual or replacement value
- Comprehensive general liability
- Worker compensation: owner/officer options
- Health insurance for the owner, staff, and campers
- Personal property
- Vehicle liability
- If you plan to rent or lease do you have a certificate of insurance from the camp owner?
Site, Facilities, Food Service, and Transportation
You will need to decide where you want to operate your camp.
- Do you have property or do you plan to buy or rent/lease an existing camp?
- How far will your camp program be located from your client base? What are the transportation issues?
- Will any special accommodations be required to serve your program or clientele on the property you are considering?
- Should you operate your own kitchen or use a food service management company?