Strategic Plan

Photo of counselor with camper in wheelchair

While summer camp is an institution with roots over 150 years old, today’s campers live in a world marked by constant change and uncertainty. Globalization, automation and artificial intelligence have changed the nature of the workplace, and the pace of that change is gaining speed. Pervasive technology and social media have altered youth development, and children are growing up faster than ever before. However, many lack the relationship, problem-solving, and innovation skills they need to thrive in the future.

The critical skills associated with social-emotional learning — self-awareness, self-motivation, empathy, emotional regulation, etc. — can’t be mastered through individual study. To stem the tide of depression, anxiety, and lack of connection among youth, these skills must be taught through shared experiences that allow children to practice, take safe risks, and learn from their failures and successes. In other words, kids still need camp.

Charles W. Eliot, president of Harvard from 1869–1909, said,

"The organized summer camp is the greatest contribution America has made to education.”

Nearly a century later, his words still ring true. For all that time, the American Camp Association has been helping create powerful social-emotional learning opportunities through high-quality camp experiences — shaping resilient and compassionate communicators, problem-solvers and leaders. But today’s greater need demands bolder action and clearer focus.

A year ago, the ACA National Board invested in a nine-month strategicplanning process involving hundreds of interviews, many focus groups, surveys and retreats. In late June, the board adopted a 2020–2024 strategic plan that gives substance to our 20/20 vision. It sets a promising five-year agenda for ACA, and for each of us as experiential educators. Much has changed since we first adopted our 20/20 vision, so today we present a case for bold investment in a future where all children, youth and adults have access to high-quality camp programs.

We invite you to learn more about our overarching strategic goals and priorities and the action items within our strategic plan.

Scott Brody
Chair, ACA Board of Directors
Tom Rosenberg
ACA President/CEO

Get Involved with the Strategic Plan

ACA needs your help to ensure the children, youth and adults we serve thrive. Join us on our journey to equip generations of youth for a bright future!

Leading Voice for the Youth Education and Development

Advocate for children and youth by establishing camp as a vital and enriching developmental and educational experience.

Brand Awareness and Education

Advance public understanding of the value of the camp experience, of ACA and of ACA accreditation, ensuring ACA’s relevance in a changing society.

Government Relations and Advocacy

Develop sufficient infrastructure and capacity to monitor and proactively affect federal, state and local issues impacting camps, anticipating threats and opportunities to advance ACA’s mission.


Expanding Reach, Relevance and Equitable Access

Advance the reach and relevance of camp by expanding equitable access to camp and growing the camp community through diversity and inclusion.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Foster and tangibly support an increase in diversity, equity and inclusion within ACA and across the camp community.

Strategic Partnerships

As a collaborator and convener, foster existing and create new strategic partnerships with shared-purpose organizations and businesses to the camp community and its impact on children, youth and adults.


Championing Quality

Drive high-quality camp experiences through evidence informed best practices, industry-leading evaluation tools and exceptional professional development.

Professional Development

Further advance the talents and opportunities of camp staff by strengthening education, practical advice, and training for professional and seasonal staff, and by providing resources to support college and career readiness for seasonal staff.

Strategic Research Initiatives

Continue applied research that increases the voice, value and visibility of camp experiences for children, youth and adults.


Deploy tools to measure program quality, continue to grow the number of accredited camps and continue to position ACA accreditation as the foundational standard of camp health, safety and risk management.


Accelerating Organizational Growth and Sustainability

Ensure the ability of ACA to grow and achieve its mission by improving organizational strength, capacity and alignment.

Operational Effectiveness

Ensure that operating structure, capacity, capabilities and resources are aligned to achieve ACA’s mission and the specific strategic priorities of the organization.

Financial Strength and Vitality

Increase ACA’s financial strength through new revenue from current programs, emerging sources of revenue and developing fundraising programs that will support the organization’s structure and priorities.

Volunteer Growth and Engagement

Grow the number, engagement and satisfaction of volunteers across the country.


Download the Strategic Plan Field Guide

Email us at with any questions.


Updates from the Planning Process