Can you believe another summer has come and gone so quickly? It feels like just yesterday campers were arriving fresh faced and excited for everything camp has to offer. Hopefully, you had a wonderful summer and your campers came home with new experiences, many friendship bracelets, and dreams of returning again next year.

That’s the goal, at least, for camp owners around the country. But, how can you know for sure what worked and what didn’t when it came to planning, marketing, and running your camp? When you have that knowledge, you can be more prepared and ready to make next summer even better.

Looking Back on Summer and Making Changes for 2024

One of the most quantitative measures of success is whether or not you hit your goals for the summer. We recommend creating a series of goals around different elements that are important to your business.

Did You Hit Your Goals?

One of the most quantitative measures of success is whether or not you hit your goals for the summer. We recommend creating a series of goals around different elements that are important to your business. 

When creating goals, make them SMART: 

  • S = Specific. The more specific your goal is, the more likely you are to achieve it. If your goal is too broad, it will be too difficult to wrap your head around the tasks.
  • M = Measurable. How will you measure your success? Will it be by the amount of children enrolled, the total revenue generated, or another metric? Make sure that your goals can be tracked so you can determine success. 
  • A = Attainable. Can you actually accomplish your goal? If it is too far-reaching then you (and your team) will lose motivation and your success rate will diminish.
  • R = Relevant. Why are you setting this goal? How will it help your business? Will it help your camp grow? Will it help your campers have a better time? Will it keep your campers and staff safe?
  • T = Time-based. Putting time constraints on your goals helps you to have a clear timeline and keeps you and your team on schedule. Most camp owners will use the summer as their time frame, but you can include benchmarks to check progress and make adjustments as needed.

Here are some examples of SMART goals for your camp:

  • Increase early registration signups (campers who sign up before March 2024) by 25 percent using marketing tactics, early bird specials, and more.
  • Establish orientation and staff training practices that reduce camper injuries by 40 percent compared to summer 2023.
  • Survey campers and families and include five new activities or initiatives in summer 2024 programming based on the responses.
  • Improve camper retention by 15 percent when compared to previous summers.
  • Increase revenue by 20 percent utilizing cost saving initiatives and increasing camper enrollment numbers.

Where Were Your Challenges?

As you reflect on the past summer, it is important to celebrate your wins and acknowledge your struggles. Ask yourself and your staff thoughtful questions to determine where you need to direct more attention as you prepare for summer 2024. Here are some examples of questions that can help you determine where to place additional focus next camp season.

  • Were there any obvious issues this past summer? Examples can be injuries or illnesses, unprepared counselors or staff, system breakdowns, environmental challenges, low camper numbers, and more.
  • Were you or your staff members spending too much time on one type of task than another? When one part of the machine isn’t working as efficiently as the others, it will be obvious because it will require more time and effort. Did you or your staff spend more time working on activity organization, camper/counselor relationships, family conversations, or something else? If so, this might be the squeaky wheel that needs more grease to run smoothly next summer.
  • Did you miss your camper enrollment or retention goals?  In order to successfully run your camp, you need to make sure you are hitting the right enrollment and retention numbers for your campers. More money needs to come in than go out so that your camp can stay above water.
  • Were any situations brought to your attention by campers, staff, or families? When you think about the past summer, recall if there were any negative experiences or situations. Your goal is to keep your staff, campers, and their families happy and safe over the summer.

How Can You Avoid These Challenges Next Summer?

Once you have determined where you struggled in summer 2023, you can proactively come up with solutions to avoid these situations in 2024. Use these tips to help you make summer 2024 the best summer yet.

  • Implement accurate and accessible reporting. Being able to quickly access and analyze your business data is crucial to making important decisions. Using a reporting tool can help you gain insights on enrollment trends, track revenue growth, and better understand your customers to increase retention.
  • Determine the squeaky wheels and grease them. If you and your team were spending extra time on elements of running the camp, spend the time now to look deeper into why that happened. Can you readjust your systems, hire an additional team member, utilize a camp management software to automate manual tasks, or change something else so that you can more evenly distribute your time next summer?
  • Create systems to manage big issues. If you had any obvious issues last summer, now is the time to put plans in place and document processes to proactively deal with similar problems should they arise again in 2024.
  • Start early and try new tactics to ensure you hit your numbers. With both enrollment and retention numbers, the key is marketing. Utilize early bird specials, user-generated content, sibling discounts, and creative marketing assets to encourage families to make their purchases. Start as soon as the summer ends so that you can ride the high of a great summer at camp.

Marketing for Next Summer Starts Now

Marketing is one of the most important elements of successfully running your camp and continuing to grow your business year over year. As you reflect on summer 2023 and prepare for summer 2024, we recommend allocating a bulk of your time on preparing your marketing strategy and assets.

We’ve created a marketing guide that includes tips, templates, and more to help your camp grow! Download our Ultimate Guide to Camp Marketing to make summer 2024 the best one yet!

This article was sponsored by Sawyer. Sawyer is an all-in-one camp registration and management software that helps camp owners and children’s activity providers efficiently run their businesses so they can spend more time doing what they love.

Lizzie is the content marketing manager for Sawyer. She helps connect camp owners and educators with the resources they need so they can spend less time on administrative tasks and more time working with children. A lifelong lover of camp as both a camper and counselor, Lizzie is thrilled that she gets to spend her days helping providers discover and use Sawyer to make camp more accessible.

Periodically, the American Camp Association (ACA) makes timely and relevant information about products and services available to its members so they can make informed decisions for their camps. However, the ACA does not endorse products, services, or companies.