The grant will help strengthen and expand how summer camp experiences support learning and growth among children and youth.


Indianapolis (Jan 24, 2020) – Lilly Endowment Inc. has awarded a $991,800 grant to the American Camp Association (ACA) to explore and develop systems that support camp professionals in promoting positive youth development through camp experiences. Specifically, this project is focused on building systems that support program quality assessment and continuous improvement. Program quality refers to the unique ways campers experience camp, from how they engage in activities to their interactions with camp staff and peers. ACA will work in partnership with the Forum for Youth Investment’s David P. Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality (Weikart Center) to identify the features of a quality camp experience, then design systems that support camps in their ongoing efforts to improve these features through continuous quality improvement.

The systems of focus for this project include: 1) a peer-led system of program quality assessment and coaching; 2) a community-of-practice approach to knowledge-sharing among camp professionals; and 3) a new program quality toolkit, which will include interactive workbooks, online and in-person training, and key messaging for camps to use to share the value of program quality efforts. Together, these components will complement ACA’s accreditation program, which is a separate, yet parallel, peer-led system focused on health, safety, and risk-management practices at camp.

The Weikart Center is a key partner in this project. For more than a decade, the Weikart Center’s program quality assessment (PQA) tools and supports have been used to build continuous improvement systems in youth-serving organizations across the country and internationally. Other contributors include American Institutes of Research, the University of Utah, and several volunteer committees of camp professionals to ensure the work is accessible and relevant across a vast and diverse camp community.

“We are honored to receive funding from Lilly Endowment so that we can partner with the Forum for Youth Investment’s Weikart Center in support of high-quality camp experiences for all children and youth,” said Tom Rosenberg, ACA’s president/CEO. “This generous grant builds on a longtime partnership with the Endowment that began with ACA’s first national outcomes study in 2004. With this support, ACA will expand the ways it supports camp professionals and their efforts to foster learning and growth through summer camp experiences.”

About ACA
The American Camp Association® (ACA) is a 501(c)(3) charitable, national nonprofit with more than 12,000 individual members and 3,200 member camps. ACA is committed to collaborating with those who believe in quality camp and outdoor experiences for children, youth, and adults. ACA provides advocacy, evidence-based education, and professional development, and is the only independent national accrediting body for the organized camp experience. ACA accredits approximately 2,500 diverse camps nationally. Accreditation provides public evidence of a camp’s voluntary commitment to the health, safety, and overall well-being of both campers and staff. For more information, visit

About the Forum for Youth Investment’s Weikart Center
The Forum for Youth Investment is a national nonprofit, nonpartisan “action tank” committed to changing the odds that all children and youth are ready for college, work, and life. The Forum connects leaders to ideas, services, and networks that can help them make more intentional decisions that are good for young people. In 2008, the Forum created the David P. Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality to strengthen youth programs and adult practice by building the capacity of public and private agencies to implement continuous quality-improvement systems that simultaneously foster professional learning and whole-child development. The Weikart Center’s research-based core products and services are currently used in over 4,700 out-of-school time settings nationally and internationally and form the basis for quality improvement systems in over 135 publicly and privately funded systems.

About Lilly Endowment Inc.
Lilly Endowment Inc. is a private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by J.K. Lilly Sr. and sons Eli and J.K. Jr. through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Company. While those gifts remain the financial bedrock of the Endowment, the Endowment is a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff, and location. In keeping with the founders’ wishes, the Endowment supports the causes of community development, education, and religion and maintains a special commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis, and home state, Indiana.


Photo courtesy of Camp Skylemar in Naples, Maine.