Program & Operations — 2023 Summer Debrief Series
I'm so sad we've reached the end of our summer debrief series for 2023!
To those who attended: Thank you for taking part in the conversation. Thanks for being vulnerable, thanks for believing that talking to others helps make all of us better, and thanks for sharing with us.
To those who didn't attend: Thanks for following along! We know not everyone can make it, but looking through these conversations is a great path forward for 2024.
Ps.... this is part of our Summer Debrief Series.
I messed this up. I asked about the cost per person per meal. Based on the results, I think I got some responses that answer what they pay per meal and some responses that answer what guests pay per meal. I should've been more specific. I'm learning!
The three biggest trends were:
Mental Health Concerns: Anxiety, homesickness, and mental health crises appear multiple times. It's a sign that addressing emotional and mental well-being is a crucial aspect of camp health services. (So maybe you need a school counselor on staff?!)
Staffing Issues: From finding full-time nurses to staff not feeling comfortable administering first aid, it seems like qualified staffing is a big hurdle. This could also be related to the mental health issues, as a well-staffed center might be better equipped to handle such cases.
Organizational Challenges: Disorganization, bottlenecking at med times, and lack of support staff point towards logistical issues that can affect the smooth running of the health center.
Operational Wins & Challenges
We don't have a lot of trending data here... I think the most interesting piece is that what's a struggle for one camp is a win for other camps, and vice versa. My biggest takeaway is that the more we talk to each other, the more easily our problems are solved. (Which is exactly why we have membership, by the way.)
Programmatic Wins & Challenges
Some trends were a ~little~ more evident here.
Innovative Programs & Activities: Things like Corcls, Archery Tag with physical adaptations, and special presentations funded by grants point towards an emphasis on innovative programming.
Staff Initiatives: Whether it's allowing seasonal staff to experiment with program ideas or improving internal meetings, staff initiative seems to be a big win.
Camper Choice: Introducing camper freedom in scheduling and optimizing staff breaks through camper choice time were generally positive.
Staffing and Training: Challenges with new staff mindset, leadership program staffing, and the need for more specific instructions for counselors reflect some key staffing-related issues. Notably, staffing issues affected both leadership programs and specialty areas like technology and equine programs. In our staff debrief, though, I really found staff starting to trend more positively!
Space & Weather: There are multiple mentions of challenges related to lack of indoor space and the impact of bad weather on programs. Putting new spaces into long-term plans is great, but people are looking to make the most of the limited spaces they do have.
Conversations to Continue
We asked about what conversations people want to continue having. We saw a lot about:
Staffing Concerns: A lot of people are interested in topics like "hiring bus drivers," "how to get more medical staff," and "staff hiring." Clearly, recruitment and staffing are hot topics that many camps seem to struggle with. Continue the conversation with Nelson during his Applications & Interviews That Don't Suck seminar ($29 or free for members).
Food Service: From better menus and food service program details to meal ideas, there's a significant appetite (pun intended!) for discussing food-related matters. This might involve menu planning or tackling the challenge of food service staffing. I talked about using ChatGPT for menu ideas, and we've got a free menu resource here.
Programming Ideas: Several entries focus on wanting to share or hear more creative program ideas. Topics range from going all-in on theme days to programming for a variety of age groups. Innovation and diversity in programming seem to be on everyone's mind.
Resources You Need
I asked about what support/help you need. We're keeping a list and are hoping to provide some support in the coming months. One thing you wanted was rainy day ideas — I've got two blogs for you!
Thanks so much for being part of the conversation! You can find more resources on the debrief page.