Partnering with Staff Families at Camp

Partnering with Staff Families at Camp

Last week, I did a big reflection on running camp 10 years ago, and a big lesson for me was rethinking my relationship with staff families. Between that and gearing up for our seminar about partnering with camper families, partnering with staff families has been heavy on my mind.

Why does this matter?

A couple months ago, I read a LinkedIn post that said talked about Gen Zers not getting their licenses and the impact that has for marketers. I think there are a TON of takeaways there for camps, too (like you probably need a way to get more staff to Walmart), but I've been a little stuck on the poster citing parental involvement as a reason.

And, look, generations are generalizations. I'm not saying this is 100% right or true for every single person, and I'm not even saying that it's necessarily right for the whole generation. But I am saying that if it's true for SOME people and it's not that hard for us to do, why wouldn't we? Partnering with staff families is an extension of illuminating the hidden curriculum — you're drawing back the curtain of camp for people who wouldn't otherwise see it, and hopefully, you're bringing more people in.

Bringing staff families in might help you avoid angry phone calls when something goes wrong, help set your staff up for more success, make it easier for staff to come back to camp, find new donors, find new board members, create new advocates, or so many other things. Camps serve SO MANY audiences, and at the end of the day, staff families are one.

What does this look like?

To be clear, I'm imagining here. I haven't done any of these things, but I think about running camp this summer, I'm thinking about what this could look like.

Pre-Camp Virtual Meetup

Like I mentioned in my last blog, this is something I know other camps (at least YMCA Camp Greenville) are doing. When I think about doing it, I think about providing space to:

  • Introduce myself to the families and let them know I genuinely care about their kid AND I genuinely care about camp
  • Give a little information about what the day-to-day of camp looks like
  • Talk through how I'll communicate with staff and ask staff to communicate
    • I don't mean like I'll use text messages/email — I mean that I'll provide feedback in this way, I'll always try to be empathetic and listen, I'll always put camp first, etc.
  • Have an open conversation about what it should look like when staff have problems
    • This way, when problems do come up, caregivers can say, "Have you brought this to Allison?"
  • Be super clear about the boundaries in our relationship
    • At the end of the day, I can't really talk to staff families about their staff member. I'm here as someone who loves their kid and that their kid can come to, but I can't answer a caregiver's call about what their kid is doing on their time off.
  • Ask whatever questions they may have about camp and about me

Share Staff Moments

I've gotta be honest: I've been REALLY annoyed when I've gotten the camera back and seen tons of pictures of staff. Beyond sharing initial staff intros on social media, I really don't tell many stories about them. But maybe I should? 

Screen Shot 2023-11-28 at 1.32.26 PMI've got a great, easy example from YMCA Camp Greenville (okay, maybe we all just need Stacie to come do our communications?) here. Every week, they share a super simple post with the staff of the week. They even shared recently about the first staff member to fill out a 2024 staff application. I think there's really cool potential here.

I'm not advocating for staff to take over everything we're sharing out, but I am advocating for them to be a bigger part of it.

  • What if our impact reports included some ways staff members went above and beyond?
  • What if we sent out a quick "Session Stories" at the end of each session and included a couple great camper moments and a couple of great staff moments AND made sure staff families could opt into that?
  • What if we snapped a quick picture of a staff member planning a surprise for a camper and told the story in 2-3 sentences on our social media stories? Bonus tip: turn it into a highlight.

There are so many things we could pretty easily do, and almost all of them would really serve more than one purpose. They'd help us build relationships with staff families, but they'd also help staff feel good, encourage people to share our stuff, show camper families and donors how incredible our staff are, and so much more. I talk a lot about how part of working at a Y association is making sure the camp staff look good to the association and making sure the association looks good to the camp staff (and the same is true for a lot of larger orgs). This is a great bridge for that, too.

Invite Them to Camp 

HEAR ME OUT. Not only did I recently read a book where the camp invited staff families for visiting day, but I honestly think there's a time and place it could work as long as the staff are okay with it. Basically, any time camper families OR alumni are invited to camp, think about if camp families would make sense, too. They're part of your community, too.

I'm specifically thinking about doing one of our big traditions as part of staff training and inviting alumni back. I've done this before at a previous camp, and it worked really well. What if I extended that invite to staff families so they could experience this, too?

WHAT IF during staff training, I had staff members practice calling caregivers, and I got some of their caregivers to volunteer? Idk, maybe wild, but something to think about!

Get Them to Like & Subscribe

Super easy. Just invite them to like your social media and subscribe to your newsletter. 

Ask Them to Donate

Or at least think about it. They most likely understand just how incredible camp is, and that might make them incredible donors, board members, or advocates. If not now, maybe eventually.

Who's invited?

Family dynamics can be tricky, so with all of this, I'd ask staff to opt their families in or out. I'd give staff a rundown of some ways we may interact with their families and ask them for contact info of anyone they want included. Then, even if I have a prior relationship with a family, I'd only reach out to the people on the staff-provided list.

What are you doing?

TEACH ME YOUR WAYS! I'd love to hear about the ways you're thinking about and interacting with staff families.

Want to partner with camper families?

Allison's talking about ways to do that in our upcoming seminar. If you're reading this blog after the seminar, you can find it for purchase at the same link. It's just $29 for our 90-minute seminar!


Allison Krabill-1





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