As many schools move to distance learning for the remainder of the year, families are beginning to look forward to summer camp season. While there are still a lot of unknowns, many camps are hoping to open, at least on a modified schedule.
Your operating plan will likely depend on your location and unique camper demographic, but a few considerations will apply universally. First and foremost, if you are eligible, consider applying for any available small business loans or grants. This extra income can help bridge budget gaps due to reduced or canceled programming.
Secondly, determine deadlines for essential decision-making. When will you make the call on cancelations or modifications? Who will be involved in the process and how will you get the word out?
Finally, all camps should have a robust health and safety plan. Some camps may already have a blueprint in place due to experience with previous epidemics (e.g. 2009’s H1N1 flu and 2019’s Measles outbreak). What safety procedures will you have in place for campers and staff? What is the emergency plan if an outbreak flares up during a camp session? As the situation evolves, it’s a good idea to remain flexible and always have a plan B (and C!) in your back pocket.
Based on your camp’s individual situation, keep the following factors in mind.
If You Are Able to Run a Modified Spring Season:
- Adjust Programming - If your spring season is reduced or cut short due to COVID-19, considering running only the most cost-effective sessions that can be done virtually. Now might be the time to consider programs that don’t require expensive equipment, travel or high staff needs.
- Manage Expenses - If possible delay any capital projects and put a hold on any equipment purchases. Re-evaluate your full-time and seasonal staffing needs. Can you reduce hours for full-time staff? Can you cut corners on food or other discretionary expenses?
- Increase Revenue - Instead of canceling spring camps, consider running them concurrently with summer programs or move them to the fall.
- Mitigate Losses - Encourage families to reschedule rather than requesting a refund – consider providing a credit or discounts for future programming.
If You Are Able to Run a Full Summer Season:
- Adjust Programming - If you’re able to run your summer camps as planned, consider adding sessions to make up for any losses you experienced in the spring.
- Manage Expenses - If your bottom line took a hit in the spring, consider scaling down summer programs. Focus on sessions that are cost effective and don’t require a lot of expensive equipment or travel.
- Increase Loyalty - Prioritize flexibility for families who have concerns about the safety of camp. Keep them updated on how you’re keeping everyone safe and allow them to reschedule if need be. This can ultimately increase your brand loyalty.
- Stay Connected - Reach out to campers who were scheduled for spring sessions and encourage them to register for summer, instead. Keep families updated via social media so they stay in the loop and are aware of any changes or new policies.
If You Are Able to Run a Modified Summer Season:
- Adjust Programming - With a shorter season, determine the types of programs that can serve a wide array of campers while also proving to be cost effective.
- Reduce Expenses - When it comes to expenses, critically review every line item. If you anticipate lower registration numbers, adjust your seasonal hiring. Who is essential? Can anyone work on an on-call or part-time basis? You may also want to consider delaying capital projects until things get back to normal.
- Increase Revenue - Consider holding virtual camps via Facebook Live, Zoom or other platforms in conjunction with ACTIVEWorks Camp & Class Manager. Brainstorm various value-add options that you can offer to your campers—this can help with retention!
- Encourage Rescheduling - Offer an incentive such as a discount or credit to families who reschedule for a later date vs. cancel.
If Your In-Person Summer Season is Canceled:
- Embrace Virtual - Take your program offerings online. Using ACTIVEWorks Camp & Class Manager in conjunction with video conferencing software and camp content generation companies like Brain Chase, you can host summer camp from home!
- Eliminate Expenses -If circumstances require a full cancellation of the in-person season, take a critical look at each line item in your budget. Can you reduce staff hours? Now’s the time to put a pause on any capital projects and discontinue discretionary spending that isn’t vital to the future of the organization.
- Stay Connected - While in-person programming is on pause, keep posting updates on social media and sending emails. Stay in touch with seasonal staff –eventually things will return to normal and that connection is key.
- Plan for the Future - If possible, move summer sessions that can't be virtual to later in the year. Offer incentives for families to reschedule rather than receive a refund.