Guest Posts

Best practices for an intuitive, all-inclusive summer camp registration form

If you’ve been kickin’ around this little corner of the internet for any length of time, you know that I’m besties with the crew over at JotForm. (Well, in my mind at least, they think this is just a working relationship – but I’m a huge fan of what they’re offering the camp community so I’m claiming bestie status!)

They’ve shared a few ideas on here before, and were kick a$$ sponsors of SCampCon, so it should be no surprise that I’ve partnered with them once again to offer y’all some advice on creating awesome, all-inclusive camp registrations forms.
I’ve also added some of my own thoughts below in red.

Summer camps are full of laughing children, activities, and relationship building. But behind the scenes, there are a number of financial, organizational, and technical issues that require attention.

One of the most important tools all camps need is a registration form. These forms gather necessary medical and personal information, arrival details, and more. But creating these forms can be challenging, especially when there are one million other things to do before camp begins. Below are a few best practices to follow for building an all-inclusive registration form.

1. Cover the basics

When it comes to summer camp registration forms, there are a few basics they all should include:

  • Camper information
  • Parent/guardian information
  • Emergency contact information

This information is standard, yes, but still very important to remember. It lets camp managers know who will be attending camp, who their guardians are, and which staff they’ll be interacting with on a regular basis. If you’re just starting a summer camp, make sure you include a section for staff information too.

2. Promote your HIPAA compliance

Camper medical data is huge for camps to have on hand in case of emergencies. It’s important that camp managers have information, such as current and past medical conditions, food and medication allergies, and dietary restrictions so they know what to tell doctors if something bad happens.

In order to collect this information safely and securely, camps need to use HIPAA-compliant tools. Since HIPAA compliance is such a ‘must’ to ensure parents’ trust and that government regulations are being met, make sure to clearly highlight it somewhere on your form. Parents will appreciate it and feel more at ease when they know their children’s sensitive medical information won’t be shared with the world.

Camp Nerd Tip:
The best practice for storing camper records is to keep it for 7 years past the age of majority.
For example, if your camper is 6, you need to store their records until they’re 18, and then 7 years beyond that.
So if you have a 6 year old camper in 2019, you need to store their info until 2038.
Keeping these records for such a long time might seem like overkill, but in order to prepare for a worst case scenario – like a lawsuit. You should be protecting yourself by keeping documentation. (This was something I’ve been told for years, but it was reinforced during the International Camp Directors Course – so don’t just take my word for it.)
Check out this American Camping Association article for more information.

3. Have an inclusivity clause

Including everyone is important for creating a diverse and welcoming environment. Make sure your registration form clearly displays that your camp is an inclusive community, ready to open its doors to people from all walks of life.

The inclusivity clause should state that the camp does not discriminate based on factors, such as

  • Race
  • Religion
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender

This is a quick and easy way to make new campers feel welcome. It gives them a peek inside the community and instills a sense of positivity as they fill out their registration form.

Camp Nerd Tip:
Here are some wording suggestions to help move in the direction of making your application all-inclusive.

  1. When asking a camper’s name, label the field Preferred Campers Name. This is both for campers who are transgender and useful for campers who go by nicknames. For example, my legal name is Patricia, but my nickname is Patti. If I got to camp and people were calling me Patricia it would freak me out (I only get called that when I’m in trouble! haha) So I can only imagine how it would feel if a transgendered camper arrived only to have people calling them by the wrong name!
  2. You can ask for their full legal name in the Health Information section using the label Campers Name as it appears on Health Card.
  3. Decide if you actually NEED to know the campers gender. If you’re a day camp, it might not matter. If you’re an overnight camp who’s flexible about you cabin make up, it might not matter. But if you do want to ask, consider using the label Camper Gender Identity and leaving a short answer space instead of having them select M, F, or other.

Here are some examples from my camper registration form (created using JotForm, of course.)



4. Include a payment processor

Just like most extracurricular activities, camps need to collect payments for enrollment fees, camp gear, swag — the list goes on.

The easiest and fastest way to gather payments is to include a reputable, secure payment processor on the registration form itself.

PayPal and Square are brands that parents trust and feel comfortable using to make a payment.

5. Get their signature

Last, but not least, the form needs to have a signature section (separate from the medical section). This might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised at the number of people who forget to include this section in their online registration forms.

Without a signature, there is no final consent or sign-off from the parent, which invalidates the form. It’s better to be safe than sorry, so please make sure to double-check this one. 🙂

Camp Nerd Tip:
Include a privacy statement, emergency medical authorization, and waiver of liability as part of your mandatory signature process.

I’d suggest making the photo release form optional, and include your local camping association in the form if you plan to share photos with them to promote your camp. It would likely be covered under a line like, “… and its agents to illustrate and promote the camping experience, the camp and its programs.” BUT it’s safer just to name them directly.
I’ve also included my Camp Nerd brand in my waiver, but I’ve yet to use a camper photo on the site.

It also might be useful to include a place for the parent or guardian to identify as having authority to sign without another parent/ guardian signature. This is helpful if there are custody issues, or if a camper is living in care.
Here’s an example of what that could look like:

In the event that only one parent or legal guardian signs this form:

I certify that I have the authority to sign this form on behalf of the Camper and that no other authority or signature is required.


So there ya have it.
Some awesome advice from my pals at JotForm on best practices for an intuitive, all-inclusive summer camp registration form.
What are your favourite tips for creating stellar camp forms?

This blog was sponsored by JotForm, an all-inclusive summer camp registration solution that helps camps easily collect camper information, enrollment fees, parent feedback, and more.

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