If I had a nickel… am I right?
If you are fortunate enough to be able to do the job you love full-time, year round then you’ve definitely heard that question more than once, in fact you’ve probably heard it about 1 286 001 times and counting!
Even if your program only runs for 3 or 4 months of the year the other 8 – 9 months aren’t spent kicking back and relaxing, there’s a lot of work to be done during the “off season”.
Here’s a taste of what the average camp director does from September to May (this timeline is based on a small camp, it will look a bit different for different camps but you get the gist):
September Focus: This is a month of tying up loose ends and summer wrap up
Finish shutting down the camp, complete any repairs that need to happen before the winter, send out camper/ parent surveys, send out staff surveys, contact families about lost & found, contact families about overdue payments, contact families about any concerns or comments they had at the end of the summer, reflect on highlights and challenges of the summer.
October Focus: This is a month of reflection and hopefully rest
Write end of season report, compile and evaluate data about age, geography, gender and return rate of campers for said report, make recommendations for next season about staffing, training, facilities, program, etc., meet with supervisor and/ or Board of Directors to discuss report, create work plan, start planning for new budget, take a vacation!
November/ December Focus: These months are crucial for planning the upcoming season
Updating processes, procedures and forms (using information gathered during reflection on previous season and report writing process), finalize and submit budget, touch base with staff (if there hasn’t been pretty regular communication since camp ended), determine grants you plan on applying for, create or update promo material, recruit campers – attend fairs, hold open houses, meet with families, send out camper application packages, start registering campers (some camps start this process much earlier).
January Focus: It’s a new year and this month is all about looking forward to the upcoming season
Process registrations, continue recruiting process for new campers, start planning & programming for upcoming summer, start programming staff training.
February Focus: This month is all about the staff and grants
Contact previous staff members to see who is returning, begin to recruit new staff members to fill any gaps, (interviews, reference checks, CRC & vulnerable sector checks – all time-consuming stuff), update and send staff packages, continue planning staff training – booking speakers, etc., meet grant deadlines (February is a common deadline for many grants)
March Focus: Programming & staff training
This is the time of year when everyone is feeling pretty hectic in the office, camper and staff recruitment and registration are still taking place which are both fairly time-consuming but a lot of time is also being spent on planning the upcoming summer programs and staff training. This time of year is as busy as the summer season!
April Focus: What focus? Everything!
For most it’s a new fiscal year so that means they can start making purchases for the upcoming summer, t-shirt designs have to be finalized and ordered for both campers and staff, a million follow-up conversations need to take place with campers and parents, the heat is on to finish hiring if that hasn’t happened already, there are also usually lots of reports on camper numbers being generated and submitted to the “powers that be” at this point in the year
May Focus: Opening Camp
Supplies move to camp, camp is opened up, there is a lot of cleaning, repairing, and updating happening at camp this time of year, there are still ongoing conversations with camper families and staff but hopefully everything is mostly in place, the first food order goes in, staff training happens during this month.
Personally I move to camp at this time of year and live on site until September, but for those who don’t, I’m assuming that their June is much like my May.
May – August
The wonderful, wacky, world of summer camp. Cool dips in the lake, warm air, lazy boat rides, campfires cracking, children laughing, friendships forged, memories made, life changing adventure.
It makes it all worth it.
This list is certainly not extensive since I run a pretty small camp program, some directors are arranging for busses, flights and other forms of transportation, ordering massive amounts of inventory for their tuck shop or online store or running off-season programming, and some directors have a team of people working with them during the offseason so they’re not doing all the things I listed above, but it is a small taste of what the average camp director does during the offseason.
So next time someone says, “So… you’re a camp director… what do you do the rest of the year?” feel free to answer with a smile and say “there’s this great blog I’d like you to check out…”
What do you do as a Camp Director or Admin staff during the off-season? Let me know in the comments below.