3 Easy Things a Non-Profit Summer Camp can do to Earn More Money and Have a Broader Impact

Because first, we need to make sure we're around for next year.

A lot has changed about running summer camp in 16 years since I first donned a summer camp staff t-shirt. But not all of it has changed for the worse. In this article, I'm going to walk you through three relatively easy things you can do for your summer camp that could wind up having an incredibly profound impact: getting a Google Adwords Grant, becoming an Amazon Affiliate, and my favorite - forming a community garden with grant money from, of all places - Walmart!

Securing a Google Adwords Grant

You can go ahead and read that graphic to the right. You read correctly - Camp Hanover - a Christian summer camp in Virginia - has been granted $10,000 in Google Adwords advertising per month and for life.

How? Let's let ruler of "teh interwebs" Doug Walters walk us through the process.

First, he says, "Head to the Google for Nonprofits web page. It's a pretty straightforward process, except for one thing.

"The key is making sure your 501c3 is listed in the IRS online database or in Guidestar. This is where Google checks to see if you are truly a non-profit."

Doug also notes that, for religious camps like Camp Hanover, you may need to use your overall governing body - like the PCUSA, or the ELCA - instead of your own 501c3 listing.

Beyond that, it's simply a matter of persuading Google of your missional importance. Again, from Doug:

"There's a 300-500 word essay as the last step of the application. Keep this mission focused. Be sure to include how you would measure your success if you receive the Adwords grant."

This is great stuff for a number of reasons. The benefit of having $10,000 (which is basically infinity) in paid advertising per month is obvious, but it will also give you a good exercise in remembering why your camp is so important. Google probably SHOULD be helping more camps and camper families find one another - so don't be shy about convincing them as to why you are so important!

Becoming an Amazon Affiliate

Becoming an Amazon Affiliate probably has limited upside, but it's incredibly easy. If you are unfamiliar with the Amazon Affiliate program - Amazon will essentially cut you a small slice (4%-7%) of each sale that you can send their way by having your camper families and supporters click your links. It doesn't cost them anything extra, and they still have access to the same Amazon they're used to - Amazon is just willing to send you a portion of the sale as a "thank you."

Our biggest month as an Amazon Affiliate was always December - where we could bring in north of $300 (as a very small camp) just by sending out some emails letting people know what to do - click the link in the email or on a specific part of our website before doing their regular shopping at Amazon. We wound up paying for almost all of our program/art supplies through Amazon - not bad for asking people to click a link.

We also found that letting camper families and supporters know that they could pass along our link really energized them. It was a really easy thing they could do to help us, and almost all of them shopped at Amazon anyway. Win, win, win. Was that enough wins? I think it was.

And this doesn't require any technical know-how whatsoever. Here's the process:

Log in to your regular Amazon.com account.

Scroll to the bottom of the page, and click the following link:

Next, click "join for free" at the top of the page:

Follow the steps to link your summer camp with Amazon, and voila!

Once you've made your account, simply click the "Links and Banners" link inside the dashboard:


And you can send these links out to your camper families via emails, have your web-designer put a banner on your site, and the rest takes care of itself. You keep reminding people, and the money keeps coming in.

Getting a Community Garden Grant from Walmart

One of the great resources that we have, as summer camps, is our land. Many of us are on a hundred plus acres. Many of us use precious little of our total acreage.

That was the case when I became the director of the Vanderkamp Center.

From a perspective of "land-justice," we decided to try and install a community garden with the following arrangement: half of the food we'd raise would go to local food banks, and half would go into our summer campers' bellies. We searched far and wide for an organization that would help us, and got help in an unexpected place.

If you're still reading, you've guessed it: Walmart!

Walmart actually gives out millions of dollars in grants for hunger relief each year, and I'm proud to say that a few thousand dollars of those grants went to Vanderkamp to help us with our project.

The process is quite simple. You head over to the "apply for grants" section of the Walmart Foundation web page.

You find out if your project qualifies. You submit your application to as many local Walmarts as you want, and then you wait.

We applied to about 18-20 Walmarts, and only heard back from 2. They gave us $3,000 and $1,000, respectively - and our community garden project was off and running!

And here's a little bonus: Walmart Grant Proposal - the exact information we used to secure our grants.

Please - don't worry about any intellectual property stuff here. Forming a garden with a goal to feed the hungry is an incredibly worthwhile and fulfilling step for any camp to take. It can be hard work, but the benefits to campers, staff, and community are impossible to ignore.