A 'HINT' to Deliver a Better Product from Joanna Warren Smith


Stakeholder Input is Critical!

Whether you’re a private or not-for-profit camp, you love the people, the place and the philosophy.  You tend to want folks to get along, you’re forgiving of facility deficits and you ‘assume’ that everyone will execute precisely the way you intend.  These realities, complicated by each operator’s sense that they are doing everything ‘right’ leads to a skewed perception of stakeholder reactions to your product.

There are no perfect camps only those that are complacent and those that are constantly seeking to discover what they can do better.  Notice that I didn't say ‘confirm what they are doing right.’  It’s a critical paradigm shift to secure direct stakeholder input that identifies what you need to do to improve.


  • Plan for an immediate ‘Snap Poll’ for parents.  On day 2/3 of each session, find out if there are issues so you can fix them.
  • Consider a camper ‘Snap Poll’.  Directors report that this early-in-the-session vehicle provides the opportunity for immediate 'fixes' that can ensure a camper’s return.
  • Treat on-site camper surveys with reverence.  The more important kids feel, the more solid their responses.
  • Secure counselor opinions about how to make the experience better.  Fresh eyes and those that are not hung up on the ‘way we’ve always done it’ have had spectacular resolutions for confounding elements.
  • Encourage parents to be candid.  To leverage the parent ‘proclivity’ to want their child to return and to secure family 'buy in', survey parents a second time within days of their child’s return home.  Some camps offer an incentive to motivate parents while others get up to a 65% response rate by setting the stage for input early, promoting the importance of surveys in an enthusiastic way and expecting parents to do their part.
  • Institute a system for performance reviews.  Ideally, staff would rate leadership, leadership would review counselor performance and Directors would encourage feedback.
  • Focus on the end-of-camp leadership debriefing.   Keep track through the summer of the ‘debacles’ that occur.  Bring them to the final debriefing and commence the process of resolving these and other critical issues.

If you would like templates that provide specific language for each of the surveys, just email me and I’ll forward the PowerPoint of the session that Dave Thoensen of Camp Tamarak and I did at ACA.  He and I are both happy for you to use any of the formatting.  Time is too critical for you to reinvent the wheel right now.  Use a system that works.  Just email me!!!


Other issues?  Call 310-451-1876 or email

Hello Camp Mavericks! If you're interested in this post you'll LOVE the "10 Commandments of Camp Marketing" that Joanna and Travis have written. Download it here, now, for free and get a free subscription to the Go Camp Pro newsletter AND Joanna's HINTS email.

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Travis Allison