The secret to a successful camp season: Get counsellors to communicate - Guest Post

Communication is KEY to a great staff community

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Running a summer camp isn’t a walk in the park. From creating a summer camp business plan to managing camp registration to speaking with parents, it takes a village to ensure everything runs smoothly.

Counsellors and camp management are the backbone of this village, and together they ensure a successful summer camp season. The thing is, it’s not always easy to get teammates on the same page, and it can be difficult figuring out the best way to get started. Below are a few best practices that can benefit all camps.

Encourage transparency
To be transparent is to communicate what you’re thinking and doing so that others can better understand you and your actions. Often, camp managers and counsellors can get so busy completing tasks that they forget to communicate with one another.

When there isn’t open communication between camp staff, silos develop and information doesn’t flow. By being proactive at the beginning of the season and encouraging transparency and open communication channels, you’ll foster an accepting environment for everyone involved.

Communication practices come from the top, so the executive director and camp managers should be good role models in the way they communicate with each other. This will have a domino effect on camp counsellors and their communication methods.

When camps make open communication a priority, they not only improve the counsellor experience but the camper and parent experience too.

Avoid under communicating
When in doubt, it’s best to over-communicate. It’s easy to believe that everyone knows what you’re thinking, but that’s often not the case. Each person perceives the world differently than the next person, and their diverse perspectives will govern the way they see, understand, and act toward others.

Under communicating at camp could wreak havoc on counsellors, campers, management, and parents. For example, if Susie is deathly allergic to nuts, her counsellor should communicate that to everyone who will be serving Susie food. Even if the entire camp was already briefed about campers with deadly food allergies, it’s still not safe to assume that they will remember. Providing a quick heads-up is an easy fix to ensure everyone is on the same page.

It’s OK to repeat yourself, especially if you want to be sure that all counsellors understand what you’re saying. Don’t be afraid to over-communicate!


Clarify roles and responsibilities
Communication can get muddy if counsellors aren’t 100-percent certain of their roles and responsibilities. A great way to overcome confusion about this is to create an organizational (org) chart that includes everyone’s title and a few bullet points about who does what.
For example, maybe each counsellor is responsible for one cabin of five campers. If anyone else in the camp has questions about a cabin or a camper in it, then they can reach out to the counsellor for that cabin to get an answer to their question.

Besides the org chart, it might be helpful to have an in-person get-together where the camp’s executive director and management team introduce themselves to counsellors and supporting staff to make sure each person can put a face to a name and feel comfortable approaching them when the season begins. Make sure that contact information, such as phone numbers, emails, walkie-talkie channels, etc., is exchanged so that everyone can easily get in touch in case of an emergency.

Use the right tools
Digital communication is almost as important as in-person communication, but finding the best tools to use can be tricky. Online forms can foster this type of communication. They can gauge counsellors’ thoughts before camp begins, ask for their feedback after training, and more.

Camps often use online forms to set up a preseason check-in to identify potential problems before they occur. It’s also a good idea to set up a midseason check-in to identify problems that may be arising and find solutions before they become full-blown issues. And you should have a postseason check-in to evaluate everything that happened during camp so you can improve processes and procedures next time around.

Using these communication best practices will translate into a better camp season for everyone involved.

Editor's note: This is a guest post from the kind folks at JotForm.

Travis Allison