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Six ways to boost your camp’s enrollment

We all know camps provide fun and educational experiences, creating memories that last a lifetime. But, camps also need to make money to continue their mission – which means making sure your sessions stay full. Camp leaders should be constantly thinking of ways to retain this year’s campers while drawing in new families.

As you plan for your future, here are a few ideas for boosting camper recruitment and retention.

  1. Make recruitment a year-round venture.

Even if your camp is seasonal, you should keep your name at the top of people’s minds all year long. When marketing your camp, emphasize what makes it unique, whether it’s natural features or technology that appeals to campers or provides parents with greater peace of mind. In today’s world, marketing on social media allows you to meet your potential customers where they are.

The camp experience is centered on human connection, so consider ways you can connect personally with prospective families. Attend community events, host virtual coffee chats with leadership, plan activities or events that give a sampling of your program, or engage alumni to host promotional events.

  1. Keep them coming back.

Online surveys can help you see your camp from the perspectives of children and parents. To children, the most important things about camp are having fun, socializing with friends and making new ones. When surveying children, questions should be centered around how well they enjoyed their stay at camp.

In addition to wanting their children to gain independence and be safe, parents also care about the customer experience of registration and payment, so gather feedback on those aspects as well when surveying parents. Gather your net promoter score from the families you recently served by asking, "How likely are you to recommend this camp to a friend or colleague?" Use a scale from 1-10 to understand your camp loyalty and grow. Most importantly, use the feedback to make adjustments that will keep campers coming back.

  1. Make enrollment easy.

Make sure your online registration forms are as simple as possible, while still gathering all the necessary information.

  • If parents are registering multiple children, don’t make them enter family information more than once.

  • Provide detailed pricing information so parents know exactly what they’re getting and at what cost.

  • It’s also a good idea to invest in registration software designed specifically for camps.

  • Make registration accessible for all families. This may include having a paper registration form or contact information at local libraries.

  1. Make a good first impression.

Your website is where most potential campers and parents will find you. Make sure your website is optimized for search engine optimization (SEO) so when parents search for camps, yours is one of the first they see.

Your website should give the feel of your camp and its culture in just a short glance. Use great images of your camp and engaging headlines to catch people’s attention – the average person will decide in a few seconds whether to further investigate your site, or scroll to the next.

Provide an easy to digest FAQ document on your website with registration and payment information, such as deadlines and cancellation policy, and information such as what children should bring to camp. It’s vital that your online registration and payment system is easy to navigate and doesn’t send them to a third party for payment.

Don’t forget to include introductions about yourself and your staff – parents want to know who will be taking care of their children at camp. Also, lay out your health and safety protocols to provide peace of mind.

  1. Offer early registration.

Offer an incentive for early registration such as a discount or free camp swag. Promote early registration right after the camping season, when campers are still excited, and use social media. Create a sense of urgency with “sessions are filling up fast” or “limited spots are available.”

You can also provide a special period for current campers to sign up before registration is open to the general public. It’s a good idea to plan future camp schedules for three years out to have early registration prepared during your current camp season.

  1. Reward referrals.

You want children to talk about what a great time they had at camp. If the parents also had a great customer experience with your camp, you’ve won advocates who will tell others and lead to referral business. Consider rewarding them for making referrals by offering incentives on registration.

Families have a lot of options when choosing activities for their children. Let them know who you are, draw them to your programming, keep them hooked and watch them spread the word.

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