What that parent is thinking could change your summer camp [HINT: finding out is easy]

5 Ways Mid-Week Survey's Can Help Your Day Camp

Do you look to your camp families for feedback through surveys? As consumers, we receive survey requests all the time - on our receipts, in email, on a postcard etc. As a day-camp, we've used customer feedback surveys in the past to insure that our camp families were completely satisfied with a their child's experience after a week at camp. Sending surveys at the end of the week offered us some very valuable feedback on staff, location, and other suggestions on how we could improve the program. This year at The Handwork Studio, we implemented a mid-week survey and we saw instantaneous, real-time feedback on our camp programs. Below I've listed 5 ways the mid-week parent feedback survey to parents can help improve your day camp program.

1. Create better experiences

While we work hard to make sure that every single child and their parents had the most amazing week at camp, sometimes this is isn't the case. Sending a survey late on Tuesday helped us identify areas where a camper might not have been having the best possible experience and we could come in and make their time with us better. Sometimes it could be as simple as identifying a certain skill that the child was excited about learning. Whatever the circumstance may be, sending the survey before the camper leaves camp for the week is a sure fire way to turn around a situation and create better experiences for your campers and their parents. Even in the event that the parent and camper are happy, by taking any input they have and letting them know they've been heard, we are creating a memorable customer service experience for the the parents.

2. Understand how your parents perceive your camp

With multiple locations, our Camp Director can't be everywhere at the same time. The surveys we sent out helped us gather important feedback on how our parents were interacting with the staff. We were able to identify what the parent's expectations of staff were, where we needed to make adjustment, and generally overall how well of a job our counselors were doing to deliver amazing experiences to our parents and campers. In addition to this, the surveys also helps us collect some amazing testimonials about our camp programs that we can use in for the next summer.

3. Develop deeper relationships with your camp families

As we get responses back from each of our surveys, we are reaching out to each family that submitted feedback to thank them for their input and acknowledge that we've heard them. With the responses where parents are not completely happy our team collaborates to resolve the issue at hand as quickly and effectively as possible. Surveys have helped us take a more personal approach with our families. We are reaching out to them more and developing long lasting relationships. Parents are grateful for the responses we give them and we've heard from them that they are more likely to recommend us to a colleague or friend based on our quick and timely responses. Camp is a very personal business, and mid-week surveys provide our team another touch point with parents. As we gather the responses and respond to the families we are also able to identify the sites that are doing amazing work and acknowledge those teams during the week. Our site directors and counselors love hearing the feedback as much as we do! Giving all types of feedback to counsellors  in real time can be invigorating after many weeks of camp and can give the Camp Director insight into problem counsellors.

4. Gather valuable suggestions on how to be better

At The Handwork Studio, we are always striving to be better, do better and create amazing experiences in camp. Our surveys have helped us better understand what is important to parents and their children. It also awards us the opportunity to respond to ideas that parents have suggested. Parents want to be heard. Their investment in our program is an investment in their child, and we want to provide them a place to share their thoughts. Our mid-week surveys are the most ideal avenue for this feedback. At the end of the camp season, we'll take all of the feedback and put it into one document to see where we can continue to improve our program.

5. Identify areas to adapt your staff training for the next year.

Staff training is at the core of how we launch our camp programs each year. While we might think we've covered everything, there might be a few areas where we can spend more time. The feedback from parents helps us better understand how we can tweak our staff training for next year or continue to supply training resources throughout the the summer. The surveys also give us real-life documented examples of parent feedback that we can incorporate into future camp training.

Sending customer feedback surveys early in the week has been a game-changer for our camp. We are much more connected to our parents and are able to resolve any issues in an effective and timely manner. We are collecting real-time feedback while simultaneously ensuring that both the camper and their parents are completely satisfied with their time at our camp!

Do you use summer camp surveys for your day camp? Share your experience with sending camp surveys in the comments below!


About The Handwork Studio

The Handwork Studio LLC is a kids' needle arts and fashion studio. Our purpose is to pass down the tradition of teaching practical arts such as knitting, crocheting, hand and machine sewing, embroidery, quilting, fashion and crafts in a fun and relaxed environment. Our staff is comprised of professional artists, instructors and skilled teachers, dedicated to making each student feel special. Headquartered just outside of Philadelphia in Narberth, PA, we operate summer camps in 30 locations in seven states, bringing our brand of needle arts fun to over 3,000 campers every year. Learn more at thehandworkstudio.com.


Setting camp marketing goals we know we can reach

Setting camp marketing goals for 2015 and beyond

Hello, Camp Pros!

Your old pal James Davis, here, and I'm excited to share how we set marketing and camper week goals from year to year - I hope you find these ideas as useful as I did when I first learned them!

As we all transition out of summer camp season, close down our program areas, break down those last camper and parent evaluations, and reflect on the summer’s great successes and failures, we all know that we’ll be faced with an altogether different challenge come the Fall.

That challenge? Getting more kids to camp next year than we had this year.

Now, a lot of us report directly to a board of trustees, or perhaps a senior staff person, who will come to us and ask something to the tune of: “How many camper weeks do you think we’ll have next summer?”

And we’ll laugh nervously and change the subject.

Well, we’ll actually probably answer the question. But I think we can answer a little bit more accurately than we usually do. I’ll explain.

The problem with results-oriented goal setting

You see, the goal setting stage for marketing season is absolutely critical. But setting goals around acquiring certain numbers of campers often times isn’t very helpful.

Setting goals around acquiring a certain number of campers is a results-oriented goal, and not a process-oriented goal, and it has a number of different pitfalls.

               1.   Our goals will be largely arbitrary.

We have no idea how the economy will change in the next year, what new summer camp options might come up, or if Oprah will come out and say that every single kid needs to go to camp THIS SUMMER! (emphasis hers). Given how little we can project about larger demographic trends, sticking our finger in the air and guessing at a number can be extremely difficult. Even the biggest businesses in the world come in ahead of or behind their guidance, and they are paying out an incredible amount of money each year for accurate forecasts. What makes us think we can guess any better than they can?

      2.   Reaching our goals can make us get complacent.

Say you’re at a camp that did 500 camper weeks last summer, and your goal is to do 550 camper weeks next summer. You’re rolling out your marketing campaign, and notice that with 2 months to go to before camp, you’re already at 550 weeks. Everyone around the office is happy about hitting this goal, and the natural inclination will be to be just a little bit less hungry in the pursuit of that next group of 50 campers.

      3.    Missing our goals can make us feel lousy for no reason.

Even worse, say you’re 2 days away from the beginning of staff training and you’ve booked 510 camper weeks. You’re scrambling, knowing that the goal was supposed to be 550 weeks, and know that you’re going to have some explaining to do as to why you didn’t hit your goal. You know – that same goal that was basically pulled out of thin air with no real data to support it.

      4.   Results-based goals don’t tell us how to get where we’re going.

The idea here is simple – if my marketing director comes to me and says, “My goal is 550 camper weeks next year,” there isn’t a lot of conversation to be had. Am I to assume she was a failure if she missed her goal? A huge success if she hits her goal? How will I know if she missed her goal as a result of her doing, or external factors?

And this is the problem with targeting a certain result.

This isn't to say that looking at results after the fact shouldn't happen. Examining our results is an important part of evaluating the effectiveness of our processes. It's targeting specific arbitrary results and getting disappointed when we don't hit them that causes stagnation.

So what does lead to the best results AND processes? 

Process-Oriented Goal Setting

The concept of process-oriented goal setting is also an easy one. Instead of saying "I will receive X result," we say instead, "I will complete X process."

For an example of some process-based goals, here you go:

  1. Do all of the things suggested in the CampHacker.tv marketing calendar.
  2. Have our summer camp brochure for next year done by Nov. 1st.
  3. Try 2 new forms of online paid advertising, and track the results.
  4. Study local demographics, and get flyers into at least 2 new school districts this year.
  5. Plan 5 home parties with camper families from last year.
  6. Speak in 25 churches between now and next year (if one was running a religious camp).
  7. Write 2 blog posts a month to help with Search Engine Optimization.
  8. Implement 2 ideas from Travis and Blake’s webinar on filling your camper slots at the last minute.

Etcetera, etcetera.

When we worked with process-oriented goals during my first marketing season here, we blew past our board’s results-oriented goal by more than 100 camper weeks. When we worked with them this last year, we missed the board’s results-oriented goal, but still felt great about the process. 

If you're into results-oriented goal setting - keep it. But think about tying in some process-oriented goal setting as well. I think you'll find that, in the end, focusing on processes is what puts more bodies in more beds, allowing you to change more lives in the process. And that, my friends, is what it's all about.

A brand new (to me!) take on evaluations - 360 degree feedback

Hey all! It's James Davis here, from Summer Camp Revolution. I wanted to share what I thought was an exciting take on (for me!) a pretty tedious aspect of being a camp director: evaluations.

Confession: throughout my camping career, I've hated basically everything about evaluations.

I have resented being evaluated by people above me (who in many cases "observed me" a small fraction of the time I actually spent working at camp. I felt awkward giving others formal evaluations, stiffly offering them insight into their own "strengths and weaknesses." I felt awkward seeking evaluation from others. This past summer, I actually experimented with forgoing formal evaluations for my staff in lieu of evaluating them casually on a single particular thing every day (or every other day, cough). 

Then, I had the pleasure of learning about 360 degree evaluations and feedback from new friends Penny and Bill James. For the first time, I heard a case for evaluations that made sense.

The premise is simple. Instead of a top-down evaluation from on high, each person on staff (including the boss-man or boss-woman) is evaluated by... wait for it... everyone else. That's right. A counselor will be evaluated by her director, and her campers, and her co-counselors, and herself. The evaluation meeting that follows is a cross referencing of one evaluation to another.

Patterns will quickly emerge, and real insights are possible. A counselor can easily reject feedback from her boss as "picking on her," but when her campers and co-counselors agree, it has to be taken a lot more seriously. Likewise, counselors who constantly beat themselves up can see that there are areas of strength that they never knew about.

According to Bill, who has implemented this at the University level, self-evaluations transition from being totally unlike those offered by others to closely mirroring them. Staff members learn to see themselves more clearly by seeing how everyone else sees them.

So, what do you think? I might be late to the party on this one, but I know I'm going to try this evaluation system the next  time I get a chance.

And I'm curious. Have any of you tried the 360 degree feedback model? And if so, how'd it go? 

Thanks, and here's to being lifelong learners!

Camp Recipes for In-Season Vegetables – Corn Pancakes

As bright yellow cobs of corn weigh down their sturdy stalks in Ontario, I write this blog from a place of near-hallucinating exhaustion. I am longing for the days when I had time to make delicious hearty breakfasts before I decided I was woman enough for two jobs. Which I totally still am, by the way. 

The recipe below, for Corn Pancakes, is a great use of in-season fresh corn on the cob (or leftovers), but can be made from canned corn if no fresh corn is available. By the way, as the partner of a former corn-farmer, I am obligated to insert here that there is no such thing as peaches and cream corn and something about brainwashing, and that the all-yellow stuff is way better than bi-color. (Happy?) 

As a Dutch girl, Im supposed to dine on chocolate sprinkle sandwiches and thin crepe-like pancakes filled with all things sugary and sweet for breakfast. I know this, yet I yearn for savoury. Dont get me wrong – I make a mean pumpkin Chai pancake, but given the choice, most mornings Ill pick bacon n eggs over waffles.

This recipe soothes my savoury cravings, my corn-farming prince charming, and the grumblings of my ancestors (Be still, you gorgeous blonde giants! It says pancakes!). With the perfect amount of sweetness from the corn, these little beauties are great topped with sweet-chilli sauce, as a substitute for hashbrowns with bacon and eggs, or even as a bun for egg sandwiches. 

Corn Pancakes – Serves 60 (as a side)


30 eggs

4 2/3 C milk

1 3/4 C butter, melted

10 C flour

5 tbsp baking powder

5 tbsp onion powder (option to use green onions)

Corn from 2 dozen cobs of corn


1.     Combine eggs, milk, and butter.

2.     Whisk in flour, baking powder, and onion powder.

3.     Stir in corn

4.     Drop by large spoonfuls onto medium-heat flat top grill.

5.     Flip once until golden on both sides

 If you like what you see, and want to see more, check out our 3-Week Summer Camp Menu!

A "Hint" about Camp Surveys from Joanna Warren Smith

Summer Camp Client Input Motivates Good Decision Making

True summer camp review at Pearce Williams Christian Centre

True summer camp review at Pearce Williams Christian Centre

Just this spring, a well-respected camp assured me that it wasn't necessary to do camper and parent surveys 'because it only makes people focus on the bad parts of camp'.

Needless to say, that is not the current thinking of businesses that plan to thrive in a very competitive environment. Certainly retention rates reflect satisfaction levels, but they are not the immediate feedback that can improve your program session after session.

Plan for age-appropriate on-site camper surveys and let parents know that at the end of their child's last session, you will be requesting that they complete a short survey to help you in your 'ongoing quest for excellence' or 'efforts to make the camp experience even better.'

You can also give parents an incentive to complete the survey by a specific date with an entry into a drawing for a free session of camp, a camp store gift certificate or a myriad of other options. Larger incentives usually increase the number of responses.


  • Treat the Camper Survey with Respect.  Set aside a time for the business to be done usually around lunch on the day BEFORE kids are going home.  Have a BRIEF introduction by a respected staff member in a conducive environment for writing.  Tell kids how important their input is and ask questions for which you really want the answers.   Two critical questions ... 'Do you want to come back to camp next year?' and 'What would make camp even better?'. Collect surveys by groups, review immediately and take action.
  • Evaluate the Parent Experience.  Certainly, parents can tell you if they have seen growth in their child's swimming ability, responsibility or social skills; however, they should not be asked to interpret their camper's experience because they will skew the input. Critical questions for parents include ... 'Did the camp experience benefit your child?', 'Do you want your child to return to camp next year?', 'Will you refer us to other parents?' and 'Were we responsive to you during the summer?'.  Allow for only YES or NO answers. 

Scrutinize the survey results, prioritize issues that will improve your program and then market those changes to parents.  They will appreciate the fact that you listened and more important, the action you've taken.


Need an objective perspective on any aspect of camp?  Give me a call at 310-451-1876 or email campconsulting@verizon.net

(Note from Travis:   We are so thrilled to be posting the always brilliant HINTS from camp consultant Joanna Warren Smith!  If you don't already you should sign up to receive theses HINTS in your email - in the right-hand column of Joanna's website: http://camp-consulting.com/)

Summer Camp Favourites: Hearty & Simple Black Bean Casserole

A Camp Recipe to Please the Masses

photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/greg_myers/14385614051/  CC NC SA http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/

photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/greg_myers/14385614051/  CC NC SA http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/

Here’s a recipe to feed 100 people, so you’ll need to find 99 friends or campers if you want to experience this flavor fiesta. It freezes well, so if you can’t muster up a crowd there’s no need to miss out on the party. Unless you have almost no freezer space because you sometimes hoard over-ripe bananas (...guilty); in that case, you should stick with the crowd option and consider some muffin recipes.

This vegetarian casserole is a favorite of mine for a few reasons. First – it's delicious. I hear this is an important factor in good recipes. Second – it’s outrageously quick and easy to put together. It's also flavorful, crispy around the edges, and a great use of cornmeal. I like to think cornmeal is an indicator that whatever you're making will be delicious. Oh, and it's cheesy – that’s a good sign, too. 

The downside is that I hate the word 'casserole'. It makes me think of gloopy, grey fat-free mushroom soup mix and dishes that are way too hard to scrub clean. Don't get me wrong - I don't actually hate casserole, not even mushroom-soup filled casseroles. I just hate the idea of a casserole. The only reason I ever ventured to make this myself was because it doesn't include mushroom soup, frozen peas, or cornflakes. (It does contain frozen corn though...)

Anyway, now that you know about my banana problem and word association issues, I present the finest black bean casserole recipe I have ever made. Which is one.

Black Bean Casserole


1 C olive oil

16C onions, diced

14C yellow cornmeal

20C skim Milk

15C black beans, rinsed and drained

15C canned or frozen corn, drained

15C stewed tomatoes

16C shredded cheddar cheese


  1. Don sombrero and spray sixteen 8’’x8’’ baking pans.
  2. In several large bowls, combine all ingredients except cheese. Mix well and pour into prepared pans.
  3. Top with cheddar cheese, and bake uncovered at 350F for 45 - 60 minutes, until firm and crisp around the edges.

This recipe is from the 3 Week Summer Camp Menu put together by CamphackerTV, which you can find here.