A "HINT" to Increase Retaining Campers - Joanna Warren Smith

Training Your Summer Camp Staff to Help You Keep Campers Coming Back

(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/)

hint for retaining summer campers from Joanna Warren Smith.

hint for retaining summer campers from Joanna Warren Smith.

Imagine if you will ...

A camper is walking down a path with a favorite counselor.  They are laughing, talking and bonding in such a special way that when you see them, you smile because these relationships are what camp is all about.

The lively, engaging conversation continues; the camper looks up fondly at the best role model in the world and eagerly asks, "Are you coming back to camp next summer?"  And the counselor quickly responds "No, I'm going to grad school."

Please know that the camper who asked the question will likely not be back because in that response, the counselor took away a "personal" reason for the child to return.

Now, I don't advocate lying to campers but we must encourage counselors to realize their impact on children.  It's essential for them to see how the ramifications of a response to a tough question can be mitigated.


  • RUN A SHORT INTERACTIVE SESSION FOR ALL STAFF.  Act out the above scenario and let counselors come to their own conclusions about the impact on the camper.  If they see it, rather than get lectured about it, they are more likely to understand your intention.
  • PROVIDE EASY RESPONSES.   Encourage counselors to anticipate the question and be ready with authentic responses like "I love camp so much, I want to come back every year."  Or "Camp is the best place, I always want to be here, don't you?" And remind counselors that if they do have negative reactions about camp, they should be shared with leadership ... not with campers or their parents.
  • FOCUS BACK ON THE CAMPER.  Guide the counselor to move the child to thinking about what can be accomplished in the next summer.  "You'll be a Pathfinder next year ... I bet you're looking forward to that canoe trip!" Or "You'll get your third year pin next year, right?"
  • PRACTICE.  Give leadership and staff the opportunity to role play a number of times to let everyone become comfortable with the question and their responses.

Retention can be increased with this one simple focus.  Give it a try!

Want some other last-minute retention techniques?

Give Joanna a call at  310-451-1876  or email campconsulting@verizon.net