Staff retention is extremely important for employers in all sectors, including nonprofits that depend on team members understanding the organization’s culture and institutional history. Staff retention is directly related to donor retention, which means it impacts donor lifetime value, which means it impacts revenue.
Many camps are nonprofits and, like any other nonprofit, staff retention should be a big goal for camps.
Good, experienced staff members are the key to hosting any successful event, especially a camp. There is a distinct camp culture that can be difficult for new staffers to acclimate to in a single season. This makes staffer retention from one season to the next all the more important.
Don’t ignore the importance of maintaining lasting relationships with your staffers beyond just one camp session or season. If you have found a staffer that really enjoys their work and is good at what they do, then you’re already one step close to hosting the perfect camp experience.
Of course, it is one thing to say you want your staffers to return each year, and another thing entirely to figure out how to entice staffers to continue to work for you. To do this, you must create an environment in which the staffer feels prepared for any obstacle that may be thrown at them. They should be confident in their abilities at your camp and genuinely enjoy the balanced environment you have created.
If you are curious about how you should do this, make sure you:
- Properly train your staff.
- Equip staffers with useful software tools.
- Listen and respond to staffer feedback.
- Foster trust with your staffers.
- Keep in touch during the year.
Your camp deserves to start the season with its best foot forward. With the right staff at your disposal, you’ll be able to host a camp that is fun and supportive for the campers as well as the staff. Let’s dive in and learn how you can keep your expert staffers coming back every year.
1. Properly train your staff.
The first season that a staff member is with your camp is the most important in terms of training, but this does not mean that you should not continue to hone their skills each season. It may be difficult in the midst of preparations for your camp to nail down a camp staffing strategy, but you can’t overlook this vital component of your operations.
If you want your staffers to return each season, you need to make sure they are comfortable with and prepared for anything you may ask of them. Properly training your staff can take many different forms depending on the way your camp runs and the position of the trainee.
No matter how you approach it, make sure you are organized and that you have your priorities straight. Outline each activity that you will facilitate during training with the specific intent of highlighting staff engagement with each other and yourself, as well as instructing your staff how they should interact with the campers.
When your staffers feel as though they have been trained to be excellent at their job with no reservations about their abilities, they will feel encouraged to return to the job the following year. If an individual does not feel as though they can do a job well, it’s likely they won’t try again after one season.
Train your staff so that you can create a confident group of individuals who appreciate the time you invested in their training and want to work with you again and again.
2. Equip staffers with useful software tools.
Regardless of how well you train your staffers, it can still be easy for them to become overwhelmed at the sheer volume of tasks they are assigned or at the importance of a single task. To best ensure your staffers are ready to tackle the season and return for more, equip them with the software and tools that will make their jobs easier and more efficient.
Your staffers interact the most with the individual campers and are responsible for keeping track of the campers and activities throughout the season. Provide them with software tools that will streamline the more tedious parts of their job and enhance the camper experience. However, there are a lot of camp software tools on the market. Look for camp database software that has key features, like:
- A centralized database. Help your staffers keep track of their campers by providing easy access to the necessary camper profiles. Keeping your data in a centralized location will enable your staff to easily access any information on any camper throughout the season.
- Integrated communication tools. Allow staffers to communicate with each other, the campers, and the parents with ease. These tools should facilitate automated, scheduled, and mass emails.
- An electronic health center. Parents shouldn’t have to worry about their kids’ health and staffers shouldn’t have to fret over not being prepared for a health emergency. An electronic health center will keep all camper health information at your staffers’ fingertips.
- Reporting and analysis tools. Let your campers learn more about how your camp operates by allowing them access to comprehensive reports on the campers’ operations. This will make the campers more interested and invested in the success of the camp.
When your staff has useful and effective tools that streamline their job, they will love returning to such a well-organized and efficient workplace. The organization and management benefits of these software tools are similar to how a CRM benefits a nonprofit organization.
Professional event planning also relies heavily on software to effectively run their operations. If you’ve never worked with any management software before, explore Double the Donation’s list of top Cvent competitors. Their features will help you understand the level of customization and comprehensiveness you should look for.
3. Listen and respond to staffer feedback.
No staff member ever wants to work for an employer who does not value their feedback and respond appropriately to their concerns or suggestions. Because your campers are the individuals who facilitate the day-to-day operations of your camp, it is entirely possible that they might have insights into how the camp can run more smoothly that you may not realize.
Your staffers have specialized positions in certain aspects of your camp in their positions as:
- Camp counselors.
- Custodial staff.
- Kitchen staff.
Because you have your expert eye on the big picture for the camp, your staff can see the problems and issues affecting their specific component of your camp more keenly. To receive feedback from your staffers, try sending out surveys after each session or at the end of each season to gather your staffer’s opinions and suggestions.
Your camp software should even come equipped with the capability to send out these surveys, like CircuiTree’s season camp evaluation forms.
Ask your staffers questions, like:
- What was your favorite part of working at camp this season?
- What 3 things would you change about camp operations?
- Did you ever encounter a situation for which you were unprepared?
- How could you have been better prepared to undertake your camp tasks?
Staffers want to feel like their voice is heard and providing an outlet that facilitates this will improve the likelihood that they return to your camp the following season. Plus, it simply helps you improve your camp’s operations year over year.
To see more about the importance of sending out surveys, check out this post.
4. Foster trust with your staffers.
An important part of hiring and retaining a good camp staffer is creating a fun and safe environment that is built on trust. You need to trust that your staffers will do their jobs well, and your staffers need to trust that you will treat them well for the job they are doing.
How you foster trust with your staffers may take different forms based on your preferences and what you think will be most effective with your staff members, but the outcome should always be the same: a welcoming staff environment that people don’t want to leave behind.
During your camp training session or throughout the season, you should do team building activities that are aimed at getting your staff comfortable with each other and you.
An excellent way to accomplish this is to design and wear staff t-shirts. Give your staff an opportunity to work together to design a t-shirt that they can all wear throughout the season. You may even want to give them access to a t-shirt template, like these.
Your staffers will love the experience of designing the shirts and they will have something to take home that will remind them of your camp, ensuring they don’t forget about their camp staff experience during the year.
5. Keep in touch during the year.
At the end of the season, your staff will return to their normal lives and it is all too easy for them to forget about their future employment opportunities with your camp. You can, of course, use your staff data housed in your camp management software to reach out to each staffer—and you should certainly use this direct approach—but that doesn’t need to be your only tactic.
Use your social media accounts to keep your camp at the forefront of your staffers’ minds. You can post about:
- The success of the previous year.
- Various activities that are available at the camp.
- Perks and benefits of being a staffer.
- Exciting news about the upcoming camp.
Make sure you remind your staffers about your camp’s mission and values so they can feel inspired to help you achieve your goals. Clearly elaborate on how your staff can help you reach new goals and thank your previous staff for helping you accomplish so much already. Your staff will likely feel so compelled by your gratitude and the chance to facilitate another amazing camp that they will be excited to return.
Give your camp the best chance at success by retaining your amazing staffers from one season to the next. As long as you equip your staffers with the knowledge and tools they need to be effective and create a fun working environment, you will have no problem keeping your staff coming back each year!