Kids will do the craziest things: sneak attack counselors with water balloons, get lost in the woods after being explicitly told not to enter the woods, cannonball into the shallow end, eat sunscreen, and the summer camp memories go on and on.
While camps are seasonal fun, raising funds to maintain the campgrounds, improve the facilities, and provide scholarships is a year-round effort.
Fortunately, there are a near equal amount of summer camp fundraising options as there are unpredictable things that a camper might do.
These are summer camp fundraising ideas to help you raise the funds to bring back those kids, and unforgettable memories, year after year.
1) Haunted forest
While summer camps are seasonal attractions, campsites can be repurposed and used to raise money year-round.
Some camps are run out of churches or other buildings devoid of forests, and that’s okay. A haunted house can be just as good as a haunted forest. Executing off-season fundraising events entails crafting events specific to the time of year, knowing what staff you have available, and what your budget is for such an event.
Calleva, a summer camp and year-round outdoor school, hosts Markoff’s Haunted Forest during the month of October. This horrifying attraction helped raise the money for the Markoffs to start their summer camp. The annual tradition now raises so much money that they donate a portion of their proceeds to local charities.
An inexpensive way to create a haunted house or forest is to reach out to campers and parents to create costumes, decorations, and to serve as some of the characters lurking throughout your campsite of horror.
2) Recycling for cash
Summer camps can run programs to raise money from recycling. Camps don’t even have to reach out and form specific partnerships, as many recycling facilities will accept recyclable materials from the general public and offer cash in return.
Most camps advocate such programs to their campers. A way to make the recycling program fun is to turn it into a competition. Whichever camper or group of campers raises the most money wins a prize.
Kids can raise hundreds of dollars in a mere week from recycling. Families, colleges, restaurants, and other businesses produce tons of recyclable material every day that can be turned from waste into valuable funds.
Recyclable materials that can be turned into cash include:
- Plastic bottles
- Aluminum cans
- Ink cartridges
- Cell phones
- And more!
Camp Henry encourages campers to collect recycling and turn it in to recycling centers that pay for such materials. Recycling programs can do good for both the world and your camp at the same time.
3) Bake sale
You’ll probably have people interested at the word ‘chocolate’. If not, try ‘brownie’, ‘fudge’, or ‘hard candy’. People who still don’t pay attention have probably forgotten how to smile.
Bake sales are a chance to get kids and parents more invested in your camp. Ask families to commit to baking a certain treat. This ensures that your bake sale will offer a variety of desirable goods while getting people both more involved in the event and willing to spread the word. You can host bake sales at your campsite or other community locations where you might reach a larger audience.
The First Baptist Church in Friendswood knows how to go big with bake sales, which probably has something to do with Friendswood being in Texas. Not only did they host a bake sale, but they marketed it as a way to gather treats for Super Bowl parties.
Bake sales can work at any time of the year, but doing them in conjunction with big events can boost your profits.
4) Car wash
Rub-a-dub-dub, your car is too big to wash in a tub. However, arm kids or staff with sponges, soap, and water, and they can spend some hot summer days making cars shine.
Car washes can be hosted at your campsite or at locations throughout the community. Not only will this raise money for your camp, but it can increase exposure, so that more kids register the next summer.
A YMCA in South Carolina demonstrates the true power that car washes can have when they involve the larger community. By pairing with the Family Justice Center and the All Saints Church, the YMCA was able to host a car wash at a local parking lot to raise money to enable children of victims of domestic violence to attend their camp.
5) Campsite events
Camp Saginaw rents out their campsite for conferences, corporate picnics, weddings, bar/bat mitzvahs, college leadership programs, and more.
Renting out your campsite can be a lucrative endeavor that also keeps your facilities in use, so your campsite becomes more useful to the community, as opposed to sitting around for months.
Other events include dances, movie screenings, family game nights, and pool parties. Get creative with your event suggestions, let the community know that your camp grounds are available, and let the people party! Or get married. Or picnic. Or whatever their hearts desire and they’re willing to dedicate money to.
Summer camps are communities, and you can use that community to raise needed funds. Kids have parents, who have friends in the community, and all of these people can be sought to help your fundraising campaign to create scholarships, improve facilities, or other endeavors.
How? For starters, crowdfunding websites help nonprofits to create professional looking webpages and accept donations.
What’s important to realize is that a crowdfunding campaign does nothing by itself. You need to reach out to friends and camp supporters, potentially through email, to promote your campaign. A crowdfunding website makes donations easy, but you have to alert people that a fundraiser is going on.
If you’re interested in learning more about crowdfunding, we invite you to take a look at Ignite Fund. It’s NonProfitEasy’s powerful crowdfunding tool for summer camps of all locations and sizes.
7) Sponsorship letters
A lot of families struggle to afford summer camps. You can empower kids to raise the necessary funds themselves.
Sponsorship letters are emotional appeals that campers write and send out to friends, family, and businesses in order to raise money to go to camp.
Kids should write about what a week of camp means to them, when and where they’re going, and include pictures, if possible. Promise to let any sponsors know how the experience goes, as following up with a heartfelt thank you is the least you can do in exchange for financial aid.
Writing these letters can be a bit of work, but it can be an effective way to pay for camp or raise money on behalf of a camp. Thanks to computers, kids only have to type up their letters once, although handwritten letters can provide the kind of intimacy needed to sway certain potential donors.
Kids of Deaf Adults (KODA) camp Midwest provides more information on how kids raise money to attend their summer experience, as well as a sample letter.
8) Yard sale/auction
Your camp has old stuff. The community has old stuff. Local businesses may be willing to donate items for sale or for auction. Reach out to people, see what you can acquire, and organize a yard sale or auction that can raise lots of needed money for your summer camp.
Copper Cannon Camp in New Hampshire is a free summer camp, and part of how it raises money to pay for all of its campers is through an annual auction. The silent auction attracts people from all over the state, who bid on items ranging from vacations to televisions to sponsoring campers for multiple days.
Auctions can be hosted at the campsite, at other community locations, or online. Providing a nice dinner and some live entertainment, such as music, can help to attract a wide variety of people, including those who have never attended your camp.
9) Public Classes
Summer camps teach kids art, swimming, tennis, science, and about loads of other topics. Why not teach people about those subjects year-round?
Camps have the facilities to host classes both for adults and children. Groups can rent your facilities to host their programs at your campsite or you can hire seasonal staff to teach various classes throughout the year. This is a great way to keep your facilities in use while bringing in extra funds.
Classes can attract families whose children don’t yet attend your summer camp, which can result in new campers when summer rolls around. Remember that any event hosted at your campsite is also a potential opportunity to showcase your grounds to new people.
Montgomery Parks in Maryland hosts summer camps, but also offers classes throughout the year. They create guides to keep people informed of what’s going on and the opportunities their parks make available to the community.
Fundraising is hard work, but with a little creativity you can make it a fun, varied experience. Variation helps to raise money from a wide array of people, all of whom you can easily manage with the help of a CRM. Choose the fundraising strategies that work for your summer camp and get started today.
If you want more fundraising ideas, take a look at these helpful resources:
- 33 Fundraising Ideas for Schools and Education. If your school needs to raise money to support a summer camp or other program, we have a list of ideas to help you reach your goals.
- Fundraising Ideas for Kids and Families. Typically, to join a summer camp the participants have to pay a fee that covers boarding, food, and other expenses. Learn how you can raise money to cover your child’s camping costs with our fundraising ideas for kids and families.
- Crowdfunding Tips: Quick and Easy Ways to Raise More Money. Crowdfunding is a great way for organizations, churches, and individuals to raise money for their cause. Learn how you can implement best practices into your campaign to reach your goals.
- 53 Fundraising Ideas for Churches and Religious Organizations. Often churches and other faith-based organizations organize summer camps for their congregation’s youth. Learn over 50 ways you can raise money to cover the costs of running your camp.