There’s no question: your summer camp is a really exceptional place.
Your community is second to none, your activities are engaging, and when kids head back home at the end of the season they can’t wait to tell their friends all about the amazing time they had at camp.
Yet, when it comes time to register new campers, your team always falls short of its goals.
What can be done to help boost registrations to your camp? Try taking a second look at your summer camp’s marketing strategy.
For most camps that struggle getting new kids in the door, one of the most common challenges is simply getting the word out about your camp.
Marketing for a summer camp is like marketing for any other small business — you’ve got to cover all your bases. That means digital, traditional, and even influencer marketing on social media must be considered to increase awareness of your camp and increase new registrants.
Ensure your team is doing the best job it can to introduce newcomers to your camp, make the case for their attendance, and lay the groundwork for smooth camper registration.
In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into the many unique ways your summer camp can revitalize its marketing strategy. Your team should:
- Crowdfund scholarships for deserving campers.
- Use housing requests to bring in newcomers.
- Customize your camp’s branding.
- Make connections with your campers’ networks.
- Share registration forms across all channels.
Your camp is special, and the world should know about it! Let’s check out these smart summer camp marketing strategies so your next summer session is your most popular one yet.
1. Crowdfund scholarships for deserving campers.
Although it can be tough to admit, one of the most commonly reported barriers between kids and camp is the cost of attendance.
Even if your summer camp is on the affordable side, it can still be a challenge for some families to find room in their budget for this important experience. Historically, this has meant a lot of young people couldn’t register for their favorite camps and had to miss out.
However, did you know there’s a way to spread the word about your summer camp while also making attendance more accessible for kids? Before your next summer session, launch a camp crowdfunding campaign to fund scholarships for deserving campers.
Want to learn more about camp crowdfunding? You might be wondering:
- What is crowdfunding? Crowdfunding is a fundraising method in which organizations (like your camp) launch web pages to raise money for a specific goal. These fundraising campaigns typically have short term goals and are centered on a specific project (like raising money for a scholarship).
- Why does crowdfunding work? After your camp launches its page, you’ll ask your staff and supporters to share it across the internet. Then, they’ll ask friends, family, classmates, and coworkers to make contributions to your cause.
- How can crowdfunding help my camp? Crowdfunding works because it only requires motivated individuals to provide small, one-time gifts to your camp. Because your campaign is centered around an inspiring project, people will be happy to make small contributions and share the page with their personal networks.
Not only will launching a crowdfunder for camp scholarships help out some lucky kids, but it will also help spread the word about your camp to individuals who may never have heard of your organization before.
Bonus! Does crowdfunding sound right for your summer camp? GoFundMe isn’t your only option for a fundraising partner. Check out Double the Donation’s definitive ranking of top GoFundMe alternatives to find a user-friendly, affordable option that’s right for your organization.
2. Use housing requests to bring in newcomers.
Another great way to increase awareness about your summer camp is to leverage housing requests as “invitations” to newcomers.
Housing requests can be a great way to take your existing relationships with campers and turn them into new relationships. When newcomers to your camp see that their friends, classmates from school, or family members want them to be their roomates, they’ll get excited to learn more about your organization.
If your camp has invested in a robust camp software platform, you should already have access to smart housing request software. Here’s how housing requests can convert newcomers into lifelong attendees of your summer camp:
- First, a camper registers. As they complete the registration process, they’ll encounter a prompt to request a roommate or roommates for their bunk.
- Then, they submit their housing request. This will be sent to their friend or family member even if they aren’t yet registered.
- After that, their friend receives a notification. The friend will be prompted to go to your summer camp registration form and sign up for your camp session.
- Finally, the friend registers. At some point during registration, they’ll accept the housing request and complete their registration for your summer camp.
In much the same way that crowdfunding campaigns can help spread the word about your camp to the personal networks of your current campers, so too can housing requests.
Both kids and their parents will be excited to attend your camp when they know they’ll be spending time with their friends or loved ones. Not only does this help your camp boost attendance rates, but it also strengthens bonds between your camp attendees.
3. Customize your camp’s branding.
What makes summer camp such a unique experience for kids these days is that it’s fully “IRL” (internet slang for in real life).
That means your organization might not be too worried about the appearance of your website and online presence. However, the way your camp brands itself on the web can have a major impact on your marketing efforts, especially when attracting new campers.
The first impression anyone has of your camp is on the line with every piece of branded material you create. Whether that happens online, at an info session, or through some type of merchandise, your camp’s brand is important because it will initially be judged based on the visual appeal of your brand. Make sure you draw people in through creative branding practices that are representative of the experience you’re selling!
Your camp’s digital branding helps tell the story of your organization, so it’s important that your website, social media profiles, and other digital output reflect the story you want to tell about your community. Your camp should:
- Match your registration site to your main website. When campers land on your registration site, it should feel familiar and match the branding of your main website. Include your brand’s color scheme, logos, and typeface for continuity.
Bonus tip: Take it a step further by selling branded merchandise with the custom-designed logo on your registration site for parents to buy camper’s shirts before they head off and they can pick them up when they arrive!
- Use photography to personify your summer camp. On your website, social media pages, and email messages, include high-quality photography of your staff, campers, and their parents. Remember: always get parental consent before publishing images of minor campers.
- Share real camper testimonials in marketing material. When newcomers research your camp, show them the impact your organization has had on real people by sharing testimonials across different digital platforms.
The better your camp’s brand is established online, the more newcomers will understand what your camp is all about.
As you think of new ways to market your organization and grow your community, be sure to keep your digital branding front-of-mind. Even better, reach out to your community to see what improvements they’d like to be made in order to tell your story more effectively online.
4. Make connections with your campers’ networks.
Like we’ve touched on earlier, one of your summer camp’s best marketing resources is your current community.
They can introduce their personal networks to your organization, and your camp can leverage those relationships to make the case for newcomers to register. However, to really get the most out of this strategy, you’ll need to invest in a robust camp database software like CircuiTree’s.
Camp database software allows your team to create profiles for each and every member of your camp’s community. In these profiles, you’ll record individuals’ names, biographical information, contact information, health data, and a history of your interactions.
You can then use these profiles to identify leads for possible new camp attendees. For example, if a number of your campers attend the same church, you might reach out to this church and ask to share pamphlets in their front lobby.
Alternatively, you might see that a family who has sent siblings to your camp for several years in a row attends a particular school system. You might reach out to the parents to advocate on behalf of your camp at their next PTA meeting.
5. Share registration forms across all channels.
Did you know that your summer camp’s online registration forms can be a huge marketing asset?
Ultimately, in order to boost attendance to your camp you want interested prospective campers to be connected with your registration form as quickly as possible. This means that you should regularly share your form across communication channels.
The more frequently you share your registration form, the more likely it is that kids and their parents will encounter and complete it. Even if an individual chooses not to complete the form at a certain time, just by encountering it again down the line they’re more likely to finish it.
Here are a few ways your camp can amplify the reach of its registration form:
- Stay active on social media. Most social sites prioritize content from active accounts in their newsfeed algorithms. Post regularly and share your form frequently to boost its chances of being seen by followers and newcomers alike.
- Send regular, engaging emails. People who click through to your email content are among the most likely to complete your registration form, so be sure to include the link in your email newsletters, press releases, and calendar updates.
- Don’t discount direct mail. While sending marketing material via traditional mail has fallen by the wayside, don’t discount this channel! Include the printed link to your registration form and/or a QR code link to share your form with direct mail recipients.
Remember, your summer camp’s registration form is the last step in the process of converting prospective campers into camp attendees. By spreading your form far and wide, you help get the word out about your camp while empowering interested individuals to complete their registration.
Think your summer camp needs a marketing refresh? With these awesome strategies, your camp is sure to make a splash next summer.
This guest post was contributed by our friends at CircuiTree.
Before becoming a camp professional, Glen Greenstone enjoyed many other pursuits. A native San Diegan, he worked through college as a 9-1-1 dispatcher. He has a passion for literature and the outdoors, and is a veteran of U.S. Coast Guard, so he naturally loves to get out on the water with his wife and two kids whenever possible. He loves hearing camp cheers outside his office window during the summer, while helping camps across the country overcome their unique challenges!