Camp Insights: 2021 Jewish Camp Trends Survey

What are the key trends shaping the world of nonprofit Jewish summer camps?  
For the 3rd consecutive year, JCamp 180 has surveyed professionals and lay leaders from the camping sector to understand the impact of societal trends on camps. This year, we highlighted interventions being implemented or planned by camps to respond to the challenges and opportunities created by these trends. 

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Key Trends

24 trends were rated as to their significance for camps. Three of the top trends are noted below: 
  • High levels of anxiety and mental health challenges amongst campers and High levels of anxiety and mental health challenges amongst summer staff continue to be rated atop the list.
    • Mental health already was a significant issue pre-Covid-19 and has only been exacerbated by COVID-19; it will most likely continue to be a significant issue for the foreseeable future. 
    • Camps are looking to increase their complement of specialized human resources for camper well-being, which may include social workers, mental health professionals, MESH experts, camp therapists, psychologists, wellness staff, camper care professionals, and camper support teams.  
    • Camps are providing more support for seasonal staff well-being as well, with more emphasis on pre-camp and summer training for all staff on self-care for their own well-being and to ensure they can be present for the needs of campers. 
  • Pressure on young adults to earn income and build their resumes was rated in the top 3 trends impacting camps for the 3rd consecutive year. 
    • Many camps indicate they continue to face serious challenges recruiting and retaining staff, in particular older summer staff. 
    • Interventions shared include: creating internship opportunities, which operate prior to or after camp; increasing salaries and offering incentives for older staff; providing college recommendation letters; and engaging summer staff to inform staffing policies and plans. 
In addition, Continuing implications stemming from COVID-19 - a new trend added to the survey in 2021 – was the fourth highest rated trend.  
  • Camps are expecting to apply many of their 2021 COVID-19 policies and protocols to summer 2022.
  • Although this trend was rated significant by many respondents, camps also generally feel better equipped to successfully deal with this trend than other top trends.

>>Download the full 2021 Camp Insights Report  

Key Takeaways 

Two overarching themes stood out for us when analyzing the survey responses:

1) Camps must increasingly take an integrated approach to their organization 

Camps increasingly must wrestle with an emerging combination of trends impacting organizational design and management - e.g., attracting and retaing staff, especially older staff members; addressing mental health issues of campers and staff; enhancing inclusion of LGBTQ+ campers and staff; increasing staff compensation; and staff training to address all of the above and more. Because of the impact of organizational functions on each other and key camp functions such as camper experience and enrollment, camps will need to avoid treating these areas as silos and take an integrated approach to prioritizing, sequencing, and funding these initiatives. 

2) Camps must communicate a clear and compelling value proposition to all stakeholders 

Camps face a world in which the key spheres they operate in — fundraising, summer recreational market, board/volunteer recruitment, and, more than ever, summer and year-round staffing — are hypercompetitive. In virtually all these areas, survey respondents highlighted the need for camps to better clarify and communicate their vision to the relevant constituencies. This will demand increased attention and skill from camps.

>>Download the full 2021 Camp Insights Report  
Have any feedback about the survey? Please let us know

Who we are: JCamp 180 is a program of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation (HGF). Our goal is to significantly enhance the long-term effectiveness of nonprofit Jewish camps in North America. To meet this goal, we provide affiliated Jewish camps with consulting services, annual conferences, shared resources, professional development, and matching grant opportunities. Find more at