You probably have a thousand things on your Getting Ready for Camp checklist ✔. Is planning your camp visitor/guest experience one of them? If not, it should be!
Successful visits during the summer can steward donors and volunteers; help with recruitment; promote your brand; and build community support/connection. Everyone is a guest, whether they are a long-time alum, a vendor coming to lead a workshop, a Rabbi visiting congregants, or a donor. Each of these has the potential to be a future camp champion, recruiter, ambassador, storyteller, and donor.
Here are a few things you can do today to wow your guests and create a fantastic guest experience. Spend time now preparing so that the process can be automated or delegated as we approach the summer.
You’ve probably heard the classic phrase “camp starts on the bus.” Similarly, in Art of Gathering, Priya Parker says that an event starts with the invitation. Be sure the invitation is warm and begins to prepare guests for the experience.
Welcome to Camp!
Once a guest RSVPs, a welcome email should further prepare guests for the experience. It should include driving directions, a basic schedule, and other information they will need to know. It should be personalized and help guests know exactly what they should expect when they arrive at camp. For example, you might include a document on communal norms at camp - things like how meals work, “camp time,” and anything you find yourself explaining to new campers or staff.
How do you get to camp? Where is that small dirt road that you're supposed to turn on? Make sure you send good driving directions to your guests, and let your visitors know if they can expect to lose cell service/GPS along the way. If there are important landmarks they might pass, or other important details, add that in too. (“The last gas station/bathroom before camp is over an hour away, plan accordingly.”)
Camp Protocols - Attire, Food, and More
What is the expected Shabbat or other weekday attire at your camp? If everyone wears white for Shabbat or sports jerseys on Saturday night, your guests will want to know this so that they can feel they are a part of the community. Share your expectations and policies around cellphone use or picture taking, and what is or is not permitted. Guests should know your food practices (“no nuts,” “no outside food,” or “hechshered food only”), and make sure you ask them about any of their food allergies or needs. You should also ask them if they have any mobility restrictions you should be aware of.
Some visiting Rabbis at camp like to bring up snacks for their congregant campers and staff, and take a group photo. Communicate your protocols clearly so that guests understand your usual practices in advance. If your guest is coming to teach or lead a special workshop, keep them up to date on what age groups they will be with and how many sessions they can expect to teach.
Bonus: you can draft/schedule these emails today!
ARRIVAL AT CAMP
Make sure your security team has their name on a list and is expecting them, and can direct them where to go once they arrive. Security should have their nametag ready so they can be identifiable at camp.
Once visitors leave security, security should let the person assigned to greet your guest know the have arrived so the guest is not left alone or confused about what to do next. The greeter can give a warm welcome and provide the itinerary for their visit.
Camp is all about the extra touch
Make your guest feel especially welcome. Prepare materials to make them feel taken care of: the packet might include a short note from someone they know at camp welcoming them, a camp t-shirt in their size (or a hat or water bottle), printed copies of their itinerary, a staff activities schedule, a basic “who’s who” (directors, unit heads, etc), a brochure, a *camp map, and an impact/annual report.
*If preparing a map, keep in mind that the official names of buildings may not be the name campers and staff use for those buildings. Be sure your map includes both names to avoid confusion when guests ask for directions.
ENDING THE VISIT
In the Heath Brothers’ Power of Moments, they cite research that shows that when people recall an experience, they ignore most of what happened and focus on a few particular moments. The end of an experience is one of them - make sure you design the end of each guest’s experience to be a highlight of the visit!
For example, is there a particularly meaningful spot at camp to serve as the final spot on a tour? Could a counselor finish the tour, sharing the impact camp has had on their lives? If a visitor has a family member at camp (child, grandchild), could a short hug/photo opp be planned for the end of a visit? Is there a camp band or choir practice that guest could visit on their way out of camp? Be creative - think about what makes your camp special and how it can be shared with visitors as they leave camp.
For donor visits, you will want to plan their experience based on where they are in the cultivation-solicitation-stewardship continuum; some visits may culminate in an ask. And others may be pure stewardship; in that case you might end the tour with a visit to the facility or program their gift helped make possible.
Note: Of course, you also want to make sure your visitors don’t get lost - be sure to provide them with helpful directions and important landmarks (local restaurants, gas stations) to ensure they have a safe trip home.
There are many elements of the guest experience you can consider or rethink. Be intentional about designing every part of the visitor’s experience. Here are some we've highlighted for you:
- How are you introducing your guest to the rest of camp? One camp has a special welcome song for guests that is sung, usually at a meal when guests are introduced. Some camps welcome guests towards the end of Friday night services. Some camps encourage campers or staff to introduce themselves to guests and talk about their experience at camp.
- Is your guest tag easily identifiable to staff and campers that this is a guest tag? Does it show the guests name or just the generic “Visitor?”
- Mealtimes at camp are chaotic at best. Help your guests find where they should sit at meals and ensure they have at least a “meal buddy” so that there is always someone there with them to show them the ropes and engage in great conversation.
- What types of tours do you give? Is your tour focused on program/logistics or do you offer a mission-based tour of camp? Do you have a version of your tour that is focused on future capital projects for donors and prospects? Train multiple people on your staff to give these different versions of tours so that you can delegate this responsibility if needed.
Samples and Templates
You can find samples and templates below that you can use to update your camp’s summer visitor process and materials.
Have any examples you’d be willing to share with your peers? Email them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you!
Camp Visit Checklist
Welcome Email (Driving directions, packing information)
Give name to security (and have name tag ready)
Prepare Room (personal note, swag, schedules, materials, etc)
Plan with guest coordinator
Schedule a tour
Assign meal buddies
With gratitude for conversations, ideas, samples, and contributions to this article to: Jonah Babins, Rabbi Deena Cowans, GoCampPro, Elyssa Hammerman, Alana Tilman, and the various camps who have welcomed us and shared their ideas.