The Infinite Return on Professional Development

by Julia Riseman, Mentor, JCamp 180

I'm reading this article by Seth Godin on the infinite return on investment in staff development, and I'm thinking that Jewish Camps should have professional development nailed. But now I'm not so sure.

Godin believes in training. Completely. In his article, he considers the impact of training on customer service:

Imagine a customer service rep. Fully costed out, it might cost $5 for this person to service a single customer by phone. An untrained rep doesn't understand the product, or how to engage, or hasn't been brought up to speed on your systems. As a result, the value delivered in the call is precisely zero (in fact it's negative, because you've disappointed your customer).

On the other hand, the trained rep easily delivers $30 of brand value to the customer, at a cost, as stated, of $5. So, instead of zero value, there's a profit to the brand of $25. A comparative ROI of infinity.

And of course, the untrained person doesn't fall into this trap once. Instead, it happens over and over, many times a day.

And professional development can reap rewards far beyond customer service wins. By one estimate, the total lifetime revenue from one happy first time-camper is $100,000. This includes many years of summer camp fees plus word-of-mouth referrals (siblings and friends). Now add on top of that donations made over the entire lifetime of one very happy camper, and you've far exceeded $100,000.

A Tradition of Training at Summer Camp

In many ways, Jewish camps are a well-oiled staff training machine. Each year, as many as 18,000 young adult summer camp staff across North America will receive training at the start of each summer. The impact on this training shows up in the quality of camper experiences, high camper retention, and life-long leadership skills of these young adults. Research funded by the Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC) shows that these well-trained young adults benefit the most from the positive impact of Jewish Camp in terms of life-long Jewish identity and affiliation.

In terms of ensuring the future of the Jewish people, the staff training at Jewish Camps provides an impressive return on investment.


Next Step? Year-Round Staff Professional Development

But are Camps under-investing in year-round staff training? Is the focus on training languishing the rest of the year?

Here are 6 questions you might want to ask:

  1. Personalized Training: Is your camp overly dependent on the FJC or JCamp 180 to provide your Camp with free professional training instead of seeking the best training available based on the senior staff member's interests and the organization's needs? Targeted and specific training will more likely lead to lasting impact and implementation.
  2. Budget for Training: If you are a Board member, do you know how much is budgeted for professional development for senior staff? Is it less than one percent of the budget? If so, I fear your organization is lagging. Good staff will move on in search of opportunities for professional growth.
  3. Targeted Training: Is the Board providing your top executive with an annual review each year? (Hint, the answer is supposed to be "yes.") If so, this is an ideal opportunity to explore areas of professional weaknesses as well as strengths, and to offer to pay for professional development opportunities.
  4. Fundraising Training: How are you training and supporting your volunteers and staff involved in fundraising? By one account, every additional hour spent in training - even just watching a pre-recorded webinar on fundraising - results in hundreds of more dollars raised each year. And investing in training helps you to retain great staff and volunteers, reducing the amount of time you need to spend on retraining new people.
  5. Technology Training: Is your staff adequately trained to use your website's content management system (CMS), eNewsletter tool, social media, and donor database? Communications must be planned and executed for all audiences (current campers and parents, potential families, donors/prospects, alumni, and all other stakeholders). The technology for communication is constantly changing requiring your staff to learn new skills all the time. Your parents, campers, and young staff members are changing how and where they want to connect with Camp. Invest mightily in your communications staff members for great return on investment in Camper recruitment and retention and Alumni engagement.
  6. First Point of Contact Training: How ready are your first responders to provide customer service? Back to Seth Godin's article: think about the people on your staff who answer the phone. They too should be trained in every aspect of the product, have professional skills in customer care, and be trained in sales. They should be comfortable dealing with any crisis the organization or a specific family might be facing. The people answering your camp's phone should be trained to engage with people in ways that make parents fall in love again and again with your organization because of their warmth, caring, follow-through, and integrity.

Do you want the next interaction with a parent or donor to be the building block for a long, healthy relationship? Or a negative experience that taints their view of the camp forever? Professional development might be the difference.