Communication with Parents before Camps Start

October 18, 2015

Getting Off on the Right Foot

Shannon Vaccaro
Assistant Director of Sport Clubs & Youth Activities
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Creating a solid foundation for parent communication is a priority task that should be accomplished prior to your program starting date. Relationships built with parents can set the tone for your entire summer camp experience, making any advance work done in this area well worth the time.

The first communication aimed at parents is the initial marketing piece designed to attract participants (in reality – parents!) to your program. Examples of those first messages might be an ad in the local paper, a poster or flyer at a local business, an ad placed in a school newspaper, any type of publication your program distributes such as a brochure, or your website with your camp information (to be found after a quick Google search). This initial piece of information is what will grab the parents’ attention and a decision will be made on your program in a matter of a few seconds. It is therefore important to have all the basic information included in this media including: dates, times, location, cost and how to sign up. A brief description is also a must so that parents get to know the overall theme of your program.

Once you have parents interested in your program and their children signed up, it is important to continue providing an adequate flow of information and try to proactively answer parent questions before they have an opportunity to contact you. A great communication piece can be the creation of a Parent Survival Guide; a comprehensive information tool that has all the rules, policies, camper and parent expectations in one easy-to-maneuver pamphlet. A few examples of topics to include are parent open house tours, materials needing to be returned (such as a waivers, check-out information and medical information), what to bring every day, what NOT to bring every day, how to communicate with camp, fee structures, deadlines and refunds, cancellation policies, medical information and check-in/check-out policies, disciplinary actions, – just to name a few! By giving parents this information prior to the program starting, you can always refer back to it if questions arise or you receive a “I didn’t know that was the policy!” statement. Having expectations clearly laid out in print can minimize parents constantly bugging you for details – and help deter those trying to circumvent the system.

On a week-by-week basis, you might consider designing a newsletter that can be sent out prior to the camp week about to start, to give parents an idea of the activities coming up. By giving parents information about field trips, special events, swim times or other activities during the week, they can plan schedules accordingly. Today’s children are more actively involved in camps than ever, and many parents rely on having a meticulously planned schedule to ensure maximum involvement and still enable themselves to run an efficient household. Assisting in the planning process for parents can help build a positive image for your program and aid decisions to re-enroll in future years.

A final piece of parent communication can be a follow-up survey asking parents and participants to give feedback on your programs. It is important to work carefully in the design of this piece of communication so that you receive information that will actually benefit your program, such as, “How did you hear about us?” This gives you, the programmer, an idea where to place your marketing efforts. A follow-up survey can also be an opportunity to receive information on where your program might need some tweaking.

All in all, parent communication is a vital component of a successful camp program. Much of the communication that occurs is not directly with parents, but done in an indirect manner through written media. Putting in some valuable communication planning time and effort prior to program commencement can help you get started on the right foot!

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