Green Pyramid Series: Three Tips From the Best Summer Day Camp

Since 2012, YMCA of the Triangle in Raleigh, N.C. has used Seer Analytics’ Survey Research tool to survey parents of children in its summer day camp program. Over this six-year period, YMCA of the Triangle has consistently ranked as the highest-performing Seer-surveyed summer day camp in the country, in all three key areas – operations, engagement and impact.

Kim Keith, Vice President of Youth Development and Stephen Rexrode, Senior Youth Director, from the YMCA of the Triangle joined us in our first-ever Seer Green Pyramid Series webinar, Triangle Day Camp. They shared their secrets to running a successful summer day camp. At the top of the list was utilizing the data provided by Seer Analytics to identify areas in need of improvement.  

“We are constantly looking for ways to improve,” said Keith. “As part of this, we have an improvement and quality team that is cross-branch and cross-department that comes together once a month to discuss our programs. We take our Seer data and identify gaps, then build a ‘chart of work’ to address those gaps.”

These gaps included areas such as curriculum, parent communication and engagement, and overall experience. However, armed with the data from Seer Analytics, YMCA of the Triangle has been able to improve these areas.  

Below are three ways YMCA of the Triangle has improved Summer Day Camp programming to deliver a more positive parent, camper and staff experience.  

1.     Employ an Open-Program Policy

Perhaps the most impactful change that YMCA of the Triangle has made to its Summer Day Camp program is offering an open-program policy where kids can choose which programs they attend throughout the day. Each day, a wide variety of sports, games and activities are offered, and campers can choose which they attend based on their personal interests.

This shift has created camps where kids are able to build relationships with others who have similar interests, rather than only campers in their age group. It’s also proven to build confidence and self-esteem. Counselors are also assigned to activities they are passionate about, meaning they are more engaged and having fun. And if they’re having fun, the campers are too.

2.     Create Multiple Touch Points with Parents

Communication with parents is vital to a successful Summer Day Camp, but, you can’t always rely on the children to share information when they get home. Realizing this, YMCA of the Triangle uses several touch points to communicate with parents, from calls home during the first week of camp, to weekly emails with information on field trips, theme days and more.  

In addition to using these avenues, YMCA of the Triangle also uses signs and stickers that give parents something to ask their child about at home. A sticker that says “Ask me about waterslide day” is an easy way to create a connection and for children to tell parents what they experienced that day. Certificates for new skill developments are also conversation starters and give campers a sense of pride and accomplishment.

3.     Ensure every location feels like a camp

With more than 15,000 kids enrolled in their Summer Day Camps each summer, YMCA of the Triangle cannot physically serve all of its campers at its branches. In addition to the camps run at their branches, they also have camps at parks, schools and churches; making these locations feel like camp is important to the overall camper experience.

Leadership at off-site camps are tasked with decorating the space, creating signs and banners and ensuring that campers are grouped together in one area of the location. The counselors take pride and ownership in these locations, and create an experience that is unique to the location and the campers.

Having the best Summer Day Camp in the nation does not happen by accident. As mentioned above, Triangle employs an open-program policy, creates multiple communication touch points and ensures every location feels like a camp to help them achieve such high scores with their campers and their parents. Which of these initiatives might you be able to try at your Y?

Want to learn more about the Summer Day Camp Programs at YMCA of the Triangle? Listen to the full webinar, available here.

And, for more information about how Seer’s Survey Research tool can help your Y improve its Summer Camps, please contact us today.