Camp Directors Page 

This page will contain the series of articles on camp management coordinated by Armand Ball, ICF Member Emeritus.
Armand Ball has spent most of his adult life in organized camping, initially, as director of church and YMCA camps in Florida, Tennessee, and Minnesota, and then as chief executive of the American Camping Association - all in the United States. Armand was one of the founders of the International Camping Fellowship and served on its steering committee and editor of their newsletter for a decade.  He is now an Emeritus Member of the Steering Committee. Armand has worked as Alpha Beta Consultants with camps and organizations as well as teaching training courses for camp directors across the U. S. A. and in Australia, Bermuda, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Russia, and Venezuela.

CHAPTER 1

WHAT IS THE JOB OF A CAMP DIRECTOR?

If you were to line up ten experienced camp directors and ask them what the job of a camp director is, you would probably get ten different answers. To survive, a camp director must possess a smattering of many skills and must combine many roles: cook, bookkeeper, plumber, minister, teacher, nurse, electrician, mechanic, risk manager, salesperson, lawyer, politician, corporate executive, naturalist, and eternal optimist. Every camp director will discover new dimensions to the job each summer.

JOB DESCRIPTION

A new camp director's first task, if a thorough job description is not supplied, should be to develop such a description, in consultation with various people at the particular camp. Each camp owner will have different expectations. It is difficult to outline one model job description for a camp director.

There are aspects of the job in any camp that are somewhat uniform to which  specific duties can be developed.. A camp director's job might include all of the following responsibilities:
-Develop and implement the mission/purpose, goals, and objectives of the camp and/or year-round operation.
-Determine the who you wish to serve - your  target populations.
-Design a program based upon the goals and outcomes that meet the needs of the various constituencies to be served.
-Develop and implement a risk management system to protect the participants, the camp, and the staff.
-Develop and implement a marketing plan for the camp. Recruit participants.
-Design and implement a staff organization based upon the program and target population; develop job descriptions and personnel policies.
-Design and implement a plan for the development and maintenance of the camp site and facilities.
-Develop and implement a health care plan that provides for the health, wellness, and safety of the campers and staff, and a security plan that protects the camp from intruders.
-Develop and implement a nutritious and sanitary food service program.
-Develop and implement a safe transportation system to meet the needs of program, maintenance, and safety.
-Design a financial development program that includes not only fund-raising, but also a sound business plan and budget   that is monitored regularly.
-Recruit and train staff.
-Develop and implement an evaluation system that allows campers, parents, staff, etc., to assess program facilities, operations, the staff structure, and youth development outcomes.
-Develop a plan for supervision of staff including training for supervisors, staff structure, expectations for behavior, job responsibilities, and dealing with performance issues.
-Maintain relationships with the local community near the camp and the broader community from which constituencies come.
-Maintain the director's own professional growth through study, peer relationships, and conferences.
-For Not-for-profit Camps Only. Serve as the principal staff member to the managing volunteer board or committee, working to ensure the strongest, most effective board or committee possible, and provide the staff support to help that group define the philosophy and policies governing the operation.

* Adapted from Basic Camp Management by Armand and Beverly Ball, 2005, American Camping Association, Martinsville IN. Also available in Russian, Japanese, Portugese.

Do you have questions or  desire further information on any of the suggested duties of a camp director, feel free to e-mail alphaball@comcast.net  

 
CHAPTER 2

ADMINISTRATIVE ROLES
 
The camp director is an administrator and needs a clear understanding of the principles of administration that shape the day-to-day jobs that will be encountered. Here are some of those principles.

-Developing Goals and Outcome Statements. The beginning point of every camp director is to have a clear understanding of the camp’s mission and goals.  A detailed approach to developing goals and outcomes will be discussed in detail in a later segment.

-Planning. First, one must secure as many facts about the present operation as possible - from former staff and/or campers, written materials, parents of campers, and the local community.  Facts should include financial, operational, and demographic details as well as the reputation of the camp from the participants as well as the community. 
-Second, make a first effort at predicting on paper the next twelve months based on those facts - enrollment, program, finances, staffing, repairs needed, etc. 
-Third, identify changes or dreams you may have from a personal professional analysis. If the person is in a new situation, it is safest to make fewer and simpler changes for the first twelve months. 
-Fourth, examine the unusual or unpredictable events that could occur in those same areas - enrollment, program, finances, staffing, facilities.
-Fifth, merge all of this information into a written short-term strategic plan covering the next 12-24 months. This plan should identify the overall goals you wish to accomplish with the actions needed to accomplish each goal. In the not-for-profit camp or conference center that short-term strategic plan may be incorporated into the organization’s larger plan and approved through the board of directors.
-Organizing. One can’t do everything simultaneously. The plan should now be broken into units of work and position identified to which these units of work will be delegated. Clear tasks and timetables as well as the physical support and supervision needed should be identified. Those tasks and timetables need to be equalized and manageable.
-Developing and Managing Resources. At this point, one must pull together everything that will be needed to accomplish the plan you have organized: people, materials, and finances. This will probably be the most time-consuming of the administrative roles, and, depending on the size of the camp, may require assistance from others.
-Throughout this process the camp director is responsible for examining each element in relation to maintaining the camp’s resources for the future whether it is land, buildings, staff, campers, or contributors.
-Directing. Once the plan is in place and delegated to people with adequate resources, the administrator must become the overall director for implementation and keeping the plan on course. This involves consultation, supervision, communication, coordination, and decision- making. An aspect of directing is the control of the overall plan, making sure the goals and outcomes are being met. This is where the day-to-day supervision comes into play.
-Evaluating. Taking time to evaluate the performance of the overall program and staff is critical. Though one evaluates certain elements as the camp season progresses, a plan of evaluation for all areas of camp life needs to be implemented at the end of the season. This is actually the first step in starting over, for here you examine whether goals and outcomes are achieved, and where adjustments in the goals and outcomes as well as operational details need to be made, and what steps need to be taken in the next planning cycle..
In the not-for-profit camp, one aspect of evaluation is reporting to the board or committee and the constituency of the organization.

The camp director must gain skills in each of these administrative areas. It is far more important that these skills be mastered than that he or she become certified in aquatic skills, learn specific medical information, or be an expert in building repair. The director is a manager, and management is complex and demanding. Success in camp management is built upon being a generalist in a community of specialists and generalists.

* Adapted from Basic Camp Management by Armand and Beverly Ball, 2005, American Camping Association, Martinsville IN. Also available in Russian, Japanese, Portugese.

Do you have questions or desire further information on any of the suggested roles of a camp director, feel free to e-mail alphaball@comcast.net.

 
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