Business Plan

CAMP QUEST WEST

Five Year Business Plan

2012 – 2016

 November 12, 2011

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Camp Quest West operates summer and weekend camps for secular children and families. Our goal is to promote a sense of belonging to a large freethought community, encourage critical thinking, promote respect for others who hold different viewpoints, and provide a safe and fun environment for personal and social development. We are affiliated with National Camp Quest, the first secular summer camp for youth in the United States.

We have been operating Camp Quest West for five years now, and anticipate substantial growth in the next five. Our plan is to grow to 200-400 summer campers by 2016 in three California locations and add weekend camps for families. Our growth projection is based on past growth trends, growing market, volunteer commitment, and strong participant identification. This document lays out our plan for meeting this growth and executing efficiently and effectively. We will augment our staff, institutionalize our processes, and improve all aspects of our business.

As an organization whose tagline is “It’s Beyond Belief”, Camp Quest West relies on solid planning and execution. Our vision and strategy are translated into actionable plans executed by skilled staff and volunteers. All our camps follow meticulously developed programs and are run by accomplished directors and counselors who are certified in safe camp operations. We have a clear marketing plan aimed at increasing registration rates and a concrete financial plan based on our operation history and conservative projections.

Being a non-profit, we rely on donations and participation fees. We maintain competitive camp costs and offer subsidized rates for families in need. Our comprehensive fundraising plan includes corporate sponsorship, grant seeking, “street team” fundraising, planned giving, online donations and a capital campaign. The latter is aimed at raising funds for purchasing our own location, significantly lowering the cost of camp and providing us with more opportunities and a new source of revenue. This goal goes beyond the 5 year horizon of this business plan, but its roots are already planted in our financial plan.

THE BUSINESS

The market for summer camps has changed. No longer are families seeking a limited camp-in-the-woods experience for their children. Special interest camps, like cooking and computers, are providing a service to families looking to give their children something more.

A 2009 survey[1] found that 15% of the US population admitted to having no religion, and this number is expected to reach 25% before 2030. Here on the west coast, another survey[2] found 18% of Californians reporting no religion.

These non-religious parents desire to pass their values on to their children. They wish to instill a certain skepticism that reserves the right to look for one’s own evidence, and to bestow the values of Humanism[3]. Humanist families want their children to meet others with similar worldviews, learn the importance of the scientific method, and experience the outdoors in a safe, educational environment.

Our unique program meets these needs by combining high-octane critical thinking, science, and skepticism games with the traditional “all-American” camp experience of archery, canoeing, swimming, crafts, and the great outdoors.

We started as a one week, residential sleep-away camp for children in the summer of 2006. Originally operated as a subcommittee of Atheist Alliance International which incubated us, we incorporated as an independent 501c3 in 2008. We became a licensee of Camp Quest, Inc, an internationally-recognized brand in the freethinking community.

The unique market we serve – catering specifically to children of atheists, humanists, skeptics and others with a naturalistic worldview –is growing. Our all-volunteer organization has grown at over 30% every year. At this rate, we look forward to hosting more than 200 campers in 2016, spanning three facilities in California, with multiple sessions and camp formats.

VISION

It is the vision of Camp Quest West to be as widely-recognized as the YMCA, and the favored non-profit organization for freethinking families. We see today’s campers proudly sending their grand-children to Camp Quest West with the same pride and support that our volunteers have today.

Our proven methods for curriculum development, training, and community involvement will be a model for other Camp Quest licensees. Our safety record will be ranked among the highest through the nationally-recognized American Camp Association.

FUNDRAISING

Camp Quest West has developed a fundraising strategy with multiple initial focuses to determine what methods are most successful. This will help prioritize efforts as we proceed.

Revenue earned through most fundraising efforts will be primarily spent on camperships (scholarships for campers) and to our general fund which will assist with marketing and training. The exception is the Capital Campaign, discussed later.

ANNUAL CAMPAIGN

Camp Quest West’s annual fundraising campaign consists of general donations, retail purchases, and corporate sponsorship.

Together, these methods will total $21,000. Numbers provided in this section are for the 2012 calendar year, with an expected growth 20% each year thereafter.

GENERAL DONATIONS

It will be our goal to raise a minimum of $20,000 in 2012 through the following methods:

  • House Parties
  • Written and Email Pleas (including holiday mailers)
  • Street Teams (including friends, family, staff, and volunteers)
  • Significant Matching Donors

Three house parties (spanning different regions of California) will be announced by January to take place in March or April. These parties will be for adults with an interest in supporting Camp Quest West. They will likely consist of dinner, a presentation, a heart-warming testimonial from a camper and/or volunteer, and a plea for donations.

Throughout the year, multiple letter and email pleas will be sent to qualified donors and supporters. This will include newsletters, thank-you cards, and annual donation reminders. It will be our goal to communicate with all donors no fewer than 4 times a year. All mailed communications will include a return envelope. All emails will include a link for online donations.

Beginning in February, street teams will begin to form to solicit donations from members’ friends, coworkers, and families. These teams will consist of active Camp Quest West donors, staff, volunteers, and families. Initially a recruitment email will be sent in February, with teams to form in March, and the campaign to run through May. Street Teams will be given advice and materials to solicit new donors through mail, email, social networking, and in-person. These will also attempt to coordinate with local house parties. A goal of 25 recruits is set for 2012, forming between 5-8 teams.

The fundraising director will attempt to solicit one significant matching donor for the 2012 year, to be secured in April and announced in May with the intent of boosting donations as we near the end of the fundraising cycle.

PRODUCT SALES

It should be mentioned that additional income will be earned through product sales, mostly consisting of camp memorabilia, t-shirts, and photographs.

We may also, from time-to-time, receive items to be auctioned or sold… such as autographed books, special event tickets, and other rare items.

It is our goal to secure four items for auction, with a combined income of $500, each calendar year.

 CORPORATE SPONSORSHIP

Through an advertisement-based sponsorship program, Camp Quest will seek donations totaling $3,000 from businesses and organizations that have an interest in supporting freethought and children education.

Sample organizations include local coffee shops and restaurants, science and education-based organizations, and freethought organizations (local, regional, and nationwide).

These donors will be recognized for their donation through a number of methods including:

  • Website Logo Placement and Link
  • Newsletter Advertising or Thank-You
  • T-Shirt Underwriting
  • House Party Sponsorship
  • Taste of Camp Sponsorship

Soon, a rate sheet will be developed that describes the sponsorship opportunities available and costs associated with each.

AUXILIARY FUNDRAISING

In addition to the annual campaign, Camp Quest West will solicit – but not budget for – three types of income: grants, planned giving, and financial assistance from Camp Quest National.

We expect that donations made through Auxiliary Fundraising will be earmarked for specific purposes such as camperships, marketing, or program development. Undesignated donations will be spent per the board’s discretion, with 5% or more going to the Capital Campaign.

GRANTS

Beginning in January, our grant writer will seek out grants to apply for. At this moment, we do not yet have an estimate as to how many grants Camp Quest West will be eligible for. We may assume 10 throughout the calendar year, with the goal of applying for nearly all of these.

Grant availability and being awarded a grant is an unpredictable metric. Further, awarded grants often come tied to specific spending requirements such as program development or science education.

Because of this, no income will be projected from grants. Any income received will be considered an unplanned bonus to our financial statement.

PLANNED GIVING

Many members of the freethought movement are passionately committed to supporting freethought and children. It is our goal to seek out those who are in a position to give significantly to Camp Quest West through a bequest, a large gift, or an endowment.

A campaign will be developed in 2012 to see out those who might be targeted for planned giving, as well as creating the marketing literature and strategy to approach them.

NATIONAL

As our national licensor develops its plan and goals, we have an opportunity to work with them and voice how we expect them to support us. One such method is through passing a portion of their fundraising efforts to its licensees.

This is already happening through the Helen Kagin memorial fund, through which we received $700 in 2010. Though we expect this fund to decrease, we expect others to appear and be dispersed in a similar fashion.

CAPITAL CAMPAIGN

It is the goal of Camp Quest West to raise capital funds with which to purchase its own location, significantly lowering the cost of camp and providing us with more opportunities, and possibly a new source of revenue (rent to other camp associations).

In 2013 we will announce that 5% of all donations received will go straight to our capital campaign (unless requested by the donor). Here it will earn interest and be earmarked specifically for the purchase of a camp facility.

This is a long-term goal that far exceeds this five-year business plan. However, at our forecasted growth we expect to have $6000 by the end of 2016 through annual campaign and corporate sponsorship alone.

With donations received through planned giving and grants (when applicable), it will be our goal to purchase a property in fewer than 15 years.

FUNDRAISING GOAL SUMMARY

SERVICE

PROGRAM OFFERINGS

Our core business is running week long summer camp sessions for children 8-17. To help build community during the off season, we run regional camper parties in the winter and spring. Additionally, beginning Fall 2012, we will host a weekend family camp.  Every party and session has a threefold aim: building community, fostering awareness of Freethought heritage, and increasing critical thinking skills while having fun.

A typical day at our summer camp:

7:00       Wake up bell

7:30       Breakfast Assembly

8:30       Cleanup

9:15       Team Games

10:15     Water Break

10:30     Freethought Activity

11:30     Lunch Assembly

12:30     Flat-on-Bunk Time

1:15       Elective

2:00       Water Break

2:15       Free Time (pool, archery, canoe, crafts, chill zone, lemonade stand, tech center open)

5:15       Dinner Assembly

6:15       Cabin Skit Planning/Practice

7:15       Freethought Activity

8:15       Evening Activity

9:30       In Cabins

10:00     Lights Out

We aim to marry fun critical thinking Freethought activities with the traditional All American camp experience of hiking, canoeing, swimming, crafts and the great outdoors. Our regional parties look like an abbreviated camp experience, with time for socializing, lunch and a Freethought game. Family camp will also be similar, having structured activities in the mornings and evenings, including some staff-run supervised activities for kids to give parents time to interact with each other,  with family free time in the afternoons.

PAST EXAMPLES OF FREETHOUGHT ACTIVITIES

Our Freethought activities can be grouped into three areas: Hard Science, Skepticism and Humanism.

Hard Science Skepticism Humanism
Double blind studies Learn to be a psychic Turn away bullies – with masks
Evolution simulation Make your own UFO photo Feeling down? Self talk
Pendulums and sundials Water dowsing tests Humanism? What is it?

Each meal includes an introduction of a famous Freethought hero, such as Mark Twain or Margaret Sanger. Staff remind campers that people who “thought a little differently about religion have done great things in the world and hopefully one day their poster might be shown at a future camp quest discussing the amazing things they will do”.

Kids return to camp because they make friends at camp. In order to break up cliques and provide more opportunities for friendship, we provide two main structures for campers: the cabin and the team. Each cabin is segregated by gender and by age. The teams mix campers up including both genders and a mixture of campers from several cabins. Some kids find their best friends in their cabins while other kids find it easier to make friends with slightly younger or older children which is possible through the teams.

SAFETY AND TRAINING

We meet current California state requirements for organized camps, including having a camp nurse, Red Cross certified lifeguards, health records at camp, and ServSafe licensed food service staff.  All staff from California go through the California Livescan process which checks their fingerprints against the California Department of Justice database. Out of state staff are checked against the national registry of sex offenders.

Because summers in California are generally hot and dry, our policy has been to have twice daily water breaks where every child and staffer is required to drink a glass of water. And the nurse in our wellness center meets with each child taking regular medication so they understand their medication schedule and to enlist their support in monitoring their health at camp.

Transportation policies are well-defined, including handouts for volunteers arranging airport pickup/drop-off, parents and staff riding the bus with campers. In addition to standard liability, medical and directors and officers insurance, we also carry non-owned auto insurance and Event Cancellation insurance.

We have a higher staff ratio than most camps with one staffer for every 3 campers. At minimum, 1 staffer out of 3 is trained in CPR/First Aid, meeting state-mandated requirements for 1 trained counselor for every 10 children. All of our staff are either over 18 years of age or high school graduates.

Staff members receive a staff training manual and pointers to training videos.

Topics Covered in Staff Training:

1)       Camp Philosophy

2)       Basic Schedule & Responsibilities

3)       Behavior Management

4)       Emergency Procedures

Starting this year, in-state staff will go through a 7-hour in-person training before camp.  Out of state staff will be asked to review the manual with follow-ups by phone.

We are working toward American Camp Association accreditation with expectation of having that in place by 2013.

TRENDS AND GROWTH

Like much of life, camp has changed a lot since the first United States summer camp was started in the late 1800’s. It’s not all about camping in the woods anymore; there are now camps for a wide variety of interests such as music, cooking and computers. This reflects, to some extent, a greater demand and awareness among families about the benefits of camp. In 2002, 70% of all households with children over 6 years of age did not have a stay-at-home parent. (Department of Health and Human Services “Indicators of Child, Family and Community Connections”) These families are looking to make sure their child not only has appropriate, safe, supervised activities during the summer but also that these activities provide enrichment and growth.

Summers have also been changing. 4% of students in the United States now have year round school schedules. Other school systems are beginning school earlier, in some cases as early as August 1. Generally, these schools get out in early-to-mid June.

We are in a niche market and participants have a strong identification with us since we provide a reflection of their core beliefs. The main obstacles to attendance are geography and schedule. Our path to growth involves adding sessions in new geographies and calendar slots.

Site (camper capacity) 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Sacramento Area (90) July session July session July session July session July session
Los Angeles Area (60) July session July session July session2nd week July session2nd week July session2nd week
Coastal Area (?) June week June week June week
Family Camp (Bay Area) Oct weekend Oct weekend Oct weekend Oct weekend Oct weekend
Family Camp (So Cal ) Apr weekend Apr weekend Apr weekend Apr weekend

 

MARKETING STRATEGY

Our marketing goal is to spread the word about Camp Quest West among our target audience. This includes atheists, humanists, freethinkers, and the passively non-religious. While the former demographics are our main focus, the latter is much larger and more challenging to reach. Many non-religious people begin to identify with humanism or other forms of freethought once they get exposed to them. Our mission is to reach out to these people and make it easy for them to formalize their secular thoughts. We do this by making our marketing message accessible and easy to digest and by using modern social media vehicles.

Like in the fast food, fashion, and music industries, the child is often the decision maker when it comes to choosing a summer camp but the parents are the ones paying the bill. Our challenge is twofold: reaching out to kids while satisfying parents. We tell kids about our fun and enriching activities, and reassure parents about our location, safety, program, staff, and more.

DEMOGRAPHICS AND SELLING POINTS

Our target audience consists of:

  • Non-religious families with kids 8-17 years of age
  • Interested in Freethought & science
  • Two demographics: avid atheists/humanists and passively non-religious
  • Geographic sectors: target big populations centers like Sacramento, San Francisco bay area, Los Angeles, and San Diego

Key selling points:

  • A unique combination of Freethought and all American camp activities
  • One of the only non-religious away-from-home summer camps
  • 4 years of experience running Camp Quest West with no safety issues.
  • American Camp Association trained Camp Directors
  • High staff ratio (1:3)
  • Exceed State Red Cross CPR/First Aid ratios (1:10)
  • Consistent growth trend, growing consistently at 30% a year.
  • National affiliation with various atheist organizations including the Secular Coalition
  • High return rates:
Year

Number of Campers

Return Rate

2006

14

2007

30

43%

2008

N/A[4]

2009

50

30%[5]

2010

66

53%

2011

92

54%

 

MARKETING CYCLE

We plan our marketing activities on an annual cycle and follow this high-level timeline:

  January – Mid May Mid May – July August – December
Characteristics Peak registration period for Camp Quest West and most other summer activities. Approximately one third register at the last minute before the  registration deadline, which is usually at the mid-May A relatively quiet period from a marketing perspective, camp preparation takes priority over marketing in June and July The main activity during this period is preparation for the next registration cycle which  starts in January
Social Media Peak social media activity – posting on Facebook twice a week and releasing new videos every few weeks Ongoing social media activity – posting on Facebook once a week Ongoing social media activity – posting on Facebook once every two weeks
Paid Advertising Run Facebook ads None None
Blog and Newsletter Busiest blogging period – a new blog post once a week, a newsletter once a month New blog post once every two weeks, a newsletter once every 6 weeks New blog post once every two weeks,  newsletter once every 6 weeks
Marketing Material Preparation Ongoing activities as required to respond to situations that might arise during the registration period Plan camp activities aimed at generating marketing material, like taking pictures and shooting video Gather material produced during camp and prepare it to for use during the next registration cycle

 

COMPETITION

SWOT ANALYSIS

STRENGTHS

  • International Brand
  • Strong participant identification with values
  • Strong volunteer interest
  • Experienced leadership team
  • Corporate, institutional mindset
  • Donor base of over 100 donors
  • 5 successful years running camp
  • Experience incubating regional growth
  • Independent corporation with 501c3 status

OPPORTUNITIES

  • No one else really in product space
  • Unique in marketing Freethought
  • Program pairs science + traditional experience
  • Large untapped non-religious population
  • High tech immigrant communities

WEAKNESSES

  • Small cash reserves
  • Inherent volatility of volunteer schedules
  • Lack of paid staff
  • Weak documentation
  • No American Camp Association accreditation
  • Inexperienced running large scale organizations

THREATS

  • CFI opens a west coast camp
  • National withdraws license rights to brand
  • Dispersed market – not concentrated
  • National economic climate weak
  • Overscheduled families
  • Many activities competing for children’s time

 

Pricing and Differentiation

Camp pricing is all over the map. There are camps charging $25/week and camps charging $1500/week. Probably the most relevant benchmark is the YMCA. Like us, they focus on a traditional residential camp experience and have an agency affiliation. We surveyed a number of camps in the Northern California region and found Tier 1 prices from $440-$470. In Southern California, prices were higher, around $550. Our proposed pricing is about on par for Northern California, considering the price includes a bus to camp from Sacramento and slightly low in Southern California.

Tier 1[6]: $485  (advertised as traditional subsidized rate)

Tier 2: $535  (advertised as somewhat subsidized rate)

Tier 3: $585  (advertised as actual cost of camp)

Clearly, we are not going to be competing on price. Our goal is keep a mid-market price and  not to price our families out of the market.

Since there are so many things competing for children’s time, we need to focus on our core strengths to break out of the pack: values, volunteers, program and community. First, we will continue to stress that we are a partner for non-religious parents looking to pass on their values: science, humanism, thinking for oneself and questioning everything. Second, we will highlight our almost unique program pairing high-octane science with a traditional All American camp experience. Finally, we will rely on and foster strong community networks by highlighting our incredible volunteers and role models and also increasing the number of our off-season parties and gatherings.

PERSONNEL

Running a successful camp includes both the seasonal staff working at camp and all of the people involved behind the scenes in pre-camp preparation task forces like marketing, fundraising and registration.  Task force volunteers come primarily from the camp parent community and alumni seasonal staff. We sometimes recruit from local Freethought community organizations.

Since more volunteers are interested in spending a week at camp than doing work during the off-season, our camp preparation tasks are centralized into task forces shared across the camp sessions to get the most bang for our volunteer buck and create standardized, institutionalized practices across the board.

While we currently run an all-volunteer shop, scaling will require some professional assistance. We plan to carve out the least popular and most regimented task and contract those out. Over the next five years, the tasks we plan to contract out include: registration, donor and volunteer follow-up and bookkeeping services. We plan to use an administrative assistant contracting service starting at 160 hours in 2013 and scaling 20-30% a year as our camp participation grows. Similarly, we will engage a bookkeeping service starting in 2013 to assist us with our quarterly financial statements.

MANAGEMENT

Camp Quest West has a history of growing and mentoring volunteers. Here are a number of our key management leaders:

Chris Lindstrom (founder), Managing Director

Chris Lindstrom is the founding President of Camp Quest West and currently serves as the Managing Director, acting as overall Project and Volunteer Manager. She has a Masters degree in Computer Software and has been employed at such technology giants as Hewlett-Packard, EMC  and Microsoft. This experience not only enables Chris to lead important camp infrastructure improvements like online registration and fundraising efforts but also gives her insight into how large corporate structures work.

Chris’ commitment to camp development stems from her own camp experiences as a child. She has 15 seasons of camp experience, eight in leadership positions. She is a graduate of the American Camp Association’s Basic Camp Director’s Course and continues to attend ACA trainings yearly.

Chris has a long record of leadership and service in the Freethought Community. Before her association with Camp Quest, she served on a number of other non-profit boards including the Humanist Community of Palo Alto and The Garrison-Martineau Project, an inter-community dialog organization in the San Francisco Bay Area.

David Diskin, President & CEO

David Diskin is a small business owner with sixteen years of experience in marketing, and business management. David is the co-chair of Leadership Lodi, a year-long adult community leadership program, and served as president of his 70-member home owners association for seven years.

David is the newly elected chair of the annual Sacramento Freethought Day, which recently improved attendance by 400% and coordinated with local, regional, and national freethinking groups including the FFRF and United COR. Locally, he led supporters of church/state separation in demonstration against the City of Lodi for holding invocations during city council meetings and has been a spokesperson for the freethought community in Sacramento.

David has taught at University of the Pacific’s School of Engineering in the field of Computer Science.

Rene Hamlin, Co-Lead Fundraising Task Force

Rene Hamlin is serving as the Co-Head of the Fundraising and Finance task force. She has worked for over ten years in the non-profit sector, doing everything from volunteer and staff recruitment to procedure creation and review, but her special focus has always been on fundraising, the life blood of any enterprise. She has experience with all kinds of fundraising campaigns: major donor campaigns, capital campaigns, annual campaigns and even car donation campaigns. Most recently, she was employed by Solar Cookers International where she successfully led a charity gift annuity program which generated $1.2 million.

Rene has been involved with Camp Quest West for several years. Both of her children have attended camp and last year, her family hosted a very successful regional camper party in Sacramento that involved science experiments, scavenger hunts and community building. Many of the Camp Quest West families have become part of Rene’s social network. Having worked for a number of environmental organizations, she has a special attraction for camp and understands the value of passing on an appreciation and wonder of the great outdoors. As a freethinker, she knows the importance of critical thinking in finding solutions to the challenges we face. Both of these come together in Camp Quest West, making it a great fit for her volunteer enthusiasm.

In August of 2011, Rene graduated from Walden with a Masters in Non-Profit Management and Leadership. Her insights into the modus operandi of larger non-profits put her in a unique position to help Camp Quest West move to the next level of excellence in both our fundraising and our policies and procedures.

Jay Harel, Board Member and Head of Online Marketing

Jay (Yair) Harel is our head of online marketing. Jay has 15 years of business management and execution experience. He founded and ran two businesses and played a key role at small, medium, and large technology companies. Currently, Jay advises business owners on marketing, business development, and product management and is head of product management and software engineering at an enterprise software company. Jay holds an MBA from Cornell University as well as a master’s degree in computer science and a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering.

Brian Parra, Board Member and Southern California Camp Director

Brian Parra is both a board member of Camp Quest West and serves as our Camp Director for the Southern California area. Brian brings a passion for youth development that springs from his own involvement as a child in the Boy Scouts and experience as a parent whose children have attended Camp Quest West. He has a breadth of camp knowledge, including 10 years in leadership roles as diverse as aquatics director and historical reenactment mountain man program coordinator.

By day, Brian works as a promoter, technical consultant and sound engineer. He has worked such gala events as the Indie West Fest and Oxnard Boys and Girls Club Battle of the Bands. In 2011, he was named one of the best Ventura County DJ’s by VCReporter. His skills in this area have allowed us to host top quality end-of-camp dances with a mix of music designed to keep kids of all ages having fun together on the dance floor.

Brian has shown a commitment to the Freethought community, serving as the membership coordinator for Atheists United in Los Angeles. His connections in Southern California will be invaluable as we expand into that region.

Alex McDavid, Northern California Camp Director

Alex McDavid has built an impressive career through years of experience as a youth development professional and volunteer. He has worked in a variety of roles, including counselor and director, for both his former church and the YMCA in day camps, residential camps and traveling camps. He has served youth of all ages, not only through camping, but also in school settings as a high school college counselor and a university admissions officer. He has a special interest in the YMCA’s Youth & Government program where he has been both a program director and volunteer. His involvement in this program, which spans more than 30 years, shows significant commitment to growing the skills of the next generation.

Alex’s broad youth and camp experience enable him to mentor staff at all levels and evaluate policy and program improvements at Camp Quest West with a seasoned eye.

Megan Pike. Staffing Task Force Lead

Megan Pike is our Staffing Task Force lead. She is a consummate youth development professional, having worked with youth in public and private schools in a variety of roles including: substitute teacher, basketball coach and tutor.

Megan’s camp resume is equally impressive, having spent 6 years working at camps from North Carolina to San Diego. She is really a jack of all trades having worked in camp horse divisions, small groups, leadership programs and even done maintenance work. This broad experience lends itself well to the needs of a growing organization like ours, still developing our institutionalized knowledge base.

Megan has a special talent for observing body language and sizing up situations which started in high school where she was trained as a mediator for peer conflict resolution. Having worked with horses and dogs, she has a keen sense for moods and warning signals, a sense that has been enhanced by her martial arts training. She has used this skill to good effect working with at risk children. This expertise puts Megan in a great position to overhaul staff training and mentor Camp Quest West staff.

PRE-CAMP TASK FORCE NEEDS

We currently have six pre-camp task forces:

  • Online Marketing
    • This team manages all of our online advertising and the website
  • Regional Marketing
    • This team works to host camp parties during the year for alumni and future campers and staff.
  • Operations
    • This team handles registration, transportation, insurance and regulatory compliance
  • Curriculum Development
    • This team plans camp activities and curricula
  • Staffing
    • This team makes seasonal staffing decisions, basically vetting and training volunteers.
  • Fundraising/Finance
    • This team is in charge of fundraising.
    • This team works with the treasurer to enable timely financial reports.
  • Accreditation (temporary)
    • Getting ACA accreditation is a big job the first time, so we have a separate task force for this. Once we have accreditation, this will move into operations where it will be simply a matter of maintaining accreditation.

These task forces are very important. Not only do they perform important pre-camp tasks, but this is also where we grow our future board members and camp directors. In all cases, one must plan for attrition. Volunteers may need to step back at times to deal with family, job or other personal matters. To deal with normal attrition, one must have bite-sized tasks, good documentation for each task force and continually grow and recruit new faces onto each task force so that there is a critical mass of volunteers at any one time to get things done and preserve institutional knowledge.

The chart below shows where we plan to allocate volunteer resources in our task forces. You can see that the Accreditation task force will be discontinued after the task is completed. (Monitoring accreditation will move to operations). The registration/operations team will shrink to a skeleton crew as we begin to rely on professional services in that area. The finance/fundraising team will grow slowly. This is an important task force, but also a difficult area to grow due to American cultural fears about asking other people for money. This will be a critical area to focus on mentoring and keeping attrition to a minimum. The staffing task force will level off as we reach the optimal number of people working on interviewing and vetting new staff and reviewing staff training annually. We will focus, long term, on recruiting volunteers into regional party planning, curriculum development and online marketing. These are areas where volunteer labor really is the best (curriculum development), you really can’t have too many volunteers (online marketing) and where greater participation is a strategic piece of increasing our community network (regional parties).

In addition to rank-and-file task force members, we will require project management to oversee and keep work on track. In 2012, we have a head project manager and two assistant project managers. Our goal is to mentor new project managers each year with the goal of eventually having an equal number of project managers as camp locations.

SEASONAL NEEDS

Seasonal needs are primarily driven by the number of campers and sessions. Since we’re dealing with volunteers who are often working professionals, we expect that most will be able to volunteer for one week only. This means that we need to replicate key positions for each new session.

  • Camp Director
    • Overall boss. Leads management team. Deals with logistical contingencies
  • Program Head
    • Keeps camp on schedule. Manages the activity leaders
  • Head Staffer
    • Mentors cabin staff. Deals with discipline issues.
  • Nurse
    • Maintains health records and wellness center.
  • Counselors
    • Direct supervision of the children. Some counselors manage cabins, others run activities.

Currently, we have more camp counselors apply than positions available. Camp counselors come from secular college groups and adult Freethought groups. We feel confident that we can recruit enough staff to keep up with camp enrollment, even at a 1:3 staff/camper ratio. If anything, the challenge is the other way around – to grow fast enough to provide sufficient volunteer opportunities for our burgeoning secular young adult community! Our best staffers at each session will be hand-selected to attend family camp where they will have a staff reunion and provide a couple of hours of running-around games for the children during Parent Social Hour.

Head staffers and program heads will be recruited for the following year from among the pool of our best staffers during a session. Ideally, each camp session would have a camp director, men’s and women’s head staffer, and program head. However, at new locations, while camps are small, some roles may be filled by the same person. For instance, the camp director may also be the program head, or the men’s and women’s head staffer may be the same person.

The main challenge will be recruiting, training and maintaining camp directors and nursing support, especially as we begin to hold family camps at additional locations. In 2012, our current camp director will focus on mentoring the two new camp directors we have recruited and will be sending to the American Camp Association Basic Camp Directors Course. From now until 2014, we will need to recruit an additional camp director for the coastal camp and an assistant camp director for the Los Angeles area. Having an assistant camp director in Los Angeles will enable the camp director and the assistant to trade off during our first-ever 2-week session while still maintaining continuity. We will not recruit new camp directors for family camp weekends, but will run them with one of our existing camp directors.

Each session of children’s camp must have a camp nurse. Nursing support will be recruited online and will be offered a campership for their child. If we are unable to recruit a nurse, we must hire one from the nursing registry.

FINANCIAL DATA

2011 Financial statement and future budgets is available here.


[1] American Nones: Profile of the No Religion Population by Trinity College, 2009.

[2] American Religious Identification Survey, 2008.

[3] Humanism is a secular philosophy that embraces human reason, ethics, justice, and the search for human fulfillment. It specifically rejects religious dogma, supernaturalism, pseudoscience or superstition as the basis of morality and decision-making.

[4] Camp cancelled for safety reasons (forest fires nearby)

[5] Return rate predictably lower after skipping a year

[6] Parents choose the tier that works for their family. All campers get the same camp experience.