The words “summer camp” likely conjure images of archery lessons and nature hikes, rather than computers and keyboards. But technology is helping nonprofit camps to improve their operations in a number of ways, reports NonProfit PRO magazine.
It makes sense: Technology is helping nonprofits of all types and sizes with tasks such as fundraising, storytelling and data analytics. And behind the sing-alongs and roasted marshmallows, nonprofit camps require significant logistical coordination, with many of the same challenges faced by large for-profit businesses.
Just as those companies have leveraged technology to simplify their work, nonprofit camps are discovering that software solutions can help them manage a number of tasks with less time, stress and cost than traditional processes. Typically, these industry-specific solutions need to be accompanied by investments in mobile devices, as well as back-end supporting infrastructure. But the payoff in terms of increased productivity, reduced waste and enhanced fundraising is often well worth it.
Here are five ways that technology is changing the way nonprofit camps operate.
1. Software Helps Streamline Camp Registration
Camp-specific registration software is an immeasurably simpler alternative to binders and filing cabinets filled with paper forms, or even to digital spreadsheets. These software programs offer features such as digital account management for parents, customizable online registration forms, the ability for parents to register multiple children at once, automatic eligibility filters and even payment processing.
“With the help of valuable camp management software, registration has ceased to be a source of overwhelming anxiety for most camp leaders,” notes NonProfit PRO. “As nonprofit camps trust and utilize specialized tech more, they are able to focus on their camp’s longevity and social impact instead of monotonous administrative tasks.”
It’s important for camp leaders to make sure that their hardware is up to date. Even the best software programs can’t do much to improve productivity if they’re running on slow, clunky devices with batteries that won’t stay charged. Laptops, tablets and convertible devices can help camp staff to be productive in a variety of locations — an important consideration for a dynamic workplace where employees are constantly on the go.
2. Camps Can Enhance Safety Across the Board
Camp management software tools support transportation tracking; digital check-in, which allows camp leaders to use tablets to identify campers by their account profile picture as they check them in; and medical information systems that can be tied to scannable wristbands for campers with health risks, such as severe allergies.
Tablets are especially effective for these types of use cases. The form factor and touch-screen interface make them ideal replacements for the clipboards that camp staffers have traditionally carried.
3. Tech Enables More Efficient Communication
“Email is, hands down, the most valuable tool for camp communication,” NonProfit PRO states. “Camps appeal to busy parents and guardians who want easy access to their child’s camp information without worrying about losing flyers and pamphlets.”
In addition to enabling automated, scheduled and mass emails, software tools allow camps to easily distribute evaluations that allow leadership to gather valuable feedback.
Some summer camps even use facial-recognition software to automatically send photos of campers back to their parents.
4. Camps Can Use Software to Simplify Staffing
Staffing can be a major challenge for nonprofit camps, which typically need to hire young, seasonal employees who have relevant experience and are not only reliable and responsible, but also willing to work for moderate wages. Software tools can help simplify the recruiting and hiring processes.
For one, online applications allow camps to cast a wider net. Also, interview tracking tools help hiring teams to keep job interview records organized for later reference. Candidate profile features allow teams to create individual profiles for interviewees and staffers, eliminating confusion and facilitating informed decision-making.
And through automated reference request features, hiring teams can automatically send out reference emails and track responses — significantly cutting down on the amount of time required to check references.
5. Data Analytics Can Boost Camps’ Fundraising
Fundraising is crucial for camps that want to improve facilities or add new programming without dramatically increasing fees. But many camp leaders lack significant professional experience in the realm of development.
Tech tools can provide analytics that help nonprofits to appropriately target potential donors, and can also provide logistical and organizational support for fundraising events such as walkathons or auctions. (These types of events, which have historically drawn engagement mostly from a camp’s local community, can involve campers’ friends and family across the country if camps enable online participation.)
Finally, online crowdfunding allows camps to draw on the social networks of their campers’ families and friends for fundraising, while also spreading awareness about their camps.
“No matter what fundraiser a nonprofit camp incorporates into their strategy,” notes NonProfit PRO, “there are endless software solutions that are perfectly designed to facilitate a quick and easy fundraising experience.”