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Ultimate Guide to Marketing a Kids Camp

In this guide we'll be referring to any series of activities that occur during consecutive days over a set period of time as a camp. Remember, camps don't have to only be in the summer. They can run during winter breaks, long weekends, and other holidays.

This guide will provide you with all of the information that you need to successfully market your kids camp. Feel free to read through or jump to the sections that best fit your needs. If you are looking for more support in running and marketing your children’s activity business, Sawyer can help. Schedule a free demo with our camp specialists today.

Updated on
September 6, 2023
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Marketing your kids camp

Marketing is an important part of growing a camp for kids. With the right marketing strategy, you can get a strong base of campers to make your camp a success.

Before you think about your strategy and tactics, it is important to remember the audience for your marketing which will be mostly millennial parents. In 2018, Pew Research reported that approximately 19 million millennial aged birthing people (55%) had given birth to a child. 

When marketing to millennial parents, keep these elements in mind:

  • Experiences are more important than things. When interviewed, millennial parents report being more interested in providing experiences rather than physical items. In your marketing materials, showcase what their children will experience and learn at your camp.
  • Fun is the name of the game. In a TIME article, they report that 61% of millennial parents surveyed believe that “kids need more unstructured playtime.” Highlight the fun that children will have at camp to get these families interested!
  • Lean on user-generated content (UGC). Adweek found that 47% of millennials say that they trust UGC whereas 25% say they trust brand-created content. They want to know what other parents and children have to say about your camp before they sign up. If you are new to the camp world, use reviews from other types of programs like tutoring, after school activities, and more. Not sure how to ask for reviews from customers? Use our guide.

Email marketing for kids camps

If you already have a list of email addresses from previous programming that you have run or from reaching out to the community, email marketing is a good option for your kids camp. Email marketing can be difficult since consumers these days are bombarded by emails, but if you keep these tips and tricks in mind, you can be successful.

  • Hook the reader with a strong subject line. If you can get the reader to open your email, you have won half the battle. Strong subject lines create a sense of urgency, intrigue the reader, and showcase your value. Here are a couple of examples:
  • ~Only 25 spots left for camp this summer!
  • ~Book now! Winter break camps are almost full
  • ~Did you hear about our new art project at camp?
  • ~Ready for your child to have the best summer?
  • ~See what families have to say about our camp
  • ~Learn about our expert educators
  • Provide incentives. If you can offer discounts or other incentives like a free trial, email is a great place to do that. And if you are offering these, you can really hook the reader by including that info in the subject line! 
  • Keep it short and sweet. People are busy and they don’t have time to read long emails. With email marketing, it is important to get right to the point. Tell them why you are emailing, show them your value, and give them an easy way to purchase.
  • Include a call-to-action (CTA). At the end of your marketing email, use a strong CTA that encourages the reader to make a decision. Sometimes, the decision will be registering for your camp. However, other times it might make more sense for the CTA to be “schedule a call” or “learn more” if the reader is not yet ready to make a purchase.

Review our guide for more in depth information on email marketing for camps.

Social media marketing for kids camps

Social media is a very important platform when marketing a kids camp. In 2015, Pew Research surveyed parents and found that 79% said that they get useful information from social media. 74% of parents who use social media are on Facebook and 33% are on Instagram, so these are great platforms to utilize. Consider these recommendations when you set up social media marketing for your kids camp.

  • Use high quality photos. Professional photos are best, but you don’t need to pay for high quality photos. These days, Smartphone photography is a great alternative. You want parents to see that you are professional in everything you do. These images are the first impression a parent will get of your camp, so make sure they are full of smiling faces! Remember to always get permission from a parent or guardian before using a child’s picture in any type of promotional material. 
  • Showcase user-generated content. Ask families to share pictures in photo contests, reshare positive reviews, and get the excitement flowing with social media takeovers. Check out our full guide on user-generated content to see even more ideas.
  • Interact with families. Social media is such a great tool because you can easily interact with potential and current campers’ families. By making connections, you are increasing the likelihood that they sign up for camp and refer friends. 

For more guidance on social media marketing for camps, check out our article, which includes helpful information about setting up business accounts on Facebook and Instagram. 

Advertising for kids camps

Google Ads are an incredibly useful, and often cost-efficient, marketing tool for camps. Google Ads follow a Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising model, allowing business owners to bid on search terms, rank higher, and pay for the clicks their ads receive. There is no minimum spending requirement and you are in control of the copy, assets, and settings for their ads. You can choose where your ad appears, set a budget that works for you, and measure impact with analytics.

Follow these steps when setting up your Google Ads strategy.

  • Start with research. Take time to research your competitors and see what keywords they are targeting. Keywords are the words or phrases that people search for on Google that trigger an ad. You can find this information by searching those words to see what ads appear.
  • Be organized. Google Ads accounts have two different levels: campaigns (higher level) and ad groups (lower level). Creating different ad groups for different keywords will help your ad be more effective with customers. 
  • Budget well. When thinking about your Google Ads budget, you need to consider two different pieces that go into your account’s overall spend: daily budget (the amount of money you spend on each campaign each day) and bid (the cost when someone who searches for your keyword actually clicks on your ad).
  • Choose keywords and match types. Google Ads has a free Keyword Planner tool, which you can use to generate a helpful list of keywords for your campaigns. The Keyword Planner helps you see if certain (popular) keywords are too expensive. Then, determine the match type, which refines where your ads appear. 
  • Choose devices. Do your customers search on mobile, desktop, tablet, or all three? In our 2021 Children’s Activity Business Trend Report, we found that 60% of parents booked activities on mobile, 39% on desktop, and 1% on tablet.
  • Write ad copy. Include the keywords in your ad copy and advertise your camp! You can even add a short testimonial to really get people interested. Be sure to add a call-to-action (CTA) like “Sign up today” or “Learn more”.
  • Activate and monitor. Put them out in the world and then see how they are doing with Google Analytics, which is free and connected to Google Ads. For more advanced tracking, you can also install a Google Ads pixel on your site. 

Looking for more details on setting up Google advertising for your kids camp? Check out our guide!

Making connections with schools

Making connections with schools is a great way to build customer trust, increase your enrollment numbers, and find new families in your community. And, for new camp owners, school connections can help you get your first batch of campers. 

But, how do you actually make connections with schools? Here are some of our top tips.

  • Find the right contacts. Try reaching out to members of the school board, administrators at the school, and/or the PTA to start the conversation.
  • Write a strong outreach email. Be straightforward and polite. Use a subject line that catches their attention but gets your point across. Introduce yourself and explain what you are offering. Let them know why the students would benefit from your camp and how you can make life easier for the school, too. End your email by thanking them for their time and let them know how they can get in touch with you to continue the conversation.
  • Use our outreach email generator. With our outreach email generator, you can easily input the above information and create an email that will help you make strong connections with local schools.
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Making registration easier for families

When parents and guardians make big ticket purchasing decisions like summer and school break camps for their children, they want the process to be simple and seamless. Collecting important information and taking payments online can help speed up the process and delight your customers before your camp session even begins.

Camp registration forms

Organization is key when marketing and running a camp for kids because there are so many moving pieces. Getting the right information from the adults before they drop off their children will make your camp more safe in the long run. 

Collecting camp registration forms is easy with a camp registration platform like Sawyer. Not only are the forms easy to create and fill out, but all of the information appears on the roster, so counselors and staff will have everything they need at their fingertips. Pronouns, allergies, and other important information is easily accessible, making camp a safer and more inclusive environment.

Not sure what information you need to collect on your camp registration forms? Here are some of the common questions you should ask before camper drop-off.

  • Preferred name and pronouns
  • Age and birthday
  • Allergies, medical conditions, and medications needed at camp
  • Information about family members cleared to pick up the camper
  • T-shirt size
  • Level of experience with certain activities (Are they a beginner? Will they need extra support?)
  • Any other information that parents think would be beneficial for camp staff to know

Accepting payments

Flexible payment options, such as installment buying and payment plans, have become increasingly common, especially with big ticket items like camps. Offering payment options can make your camp more accessible to families and increase your enrollment numbers.

When camps are planning how to accept payments, it is important to keep this in mind. As a camp registration software, Sawyer offers monthly billing, weekly pricing, payment plans, and more payment structures built into the platform. And families take advantage of these options. In 2021, 34% of parents who were given a pay over time option took it.

We recommend that camps take payments digitally because it is easier for both parties. With big purchases like camps, accessibility is key. Sawyer processes credit card payments from families and directly deposits the money for the business. Plus, accepting payments digitally means that camps can take bookings outside of business hours and ensure that they never miss an interested family.

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Making profit from your camp for kids

Profit is defined as the amount of money a business makes after expenses. In order to keep your camp running, you will need to make a profit. This means that you need to build a budget and keep careful track of your spending so that you know how much to charge in order to stay in the black. These are the costs you need to plan for and keep in mind in order to make a profit from your kids camp.

  • Fixed costs. Examples of fixed costs are rent, insurance, utilities for your business like Internet, employee salaries, and platform subscriptions. 
  • Variable costs. Variable costs can be commission on item sales, consumption-based utilities like gas and electricity, travel, holiday gifts for employees, marketing, or shipping costs.
  • One-time costs (or emergency funds). This section acts as a buffer to protect your business from large, unexpected costs. Some examples can be a new piece of equipment, renovations, damage to the facility, or lower enrollment numbers.

Once you have an idea of your expenses, you can figure out what you need to charge in order to make a profit.

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Common challenges of running a kids camp

As you continue to market your camp, you might be wondering what you are missing. What other elements should you consider that you might not be thinking about? 

Luckily, at Sawyer we work with camp owners every day to make running and marketing their camps more simple. To help you with your camp journey, we’ve outlined some of the common challenges of running and marketing a kids camp and how you can solve them.

Managing rosters

One of the biggest challenges that camp owners face is managing rosters. Rosters help counselors and staff keep track of everything: registered campers, important information, attendance, and more. If you do not have a system in place, rosters can become overwhelming. We recommend using a camp registration and management software like Sawyer to keep your rosters organized. 

Auto-generated rosters

Once a camper is signed up, they are automatically added to the roster along with all of their information like parents’ names, pronouns, birthday, allergies, t-shirt size, and more. Counselors and staff can also track attendance at drop-off and pickup using the roster online or by exporting and printing. And if something comes up, staff can email everyone on the roster to keep them in the know. 

Learn more about how Sawyer can make managing rosters simple for your camp.

Managing waitlists

Garnering too much interest in your camps is a good sign, but not capitalizing on the interest means that you’re leaving money on the table. By opening up waitlists, you can ensure that every interested family has a chance to sign up for your camp. Plus, waitlists are a great way for you to see which programs resonate with your audience more strongly and help you know if you’re ready to expand your offerings and hire more staff. 

Sawyer provider Oh! Canary, which offers art camps and extracurricular activities for young children in New Jersey, explains that waitlists are beneficial because they also act as a growth projection and planning metric, providing insight into the interest in each class. Lacey, founder of Oh! Canary, explained that “waitlists are helpful because we can really see in real time the demand for our classes. In some weeks, our camp waitlists are up to 70 kids! It shows us the potential of what could be possible.” Read more about how Sawyer helped Oh! Canary grow and scale in our case study.

Taking online registrations

Millennials are digital natives and they spend a lot of time on their devices. That’s why it is important to show that your camps can be booked online, 24/7, without the need to make a call or send an email. In our 2021 Children’s Activity Trend Report, we reviewed 5.1 million bookings and found that 43% of parents book outside of typical business hours (9am to 5pm). Plus, 60% booked on mobile! To capture this business, you need to be available for online bookings and mobile optimized. Learn more about Sawyer's registration software.

Selling camps by week and by day

By providing registration options for families, you can increase your enrollment numbers. Families are looking for flexibility when making big ticket purchases like summer and winter break camps. However, it is difficult to offer camps that are not semester-based unless you work with a camp registration and management software that has the capabilities built in.

With Sawyer, camp owners can choose to offer semester long camps as well as weekly and even drop-in camps. You can even offer multiple options for one camp, so some families can choose to pay for the whole semester or month while others pay by week or even by day. 

Allowing transfers

Life happens and sometimes families need to make changes to their child’s camp booking. Camp management software makes transfers an easy process. Camp owners can allow parents to choose whether they want their child to transfer into a different camp program or request a refund. With a few clicks, the camper’s booking has been updated, saving you and your staff time!

Getting the information you need from families

Before registration and camp management software, camp owners had to ask each family to print and fill out camper forms, waivers, consent forms, and more documents before their child could come to camp. Then, they’d have to file these papers and keep everything organized. Now, camp owners can use camp management software like Sawyer to seamlessly collect information about each camper and access it easily from anywhere.

Custom form fields

Camp owners can have parents fill out consent and waiver forms, answer important questions about medications, allergies, and pronoun preferences, and list emergency contacts with custom forms. This information is exported automatically into the roster so that staff members have access to everything in one place.

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Do you need to use camp registration software?

Camp registration software makes running and marketing a camp successfully much easier. Rather than relying on phone calls and email, handwritten forms, and spreadsheet rosters, you can have everything organized and accessible with camp registration software. See how Sawyer helped Shredder, a leading ski school, get organized so they could manage their six locations). 

Software keeps you and your staff more organized and efficient, which in turn keeps your campers safer. In fact, Sawyer's camp registration software can save you 28 hours per month on administrative tasks, so that you have more time to spend planning lessons and activities, growing your business, working with your staff, and teaching your campers. 

Features to look for in camp registration software

There are a few different camp registration softwares on the market. How can you find the right one for you? Here are some questions to ask yourself and features to look for so you can find the perfect camp registration software for your business.

  • What is your main goal for using camp registration software? Do you want to improve staff experience by freeing up your team’s time to focus more on connecting with students? Do you want to appear more professional to your customers and provide an easier way to register? Are you looking to process payments or dive deeper into business analytics?
  • What are other people saying about this software? Check reviews on sites like Capterra to hear firsthand from camp owners about their experience with certain softwares.
  • Do they have great customer service? As a new business starting on a platform, customer service is an incredibly important part of your success. Look at their website to see what they offer. Do they help with onboarding and continued education? When can you reach out to the customer service team? These are important questions to ask when considering a registration software.
  • Can they help you grow? Do they have features and options that will help your business grow and scale? Do they accept customer feedback and make changes so that they grow with you? You don’t want to be stagnant and neither should your software.

Check out our guide to learn more about how to find the perfect registration software for your camp.

Happy Camping!

We hope this guide has provided you with all of the information you need to market a camp for kids successfully. At Sawyer, our mission is to help children’s activity businesses thrive. With our suite of tools and helpful resources, we can help you spend less time on administrative tasks and more time with your campers. Want to learn more? Talk to a member of our expert camp team and see how Sawyer can help your camp grow. Or get started with a free trial.

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FAQs about starting & running a kids camp

Check out these frequently asked questions about running a camp to see if starting a kids camp is the right choice for you.

Can you make money running a camp for kids?

The short answer is, yes. The long answer is yes, but you need to be smart, organized, and savvy. Running a camp for kids requires many initial upfront costs and long term expenses, so it is important for camp owners to track their expenses and make thoughtful business decisions when it comes to setting their prices, charging for add-ons, and making sales. 

Using a camp management software with intelligent, real-time reporting and customizable dashboards can help camp owners make money while running their camps.

How much does it cost to run a camp for kids?

The answer to this question is vastly different based on the type of camp, activities offered, location, and so much more. According to the ACA, the average cost for a day camp to run is $675,000 and the median is $327,000. For residential camps, the average cost is $1,138,000, and the median is $640,000. 

However, camp owners need to look at their own expected expenses and income to determine the cost of running a camp for themselves.

What are typical margins for a sleepaway camp?

Camp profitability (revenue – expenses) and profit margins ([revenues – expenses] / revenue) x 100 were calculated from the surveyed data gathered by the ACA. They found that, generally, day camps were more profitable and had higher profit margins than sleepaway camps. Day camps had an average profit of $102,100 with a 10% profit margin and sleepaway camps had an average profit of $91,500 with a 3% profit margin.

Are summer camps profitable?

Yes, summer camps are profitable if the camp owners are smart with their expenses and use market research and data to decide what to charge. Just like any business, running a profitable summer camp takes effort, but it is worth it.

Which type of camp is most profitable?

According to research done by the ACA, day camps are more profitable than sleepaway camps. This is because they had a higher average profit and a higher profit margin than sleepaway camps.

Do camps need to be licensed?

Yes, states, cities, and counties have licensing requirements for camps. The American Camp Association (ACA) has created a list that includes information about the licenses required by each state to start and run a camp for kids. Most states require health department permits as well as background checks for staff in order to get started.

We hope this guide has provided you with all of the information you need to market a camp for kids successfully. At Sawyer, our mission is to help children’s activity businesses thrive. With our suite of tools and helpful resources, we can help you spend less time on administrative tasks and more time with your campers. Want to learn more? Talk to a member of our expert camp team and see how Sawyer can help your camp grow. Or get started with a free trial.

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