Ontario Pioneer Camp: CCI/Canada’s First Monthly Video Contest Winner!

We are proud to present the first ever winner of our monthly camp video contest, Ontario Pioneer Camp!


We loved this video because we truly thought it captured the meaning and ministry of this camp. Not only did it highlight the camp’s strengths through programming and activities, it also displayed the purpose of Christian camping: to provide a safe, fun environment where kids can experience God. The video showed both fun activities and quiet God-moments. We loved seeing the way the staff were interacting with kids to show them God’s love.

I should mention that this contest was an extremely close call. We received so many fantastic videos showing off your awesome camping ministries. It really was hard to choose.

We’ll still consider the videos we’ve been sent to date for next month’s winner, but feel free to continue submitting camp videos for consideration. Next month’s winner could be your camp!

Promotional camp videos, search engine optimization, and why it’s important to your camp.

A great video is an excellent way to promote your camp. So you’ve made that great video… how great are you at making sure it’s seen on the Internet?

Here are some tips!


While I do think it’s a great idea to upload videos to your website, I don’t think that’s enough. Having videos on your site makes for interesting content, and can really help sell your camp to interested clients. But in many cases, a person looking for a summer camp might not first go specifically to your website. For this reason, it’s important to host your videos on other sites as well.

Sites like YouTube, Vimeo, VideoBamBlip, and Viddler will host your videos for free. Putting videos on sites like these not only save you the sever bandwidth, they provide another point of entry to your website. An interested client might find your YouTube video before they’ve even seen your site. (By the way, you can read up on some tips for having a super website here.)

When signing up for an account:
–  Make sure you have a branded user name. Don’t just use someone’s personal account. Make a new account with the name of your camp as your user name.
–  If your camp is part of an umbrella organization (like Canadian Sunday School Mission camps, Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship camps, etc.) make sure your user name is still just the name of your camp. It’s easy to get lost within a larger organization. If your user name is specific to your camp, it will be more easily searchable on Google and other search engines.
–  Sign up on multiple websites. The more sites your video is hosted on, the better the   chances you have of it coming up on a simple web search. To save time uploading videos to a whole bunch of sites, you can use a web service like TubeMogul’s OneLoad Video Distribution. They will distribute your video across all of your account sites, and they’ll also provide analytics to determine how broadly your video has been viewed. Their basic service is free, but you can upgrade to more MB and more services if you choose.


Try to think of what a person looking for a summer camp would type into Google. Will it be the exact name of your camp? Probably not. So your video shouldn’t just be titled “XYZ Camp” (or whatever your camp is named), and your description and tags should include specific search-engine keywords.

Ways to optimize your video’s searchability:
–  Think about what kind of camp you run and use those words in the title. If your camp is a wilderness adventure camp in Nipigon, Ontario, consider titling your video something like “[Your Camp Name] Wilderness Sleepaway Adventure Summer Camp, Nipigon, Ontario”. That way someone typing in “sleepaway summer camp, nipigon” may be more likely to find your video.
–  Put a link to your website first and foremost in the description of the video. Then go on to describe your camp, keeping in mind those important search-engine keywords. Although it’s probably smart to include contact information at the end of your video, you’re assuming people are going to watch it all the way through. If your link is the first thing they see in the description, they might click on it even if they don’t watch your video to the end.
–  Use tags! Think of every specific keyword someone might search, and tag your video as such. You can even use descriptors like “exciting” or “inspirational”. Use different words to describe the same activity, like “horses”, “horseback riding”, “Western riding”, “equestrian”, etc. And make sure to include general terms like “summer camp“, “sleep-away camp”, “residential”, “sports camp”, “arts camp”, “horse camp”, etc. Some people know the kind of camp they want to send their kids to, and some people aren’t sure yet. You need to use both specific and broad terms to make sure your video comes up no matter how they search it.


You might have a lot of “likes” on your Facebook page and a good contingent of followers on Twitter (and if you don’t know how to use those sites, contact me and I’ll hook you up) — so use that audience to gain some views on your video’s page.

You can set up Facebook to publish your YouTube videos to your camp’s page. Just add an application like this one to your profile and it will automatically publish your likes, favourites, and video uploads from YouTube to your Facebook page.

You can also upload your videos to applications like these ones, which will publish your videos to your Twitter feed. Some of these applications are more complicated than others. For its simplicity and awesome user-friendliness, I’m leaning towards TwitVid, but there are some other great options as well.


Submit it to our video contest!

Sorry, I couldn’t help but plug our contest. But seriously, I’m going to post the winning video to Facebook, Twitter, this blog, and our monthly newsletter. That’s an big audience!

Keep thinking creatively to market your camp in our digital age. From the entries I’ve seen in our contest, I can tell that you’re all doing some really great things. The videos you submitted exceeded my expectations. Now you just have to make sure your hard work gets seen!

Moving Forward: 2011 Executive Leadership Institute

The 2011 Executive Leadership Institute (East) is coming up quick, and I’ve got all the information you need to attend!

Many of you may have attended one of CCI/Canada’s Executive Leadership Institutes in the past — and if you have, you know that it’s an incredible time of learning, networking, and growing your camp’s potential. This year’s theme is Moving Forward. We’ve got excellent speakers lined up to inspire you to lead your camp in the most effective ministry.

Here’s everything you need to know to register:

November 21-23, 2011

Muskoka Bible Centre, in Muskoka Woods, Ontario

What is ELI?
ELI (Executive Leadership Institute) is CCI/Canada’a premier leadership training event of 2011. Join us for a two-and-a-half day leadership experience, packed with teaching and insight for personal growth, team enhancement, leadership training and decision making. How do you, in 2011, move your camp forward? What are the obstacles to overcome? How do you make sure everyone is “on the same page”?

Moving Forward – Who is the Leader? 
On Monday night, we welcome Jim Cantelon to speak to us about who we are and what issues in our lives may stand in the way of our camp moving forward.

Moving Forward – What is your Camp Culture?
Tuesday and Wednesday we will work with Ron denOtter, co-author of Building Healthy Organizations. Ron will help us discover patterns of thinking that may prevent our camps from moving forward. Be prepared to challenge your perceptions (or misconceptions) and increase your capacity as a leader.

So how can you register?
We’ve put together an information package for you to read about the speakers, see a schedule, and — most importantly — fill out a registration form! Click here to view that package.

Once you’ve filled out your registration form, you can send it back to us by any of the following ways:
Fax: (780) 922-3944
Email: Sharon Fraess, director@cci-canada.ca
Mail: CCI/Canada, 51505 Range Road 215, Sherwood Park, AB, T8E 1H1

You can pay by cheque (through regular mail) or with a credit card (indicated on your registration form).

Remember that there are discounts for early registration and multiple attendees! It’s worth it for you to register quickly!

No matter how large or small your camp may be, you will benefit by attending!

See you there!

How is your website helping your camp?

I recently read a great article on effective website design and it got me thinking about how important a dynamic, functional website is to your camp. Your website is often the first impression potential clients will have of your facility, and it’s definitely in your interest for that impression to be a good one.

When a person with no camp experience or frame of reference is looking to send their child to summer camp, I am willing to bet that they’ll just google it to find one in their area. And I know that they’ll judge your camp by the only part of it that they’ve seen so far: your website. “What kinds of activities do they have? What kinds of things will my child be taught? Is it led by competent professionals? Is it safe? Can I see photos? Will my child have the best time ever?” You get the idea. If your website is outdated, has incorrect information, is difficult to navigate, or just looks bad, that gives a bit of a bad impression.

I realize that as nonprofits, we struggle with having the capability to hire professionals to build our websites. That’s why the good news is: the simpler your site, the better. Here are a few things I think are important for a good camp website:

  • Make sure your contact information is current and exhaustive. Include your address, a good phone number, and definitely an email address which is checked regularly, at the very least. A map to your location is often helpful as well, as you’re probably pretty rural and people need to know how to get there. Green Hill Lake Camp’s “Contact Info” section on their website has numerous phone numbers and email addresses, and special links for prospective staff and donors. It also has a great map of how to get there, plus directions from three different nearby locations! There’s no way you wouldn’t be able to contact them, regardless of your reason for wanting to get in touch.
  •  Make sure you have a clear menu bar where people can easily find out about your camp, the activities you offer, your camp’s values and how you intend to impart them to your campers, and anything else you think parents should know (I like when a camp includes a “what to/not to bring” list). I think Canadian Adventure Camp has a great menu. It’s very clear, with all the information I’d be looking for if I were interested in checking out their camp.
  • Try to put some quality photos up. Photos of kids having fun doing activities at your camp can help a parent picture their child having that same fun. But do make sure that the photos are of a good quality — in my opinion, a blurry or pixelated or too-small photo is worse than having no photo at all. (Of course, make sure none of those pictured children’s parents have asked not to have photos of their child published anywhere.) Camp Arnes has a great rotating slide show banner which remains at the top of their site, no matter which page you’re visiting.
  • If your camp uses social media like Facebook or Twitter, have links to those pages so that people coming to your camp can better interact with you. It’s also a good idea to have a blog. Blogging about the goings-on of your camp year-round helps previous campers stay connected and want to return, and it helps those who have never been to get a good picture of what it’s like at your camp. I think Camp Evergreen does a great job of that with their blog, The Green Spot. You can keep your blog really simple — there are some really user-friendly blog sites like wordpress.com, typepad.com, or blogspot.com.
  • Have a link on your site which allows visitors to donate to your camp. Crowsnest Lake Bible Camp have a “Donate” link at the top of their web page, which leads to a page detailing all of the ways supporters of their camp can help out.
Beyond just the simple presentation of pertinent information, you can play around with design. It’s great to go with the general theme of your camp. For example, Blue Bronna Wilderness Camp provides a rugged, outdoor experience to campers with backcountry bush camps and out-trips on horseback. As such, their website has a really rugged-looking background theme, with a great photo of a group on horseback near a mountain lake.
Being nonprofits, many of you don’t have the funds to allocate to professional web hosting and design. That’s just a fact of being in camp ministry. But there are some really great, free ways to get your camp an online presence. WordPress will allow you to host a website for free, making use of their page themes and literally thousands of plugins and widgets. And they’ll teach you how to do it.
I encourage you to take a good look at your website and make sure you’re giving the best impression to interested clients. Take a look at what other camps are doing on their websites and learn from them. And if you have any questions about websites, blogs, or social media, feel free to send me an email. I’ll try my best to help you out.
Here’s a link to the article that inspired this post. It has eight really simple tips for small businesses to improve their website’s usefulness. I think these tips can really apply to nonprofits as well — more specifically, to your camp!
Oh, and by the way — we’re taking our own advice and updating our website. We’ll let you know as soon as our brand new, fresh site is up!

Ways for you to have fun AND get some exposure for your camp:



Do you have any awesome videos of your camps that we can share?

We’re going to be having a fun little video contest! Basically, I want to see a short video of what you think your camp does best — or even a little video montage of multiple things you think your camp is awesome at! I’m going to collect all of the videos and choose one to be highlighted each month on the blog, in our newsletter (the Equipper), on Facebook, Twitter, and our YouTube page.

Your video can highlight an activity, a fun game, a campfire skit, an interesting camp tradition, or just showcase what kind of camp you are and what kinds of cool things you’re doing.

So maybe you already have a video that you think would be perfect, or maybe you want to just take five minutes today to shoot a little something on your camp — either way, send them my way and look forward to September 1st, which is when I’ll be highlighting the winner on all of our media. Even after September 1st, you can feel free to send me more videos — there will be a new winner every month!

This contest will run until I stop receiving videos. So if you want some awesome exposure for your camp, and if you want to be involved in a fun way to connect with one another and see how others run their camps, then you should totally get on board with this!

1. Videos can be of anything camp-related, but make sure they’re appropriate.
2. Videos should be kept brief — please, no longer than 5-10 minutes.
3. Videos must be sent to Deanna at communicate@cci-canada.ca.
4. There is no real deadline for video submissions, as videos will be chosen each month regardless of submission date.

So get going, camp friends! Send me what you’ve got. I can’t wait to check out your camps!

What a beautiful country we’ve got.

For the past week, I’ve been driving across Canada, taking in as much beauty as my eyes and heart can possibly take, and I am so thankful to God every day for creating such a wonderful world for me to live in. Having grown up in Alberta, I’ve often surveyed the prairie landscape, felt small under the hugest sky on earth, and felt truly awed by God’s work of creation. I’ve often felt that the cornerstone of my faith was the clear evidence of a loving, creative, intelligent designer of my own body and the living, breathing, systematic world in which I live.

I can say honestly that the rest of Canada is just as breathtaking. While the Western provinces have my heart forever, I can tell you that Ontario is spectacular. The way the highway is guarded on both sides by dense Boreal forest and red-streaked cliffs gives it a feeling of true wilderness that the rolling farmland of the prairies doesn’t quite provide. And the Great Lakes are among the most magnificent sights I’ve ever laid eyes upon.

We’ve yet to see Quebec and the Maritimes, but I am so excited to discover what new wildernesses Canada has to show me.

Seeing our whole country this way, laid out before me on the road, really makes me appreciate the varied cultures and landscapes of CCI/Canada’s member camps. Each of your camps have such engaging, effective ministries in so many different contexts: on closely wooded lakes, on rolling prairies, on the outskirts of cities, on the edges of rivers. Camp is partially about providing a natural, outdoor experience for kids — and it’s so wonderful to imagine all of the wonderful thing all of your summer campers are doing across Canada right now!

How do you think our landscape shapes what we do as camping ministries?

How does your camp deal with crazy weather?

It’s a beautiful day here in Alberta, and we’re pretty stoked. The past few weeks have been a mixture of gentle morning rain, afternoon torrential downpours, evening mists and midnight thunderstorms. Yeesh. When the sun comes out, we all run outside — only to be driven back inside by the crazy, record-high swarms of mosquitos.  Pretty brutal, Alberta… even for you.

But that’s okay! Camp goes on! During times of inclement weather (be it incessant rain or scorching sun), camp staff have to get creative with activities that will keep the kids comfortable, happy and having fun!

What are some of your favourite weather-busting games? Do you have any fun rainy-day activities, or any suggestions for activities kids can play to beat the heat?