February Featured Video: Ranger Lake Bible Camp takes it!

Well, it’s February. As I look out the window at a herd of very shaggy horses standing in their snow-covered corral, I’m wondering: where in the world did January go? And I’m also wondering: when will summer ever get here?!

If you’re jonesing for some summer camp reminiscence, I’ve got the perfect thing for you. It’s a great summer camp video by Ranger Lake Bible Camp. It just happens to be our Featured Video of the month!

If potential parents or campers were wondering what’s in store for a week of camp at Ranger Lake Bible Camp, this video should clear it up — lots of fun activities, the chance to make friends and the opportunity to encounter God! This video made me wish I could go to camp!

And speaking of Ranger Lake: their website is pretty spiffy, too. I really like the design, and it’s really functional. They’ve included new things for 2012, which is a great way to promote their summer program and encourage registrations. You should check it out.

Is your camp putting together a promotional video for the 2012 camp season? If so, I want to see it! It could be our March Featured Video, which means a ton of exposure for your camp. Send it to me (Deanna) at communicate@cci-canada.ca!

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“8 Small Busines Social Media Tips from the Pros” – a great resource for camps, too!

This morning, I took a break from sifting through the MANY emails about our new website (glad you’re all logging on and checking things out, by the way… I hope you like what you see!) to read this great little article from the Social Media Examiner on how to create an engaging social media page (be it Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube) for your small business — or in most of your cases, for your camp.

You know I’ve been harping on all of you to get into social networking more. Summer camp is built on young people. They’re your campers and they’re your staff. Chances are, they want to stay connected with you, and newsletters through the mail might not be the best way to reach this audience.

Social media can be a powerful tool to generate support for your camp. And it can be really easy. Feel free to contact me if you need any help!

Wintertime news from CCI/Canada

November is almost half over already, and many of us are getting ready to deck the halls. How is your camp doing at the start of this winter season? What are some of the programs or activities you offer at your camp or conference center during the wintertime?

Speaking of wintertime, I wanted to tell you about the rules for next month’s video contest! I’ve really enjoyed watching all of the videos of your camps’ awesome summer programs, but now that the temperature is falling (at least here in Alberta) and some of us are starting to see snow, I’m really interested in what your camp looks like in the wintertime! I want to see what activities you offer, and whether you decorate for Christmas, and how your onsite staff deal with the chill and snow!

Our Winter Video Contest will run for the next three months (or until I change my mind!), so get out there with your camera, camp friends! As usual, videos can be sent to me at communicate@cci-canada.ca.

Now, November doesn’t just mean first snowfalls and and falling temperatures. It also means that the Executive Leadership Institute is upon us! We are so excited to see all of you on November 21st. We’ve got the whole conference packed with great stuff for you to grow as a camp leader.

If you’re unable to attend, keep an eye out for news about regional conferences and events in 2012, as well as our National Conference!

One more piece of news: CCI/Canada is gearing up to launch its brand new website. I hope you’ll keep your eyes peeled for it, because it’s going to be great. By this time next week, it should be totally up and running and ready for you to explore. We’ll keep you posted about how our new Members-Only Portal is going to work. We’re really excited about all of this, and we know you’ll all appreciate our swanky new site.

Well, camp friends, I hope you’re able to attend ELI next week! And if not, I hope you’re still finding ways to improve your ministry all the time.

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.
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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!
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