Story contributed by Anthony Gonnello, district executive at the Heart of America Council
From the smallest Lion Cub to the most seasoned commissioner, everyone knows that summer camp is where our program really shines. It is where Scouting comes alive, and where our Scouts and volunteers make some of their best memories.
Camp represents the Scouting program for many of our Scouts and volunteers, but it also represents a great opportunity for professional Scouters. When we visit camp, we get to take in the culmination of our long days and nights of membership and fundraising efforts. Beyond that, summer camp visits are one of the best chances we have to form and strengthen our relationships with volunteers.
Camp visits are crucial to our objectives as professional Scouters. Just the simple act of hiking into a camp site and sharing the afternoon heat can have a big impact on your credibility and volunteer relationships. Since camp only takes up a small part of the year, it is important to make the most of it. There are several things you can do to capitalize on camp visits.
6 Tips to Help You Make the Most of Camp Visits
- Get to know the unit leaders you do not normally see. We should already have a strong relationship with a unit’s key 3, but we do not often get the opportunity to visit with other leaders in the unit. These include the committee members, assistant Scoutmasters, and parents that are active in the unit but may not have a role. Connecting with these individuals can spark relationships that will help you better serve the unit and district, and you may even discover someone that can be a key part of your district team.
- Say thanks, and bring goodies. A variety of snacks are always a welcome sight at camp. This is an easy way to say “thanks” to your volunteers. Hand written thank-you notes are also a tried-and-true tool that go a long way. Follow-up with the leaders you visited, especially the ones you met for the first time.
- Be sure to solicit feedback while you are visiting. Feedback is a gift, and it is advantageous to get as much as you can. We can get a lot of feedback outside of what we ask in surveys or at roundtable. Unit leaders are often more willing to share candid, detailed feedback when it comes up sitting in a campsite. You can get valuable insight into your units, as well as what you can continue, or start, doing to improve your district. This is also a great way to get feedback for the camp staff. Inquire about the strengths and opportunities at camp. What are your leaders and Scouts enjoying the most? What are quick and easy fixes that can be applied during that week of camp? What big challenges need to be addressed for next summer? This is the kind of feedback that can make you a hero with your volunteers and the camp leadership.
- Plan your visit before you arrive. This is especially important if your council’s camp is large or if you have multiple units you are trying to visit in one day. Map out your route between campsites, and try to be as efficient with your time as possible.
- Be prepared to answer any questions that may come up. As with any interaction we have with volunteers, it is good to go in as knowledgeable as possible. See what you can find out about camp operations ahead of time to be able to answer simple questions. If you do not have the answer, write it down, and see if you can get them an answer before you leave, or email them when you get back from camp.
- Do not ask for anything when you visit. A camp visit as touchpoint rather than an opportunity to ask for something.
These are just a few ideas to help you make the most out of your camp visits. Talk with your staff leaders and peers to see what works for them.
Each of our camps is unique, so try to learn as much as you can about the camps you visit. Your volunteers will appreciate the time you took to visit them. And almost as important, you will appreciate the time you took to visit.
Camping is Scouting. In a profession where we spend so much time working behind the scenes of our program, it is vitally important to see the fruits of our labor, and to be reminded of the life-changing adventures that we provide.
Scouting Wire would like to thank Anthony Gonnello for contributing this story