Tackling Deferred Maintenance Challenges at Camps

Tackling Deferred Maintenance Challenges at Camps

At camp, it’s common for leaders to zoom in on programming, community building, and fostering memorable experiences for attendees. Unfortunately, when the focus is only on this, the neglected deferred maintenance challenges quietly wait in the wings.

Matthew Swain, National Worship Facilities Specialist at Association Reserves, says, “Unfortunately for camps, father time and mother nature don’t negotiate, and without proper planning, camps risk being blindsided by escalating costs and emergent problems in relation to their site and facilities.”

For camps that don’t have a proactive maintenance plan and fund, leaders are often forced to put temporary bandages on needs. For example, camp staff may resort to covering a leaky roof with tarps or patching with temporary sealants rather than conducting a comprehensive repair/replacement ahead of the rainy season. While the tarps & sealants provide a short-term solution, they fail to address the root cause of the leakage and can lead to further, much more costly damage over time.

Swain continues, “We help camps understand the true cost of owning their real estate. Understanding and planning for everyday costs like insurance and water bills is easy. Understanding and planning for infrastructure costs is more difficult. Rotating projects like painting, roof repair, and replacing the dock—things that happen on a 5/10/20 year cycle—are too often ignored or delayed when not identified & planned for in advance. We identify those projects and help camps understand the cost over a 30-year time frame so they can plan for them.”

Understanding the Landscape

When working with a credentialed Reserve Specialist (RS), they will start by thoroughly assessing camp properties, offering invaluable insights into the current and future costs of proactive maintenance and on-time replacements of key infrastructure components. By meticulously scrutinizing the infrastructure needs over a 30-year time frame, Reserve Specialists empower organizations to anticipate and plan for upcoming expenses cost-effectively. This proactive approach ensures that the proverbial “rainy day” doesn’t catch them off guard, allowing for strategic financial planning and resource allocation.

Swain says, “The initial baseline Capital Needs Assessment we provide for camps oftentimes runs in the $5-$10k range and provides a foundation for all future planning. This initial study isn’t something that needs to be done annually. When you do it once, you then have your baseline established and the annual update is much simpler (less costly).”

Jody Oates, CEO of Kaleidoscope says, “Kaleidoscope recommends camps tap into  Matthew’s expertise when the facility needs seem overwhelming and need prioritization and when camps are creating a long-term funding plan for caring for current facilities. This type of capital needs assessment gets all of the camp’s leaders on the same page in understanding the real costs of having and maintaining the site’s property and facilities.” 

Building a Strong Foundation

Swain says, “It’s rare that camps do this work and do it well. In fact, if you are one of the camps that haven’t managed this well, you should know you are not alone. It is very common to be behind on maintenance and not have funding in place for infrastructure replacements. Just because this has historically been the way it has been done doesn’t mean we should keep going in this direction.  There is a better way!” 

The path forward demands diligence and intentionality. While Swain says that changing the mindset for managing maintenance and major component replacements can happen quickly, getting the systems and funding squared away can take 5-15 years. “It’s a long game that pays off in reduced time and expense to maintain your facilities so that you can put the most of your time, talent & treasure towards the mission your camp is truly devoted to.”

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