Summer Staff Volunteer

Recruiting, Retaining and Trusting Your Summer Staff & Volunteers

There is nothing like the energy and passion that fills camp when new staff members and volunteers arrive for the season. It is the best time of the year! Their creativity is fresh and plentiful, and their excitement is palpable. They bring the type of charisma with them that helps leadership refresh and prepare for the summer. They also take on a considerable amount of responsibility and work, making sure to weave the mission of your organization into their day-to-day operations.

Lately, with the staff shortages throughout the United States, it is increasingly difficult to find these new staff members and volunteers for summer camp programming. Therefore, it is even more important that we stop and reflect on what we can do differently to not only attract new staff but keep the amazing individuals that we already have.

Retaining Staff & Volunteers

Show Appreciation

One of the most important things you can do for your current team members is let them know their value. After all, they are given a lot of responsibility, and programming would not be possible without them. Show them how much they impact your organization by celebrating their successes and recognizing their efforts. People are willing to go above and beyond if they feel appreciated!

Some ways to show appreciation:

  • Host fun after-hours events
  • Treat them to their favorite snacks or beverages
  • Award them with camp merch
  • Announce their accomplishments to their peers

For more ideas, The American Camp Association has a great article on how to promote a culture of appreciation within your camp. Most importantly, remember to give your staff and volunteers your time. Checking in to see how staff are doing and if they need anything can go a long way in making them feel heard and valued.

Trust the Training

Another way to help retain your people is to provide ongoing training and keep communication open. Have you ever been part of a project or job where you felt ill-prepared and unsure of what you needed to do? It can cause a great deal of anxiety when you are unclear about your roles and responsibilities. It can also hinder the mission of your organization when staff members aren’t doing their jobs correctly.

Setting up comprehensive training for your staff and volunteers is imperative. Not only will it benefit your camp, but it will also give your people the confidence they need to feel good about the work they are doing. Just keep in mind that a one-and-done training will not have continued benefits. You will need to supply consistent feedback to your team and have regular training opportunities throughout their employment. This will enhance morale and keep them excited about the work they are doing.

Care for Them Properly

Respect and inclusion should be a major focus for any organization, but especially in a camp setting where the staff tends to be younger and away from home. Chances are the main focus for your younger staff is to be safe, establish lasting friendships, and have fun! So, how can you care for your people in ways that matter most to them?

Sometimes it starts right at the planning level when thinking about master site plans and the spaces where these individuals will spend their time. Often staff are the last concern when considering how to utilize space and are given shabby leftover furniture in uncomfortably tight quarters that are not well kept. Consider planning a more thoughtful environment where staff and volunteers can go to have quiet time, connect with others, and escape into a different atmosphere for a while. By providing a fun, clean, and safe space where your staff wants to be, you are helping to foster their relationship development and enhance mental well-being.

Encouraging New Staff to Come

We know the challenges that everyone is facing with staffing in our country, but there are some ways to help entice new recruits to join your organization:

  • Money: It is not everything, but it sure is important! Make sure you are aware of what other organizations are paying and that you are fairly compensating your staff.
  • Provide benefits that rival your competition: Think of unique but meaningful benefits that would entice your staff. This may include things like Wi-Fi access, day off credits, and post-camp travel. 
  • Spread the word: Use social media and trending advertising outlets to let the world know you are hiring. Contact universities, social clubs, and sports teams to spread the word. Meeting people where they are is more effective than trying to get them to come to you.
  • Make the process easy: Do not overcomplicate your hiring process. Make sure all of your forms are easily accessible online, and that applicants have someone to communicate with if they have a question.  

Lastly, people will talk! If your current staff and volunteers are being treated well and enjoying their time at your camp, they are going to tell their friends and family. Referrals are one of the greatest treasures when it comes to recruiting. You could even consider offering referral incentives to current and past employees. 

Maintaining and recruiting staff can be a challenge, but it is important to think about ways to continually improve what your organization has to offer. When people find a place where they feel respected, heard, valued, and appreciated they will want to stay! As leaders, let’s do our best to continue to foster that excitement and passion that new staff has when they walk through the door. After all, they are the backbone of summer programming and the people that will pass the torch to our future generations.

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