Does our camp need an app?

We get emails a couple times a month from businesses who sell their platform for a customized camp app. The idea is that it’s a singular digital place for parents, staff, and campers to engage and stay updated—rather than check social media, emails, etc. Generally, most of these apps offer capabilities for emergency alerts, news, reminders, schedule changes, and events.

Camp on a cloudy day.
Camp on a cloudy day.

As you may expect (and already know), the camp industry isn’t known for its technological innovation. Especially for classic camps, we’re not digitally-minded because our customer base (our campers) don’t have access to technology throughout the summer. Camps are based in real life moments, not behind a screen. Which is great for building strong relationships with our campers, parents, and staff—but not so great when it comes to representing ourselves and communicating within the digital realm.

Here are some quick pros and cons on whether or not an app would be a good fit for Fleur de Lis, and similarly minded camps:

  • Pro: condensed communication. By condensed, we just mean everything is all in one place—rather than spread across social media platforms, emails, and our administrative camp system (we use CampMinder). This is good in theory, but from a camp administrator point of view, we still have to maintain our social media accounts and email campaign for those who don’t use the app—which means it’s not necessarily less work for us!
  • Con: requires download. Our mobile devices are already overloaded with applications, photos, and messages as it is. Do we really want to ask our parents and campers to download yet another app?
  • Con: there’s already a CampMinder app. CampBot allows for push notifications—those alerts that show up on the lock screen of your phone. CampMinder already allows for email notifications according to updates, but
  • Con: different platforms exist for different reasons. Our Instagram page is largely followed by our campers for a visual story of what happens at camp. Facebook is for less serious updates on events and to share fun things at camp. Email is for serious notifications and messaging. Camp InTouch (the CampMinder system) is for parental-administrative stuff. Unless you’re a camp superfan, subscribing to all of these updates may be overkill. And quite honestly, you’ll probably get the same updates on a lot of our platforms!
  • Con: the price tag. There is a free camp app platform out there (that I’ve seen), but other than that, an app can cost you upwards of $1,000 per year. And that’s not including the man-hours that you’re dedicating to maintaining the app!
  • Con: campers/staff can’t use it during camp. Campers can’t use any technology at camp, to be fair. But during the camp season is, hypothetically, when the app would have the most updates and notifications. And staff aren’t allowed to carry around their mobile devices from activity to activity, which would restrict even the most urgent update to a late-evening check on their phones in the staff areas.

Final verdict: an app isn’t a necessity right now, but could be useful if we continue to spread our messaging across other platforms.

Parents, what do you think? Weigh in on the conversation!

– Lady Hannah

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