Suprise and Delight with Intentional Programming

How long have you had the same schedule? Long enough for campers to know it by heart? Not long enough that your staff has even had time to learn it? No matter how long your schedule’s been in place, it’s time to take a good look at it and to make it intentional.

Camp marketing experts agree that word-of-mouth marketing is the most effective form of marketing. By creating awesome, intentional programming, you’ll have parents and campers singing your praises. Not only will you have incredibly happy current campers, but you’ll bring in new campers as well! When you delight your current customers, they’re more likely to become advocates. (This thinking comes from inbound marketing – if you haven’t looked it up, you should!)

What is intentional programming?

Intentional programming looks at everything your camp does and says “Why do we do that?” It then goes one step further and asks “What (or how) can we do better?”

If you look at your schedule and see that you have snack at 2:00, that may not be intentional. Lunch is at 12 and dinner’s at 6, so wouldn’t it make sense to have snack a little later? Maybe. Maybe not. Regardless of the outcome, it’s important to look at these things and think them through. If 2:00 really is a good time for snack, what can we do to make snack better for everyone – campers, staff, LITs, CITs, and everyone else.

Below you’ll find some questions about some activities on my camp’s schedule and some ideas for each one. Try answering these questions for your own camp and think of some creative ways you can surprise and delight your campers (or staff, or LITs, or – you get it).

My Schedule Dissected

7:00 – Wake up. Is 7:00 the best time for us to wake up? Does this give everyone enough time to get ready for breakfast and ready for the day? Do we need more time to get ready? Are campers waking up earlier and just sitting in their bunks? If so, what can we do for them? Could we change this up some during the week?


  • Pay close attention this summer to cabins who are late for breakfast. Talk to their counselors and see if we can change something to help them be on time.
  • Ask in staff meeting how this time works for everyone.
  • Start a daily (or weekly!) early risers program. Maybe an early swim or Gaga tournament for those who wake up early (or who want to wake up early that day).
  • Pick a day to sleep in. Work with the kitchen to move breakfast back an hour or deliver an easy breakfast (muffins, Poptarts, whatever) to each cabin.

7:30 Cabin Clean Up. Okay, I threw this one in to make a point. This is something I already saw wasn’t working, so I changed the schedule. Maybe when answering the questions, you’ll see why. Do campers and staff have enough time to get ready before starting cabin clean up? Are campers and staff getting out of bed on time to do this? Are campers in the right mindset to clean at this time? Is cabin cleanliness meeting my expectations? Are campers enjoying cabin clean up? What can we do to make it more appealing?


  • Move cabin clean up after breakfast to give campers and staff more time to really wake up and get ready.
  • Ask staff to sit down with their campers at the beginning of the week to brainstorm expectations for cabin clean up. Get the campers to make a list of what they think needs to be done and have the staff add anything they may have left out.
  • Play music during cabin clean up.
  • Make having the cleanest cabin worth something. Maybe the cleanest cabin gets to eat first at all meals?

8:00 Breakfast. Are people arriving alive, awake, alert, and enthusiastic for breakfast? Do they seem to like what we’re serving? Is there anything we can do to make breakfast more fun? Is everything set up on time?


  • Before praying or going inside, have a morning energizer to get people going.
  • Schedule something 20-ish minutes before breakfast so everyone arrives at breakfast on time and has something to talk about.
  • Create a breakfast bar for people who don’t like the main meal.
  • Have staff do commercials for the day’s events during breakfast to get everyone excited.

9:00 Activity 1. Do campers really want to be at this activity? Do staff have all the materials they need? Are there some activities that are a little lackluster? Do campers know where they’re supposed to be? Do we have proper supervision? Do we need a better transition after breakfast? Should campers go to the same activity each day? Should they be able to switch activities if they don’t like theirs? What can we do for disinterested campers?


  • Give campers more freedom in choosing their activities. (For 2018, we’ll hold an activity fair on the first day of each session so that campers get a taste of everything but decide on their own activities).
  • Release activity staff early from breakfast so they can get their areas ready.
  • Hold a staff meeting to brainstorm creative twists for lackluster activities.
  • Create a downtown-style area for campers who aren’t into their activities.

10:00 Activity 2. Ask the same questions as for Activity 1, but add: Do campers and staff have enough transition time? Could we make this easier? How does everyone know when to switch? Do campers know where they should be?


  • Start a new ritual for transition time. Have everyone sing the same song really loudly, ring a bell, or do something else!
  • Make transitioning fun by adding games or competition.

You get the idea.

I hope reading through some of these questions and ideas has gotten your brain spinning. Of course, there are many more parts of a day to cover, so be on the lookout for a Patchwork Marketplace resource with the rest of our day. And don’t forget your staff! I’ll have a worksheet with questions like these specifically designed for non-leadership staff members so they feel involved and give you great ideas, too! CITs and LITs? It’s coming!





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