Camp can be a strong positive tool for creating lasting change in the lives of youth and adults. But sadly, camp can also be outside of the financial grasp of those that most want to attend. Here are some common, and not so common, ideas for helping to make camp more affordably priced for every student in your group.
Note: While these ideas are based on our experience of running affordable camps since 1989, we have tried to include ideas that would carry over regardless of which great camp you choose to attend.
1) Scale back on the price of camp
Before we talk about fundraising, let’s first make sure that we are being financially responsible with the money we have been entrusted with. This includes our budget, our organization’s budget, and the finances of the families that we serve.
Are there steps you could take to reduce the total price of camp? Some camps (Rock-N-Water included) afford you the flexibility to fully customize your trip. While this isn’t an option provided by all camps, there typically are some options that could be removed or edited to lower the total price for everyone on your trip. It’s a balancing act of limiting camp’s options in order to maximize the number of people able to attend while also meeting your ministry goals, as well as minimizing any financial hardship that attendance might place on your financially diverse students.
Ideas for lowering the cost of camp:
- Shorten the Length of your Camp (eek). Could you still reach your goals and objectives if you shorten your trip by a day? Or maybe you don’t need to shorten the total length of camp… What if instead of spending that extra day at camp, you spent that day at a National Park and slept at a nearby Church or the cafeteria of a local Christian School?
- Swap out more expensive options for less expensive ones. Maybe instead of doing two different days of whitewater rafting, you could change out the 2nd day to be a day of rock climbing, canyoneering, or even a service project day.
- Ask if there are any standard options you might opt-out of. At Rock-N-Water, most groups doing a 4 or 5-day camp want T-Shirts for their whole group, so we include T-Shirts by default for those trips. However, it’s no problem to opt-out of receiving T-Shirts during the reservation process.
- What if you served the camp? Ask the camp if they have any programs in place (or if they would consider creating one) where they reduce the cost of camp if your group commits to a half-day service project that would directly benefit the camp. If the camp is closeby, you might even be able to do this as a separate trip before you attend camp*.
Additional comments on your summer camp budget
Three more considerations before we jump into fundraising suggestions:
- It might be sacrilege to suggest it, but any time you are considering a fundraising opportunity, be sure to first stop and ask yourself if you might actually raise more money if you asked your tireless helpers to simply donate cold hard cash*.
- Keep your priorities and integrity intact. Avoid money-making schemes that run counter to your values. If you believe that _____ is wrong, then maybe selling _____ isn’t the best fit for you and your group.
- There likely will be teachable moments and practical learning opportunities surrounding each fundraising event. Take a step back and use these events for more than just making camp more affordable. Set aside time before, during, and afterward to talk about things and make the most of each opportunity that God has blessed you with.
Now that we’ve done what we can to reduce the overall price of camp, let’s get to those great fundraising ideas:
- Serve your local community – clean the houses and yards of those you know or of folks in your neighborhood
- Tree Planting – plant a memorial grove
- Parent’s Night Out – provide drop off babysitting options for parents
- Monetize student’s passions/interests – artists, athletes, foodies, academic types all have a place. The artist can sell art to raise funds, the foodie can sell food. Artists, athletes, foodies and academic types can all offer lessons in their specific discipline in exchange for financial support of them attending camp
- Food Sale – typically bake sales, but could also sell other easy-to-make, yet delicious food items (think Street Tacos). Offering hand made drinks in the right environment could work too (think fancy coffee bar at mom or dad’s office a couple of mornings leading up to camp.) If done well, these can be useful in engaging with folks not directly connected to those attempting to go to camp.
- Street Taco Tuesday – Host at a friend’s house with a swimming pool or a great backyard. Wrap the night up with some corporate worship!
- Selling Fireworks (if legal in your area of course)
- Raffle Night
- Silent Auction
- Rummage Sale – it is helpful to have a backup plan for everything that doesn’t sell.
- Sell Custom Clothing – T-Shirts, Hats, Mugs and/or other swag
- Sell Used books – Many options exist for easily selling books online right on Amazon or the like.
- Trivia Night
- House Concert- Know a friend who’s got a band? Ask them to perform for a house show.
- Talent Show
- Chili Cook-Off
- Popup Farmers Market or Craft Fair
- Board Game Tournament
- Escape Room
- Local restaurant fundraiser events.
- Special Event Party – Is a popular (or hip) event like the Olympics or a Sporting event happening? Host an party to watch the event, either include all the food in the cost of admission, or have food and such available for sale.
- Have a friend with a sailboat, ATV(s), rock climbing skills or something else that they can invite people to join them doing? Maybe they could volunteer their time and skills to take a group of folks on an adventure.
Closing thought on Fundraising: Taxes, laws, and events can be complicated – even for Non-Profits. Take some time to consult with wise colleagues or experts to ensure you abide by any laws governing events, labor, sales tax, and income tax.
3) Raising Additional Support
When reducing the price of camp, and fundraisers are not enough. Sometimes it can be helpful to reach out to others for monetary assistance. We find it’s especially helpful, when pitching your request to: 1. Find a way to let them know what cost cutting and grass roots fundraising you’ve already tried. and 2. Communicate to them the value of attending camp.
- Ask other departments at your organization for help. While your budget might not have any funding remaining for providing assistance to a student, maybe another department has some money left in their budget/account that they would be excited to use to help your student attend camp.
- Ask other parents. While maintaining the privacy of the student in need, ask other parents (and even fellow students), if they might be interested in paying a little more for camp, so that others can pay a little less. You can even build this into your signup/registration form so that it’s really easy for them to make that added contribution when they sign up.
- Reach out to kindred national organizations. Often times national organizations (denominations, associations, and fellowships) have funds available to help student in need. Give them a call. And while you are at it, search for any Grants that you might be eligible for.
- Contact the Christian Camp & Conference Association about their Corners of the Field camp scholarship program.
- Crowdfund it – While online programs take a large share of the donations, putting your story online will enable you to connect with people far outside your normal circles.
If you are bringing a group to Rock-N-Water and have individuals for whom additional financial assistance might make the difference between them attending or not attending camp, then please have their parent or guardian complete this campership request form for each individual participant that is in financial need. Our scholarship funds are limited, but we look forward to being able to help provide assistance if we are able to.
What are your ideas?
Please share your ideas with us in the comments below – we’d love to use your great suggestions to help improve future revisions of this article. The more great ideas we can share, the more we can help more youth to experience transformational changes at camp.