Is Camp Management Software Worth the Cost?

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I know what you’re thinking (it’s actually my superpower). He’s writing a blog post for UltraCamp, you know…a camp management software.  Of course, he’s going to tell me it’s worth it!  Well, that might be true.  So don’t take my word for it.  Let me introduce you to an expert on the subject of camp management software cost analysis: Dr. George Foreman (no relation to the boxer, because obviously, no one would give their kids the same name…well, almost no one).  I recently sat down to interview Dr. Foreman, and we talked about his thoughts on this very question.  Maybe you’ll listen to him, after all, he’s an expert.

Me: Good morning, Dr. Foreman.

Dr. Foreman: Good morning. Thank you for having me.

Me: My pleasure.  I wonder if I could start by getting your thoughts on the recent volatility in the cryptocurrency market.

Dr. Foreman: I have no thoughts on this.  I have devoted my life to the study of camp management software and the analysis of its cost.  Topics that do not enhance my understanding are removed from my life, like Rex Kramer deals with proselytizing.

Me: Understood.  So let’s not dance around this topic any longer. Is camp management software worth the cost?

Dr. Foreman: It depends upon the cost, but let me explain it this way: One should not ask only “Is it worth the cost?” but also “What is the cost of NOT having camp management software?” 

Me: Well, I’ve always thought…

Dr. Foreman: I wasn’t finished.  And the question was more rhetorical.

Me: Right you are.  Please continue.

Dr. Foreman: As I was saying, the initial examination typically revolves around the hard cost associated with a software platform, the yearly subscription fee, or per registration, or per admin user cost, and that is a noble start.  But to truly understand whether the software is worth it, one must also understand the opportunity cost of not having software for your camp management needs.  If one can cut expenses in other areas and do the improvements that your software brings, that should also be factored into one’s comparison. 

I recommend looking at 5 key points (editor’s note: upon further reflection, I believe there are 4 key points and one that you’ll need to judge for yourself. That’s called foreshadowing. 😉)

Me: Ok, now we’re getting somewhere!  Alright, 5 key points.  Hit me.

Dr. Foreman: Firstly, one should examine the efficiencies that can be gained from camp management software.  If the software allows the organization to do more work or more accurate work (or both) with fewer people, that is a cost savings.  This one, time and time again, proves to be a massive gain for your average camp.  The amount of time saved doing what they were already doing cannot be understated.  Often, growth is hindered not by facility or staff but by the process.  Camps say to themselves, “We can’t handle more registrations,” when what they mean is “We can’t handle more registrations, the way we are doing things now.” A camp management software with features like automatic confirmations, easy-to-use tools for communicating with camper families, and double-entry accounting procedures means that tasks that took multiple people hours can be done in a fraction of the time.  

Me: I love that.  Because with all of that time savings, those staff can focus on other projects that push the camp’s mission forward.  They are no longer bogged down with just maintaining the work of the camp, but instead, they are expanding it.

Dr. Foreman: Secondly, there is an improvement from the customer side.  It saddens me when I hear stories of parents who are so fed up with an archaic, tedious registration process; they simply give up.  

Camps will tell me, “Our application is only 12 pages, and no one has complained about it. Why should we change?” What they don’t consider is how many people don’t bother complaining; they just quit.  Not to mention the time it takes to fill out your form, look for envelopes, not find any, so go to Staples to buy some, look for stamps, not find any, so go to the grocery store to buy some, package it all up, add 12 stamps because it’s heavy (and they don’t know the postal rates), and finally mail it all.  And all because the camp thinks the cost of software is too much.  

Well, what about your customer’s time?  Is that not valuable?  The camp that treats it as such will get far more registrations than the one that treats it like Rex Kramer treats proselytizing.  And don’t get me started on all the necessary forms besides the application.  Putting the burden for all of this on your parents will inevitably backfire, and they’ll simply find another place to go to camp.  How much does that cost you?

Me: You’re absolutely right!  If camps can make the registration and follow-up more streamlined, not only will they make their existing customer’s lives better, but they might garner more registrations because they’ll stop losing the families that leave because they are exasperated with the paper process.

Dr. Foreman: I couldn’t have said better myself.

Me: Ok, so two down, tell me about the third factor you want camps to examine.

Dr. Foreman: This third one is more intangible but no less important to weigh, and that is financial transparency.  Camp management platforms (at least the good ones*) make it far easier to track your revenue, accounts receivables, scholarships, and the like, in a way that takes so much more time and expertise than without it.  The responsibility to keep track of these is a heavy but vital one. 

Now a camp management software will never likely take the place of actual accounting software, but the software’s ability to gather and organize all the camp-related revenue and the like and prepare it for your accounting software is invaluable, a real-time saver.  On this point, all systems are not equal, and you should look for one that allows you to attach general ledger (or allocation) accounts to the different programs you run. It’s a tremendous value that can only be quantified in terms of what a lack of transparency leading to unsavory activities might cost an organization.  For that reason alone, it pays for itself in spades.

Me: Excellent point, Dr.  Some of this is about being responsible and having those checks and balances in place. What’s number four?

Dr. Foreman: When camps ask me to consult on their organization, one of the common things I see is single-use tools.  They have tools for everything, donations, small engine repair, attendance, rock climbing, medical info, trenching, etc.  And while some of them are necessary, having all this data in a myriad of places costs real time and money.  For one thing, they are likely paying for many of these tools on an ongoing basis, they only use a fraction of its functionality, and they always have to import data from one tool to another.  Having as many of these tools under one roof, say a good camp management software, means saving time because the data is imminently accessible and likely means saving money because you can eliminate the monthly costs of tools that only perform one job.  When weighing the cost of camp software, one must take a holistic approach.

Me: I have to say, Dr. Foreman, your points are compelling. I’m convinced, and I feel like your fifth point will really wrap things up.

Dr. Foreman: Indeed.  The fifth piece to take into account is beards.

Me: I’m sorry, beards?

Dr. Foreman: Exactly.  Since I have started using camp management software, I have noticed a marked improvement in the thickness and luster of my facial hair.

Me: That’s delightful, and sadly all the time we have.  I want to thank you for your time and insight into this important topic.

Dr. Foreman: You’re welcome. It was my pleasure.

There you have it, friends.  An expert in the field has deemed (the right) camp management software is worth the cost. And you know you can trust him, he’s a doctor.

* – This is what Captain Rex Kramer does to poor camp management platforms

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