4 Unexpected Places to Look for Last-Minute Camp Applicants

Think outside the box when it comes to hiring staff for the upcoming season. Need inspiration? Try these four options.
min read

If you’re still looking for summer camp staff, know that you are not alone. With campers registering at a record pace across the industry, many camp directors are scrambling to find high-quality staff at the last minute. Here are a few unique places you can look during this full-court press.

Your Graduated Campers

If you’ve been using ACTIVE for a few years, this is an especially quick recruitment technique. Let’s say the oldest kids you take as campers have just finished eighth grade and you hire staff who have at least finished their senior year of high school. The kids who were in the oldest age group in 2019 are now the right age to potentially be on your staff.

Here’s what you can do: Run a report of that oldest age group from 2019, and email all of the parents on the list. Congratulate them on their kids’ accomplishments and tell them that you’d love to have alumni apply to be staff at your camp. Include a link to a simple application or pre-application that they can share with their kids. If you have reports going back further than 2019, run a few years’ worth. It can’t hurt, and it takes about two minutes to edit the initial email and send it out to a slightly older list.

For especially high-potential recruits (i.e. former campers who came to multiple sessions or whose parents were especially engaged as volunteers or supporters) it's recommended to follow up more personally. Text the parent to ask them what their (adult) kids are up to this summer and share the quick application link via text. In our experience, many parents are looking for a good fit job for their kids for the summer, and getting the parent to help with the final step in recruitment can be very effective.

Babysitting Groups on Facebook

This is a recruiting tip about Facebook that I learned on Facebook! Emily McCoy from Camp Under The Stars suggested this tip in a Facebook group for camp directors, and it’s a great one. At first it might seem unhelpful because many of our college-age prospective staff do not spend much (or any) time this social media platform. But they do know it’s where a lot of parents hang out, and often folks looking for babysitting jobs post their information on Facebook.

In my town, the Facebook group is called “Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Babysitting.” Sometimes the groups are called “Find Your Fit” or “Nannying,” but here’s how they work: Babysitters looking for work post a short profile of themselves with their background and availability. You can join these groups and connect with candidates—just comment on the available babysitter’s post and send them a message with information about jobs at your camp. (Note: Some of these groups have particular rules about this kind of thing, so read the group guidelines carefully before entering and recruiting!)


When you are out and about near your camp, always keep a lookout for people who are especially good at customer service and/or engaged with kids. When you go out to dinner, to get ice cream, or to the movies (or whatever!) keep an eye out for service staff who are especially and appropriately engaged with children: The server who asks a child about the character T-shirt they’re wearing; the ice cream scooper that passes the cone over the counter with a big smile to the kid and a handful of extra napkins for the parent; the movie ticket taker who joyfully welcomes a family to the theater. Simply ask them, “Have you ever considered working at a summer camp?” Explain that you’re a camp director and you love to find applicants who have great customer service skills like they do (or whatever positive attribute you observed).

We’ve known camp directors to get simple business cards printed with a QR code on one side for their camp application and on the other side a declaration such as “I think you’d be a great camp staff member at Camp XYZ!” As you encounter folks out and about, tell them verbally that you think they’d be great and hand them a business card so they can follow up if they are interested.

Senior Citizens

A big problem in the camp industry is that we are often singularly focused on hiring “college age” staff. Although legally we cannot make hiring decisions based on age, the “camp counselor” stereotype is one of an 18- to 22-year-old who might be a college student or have a different seasonal job during the school year. However, I want to challenge this assumption.

One of the best hiring decisions I ever made was an applicant who was a camp alum who had re-applied to work at camp more than 50 years after his first summer. I hired him as the assistant barn director, and he took on the moniker of “Camp Gramp.” He brought life experience and knowledge to the table that many of our younger camp staff did not have, and he was a successful intergenerational role model for our campers, many of whom were not fortunate enough to have close connections with grandparents. He’s also now worked at our camp, seasonally, for 12 years.

So, instead of making your recruiting focus only where college students might be, send information about open positions to where seniors might be or even where people of all ages might be—places of worship, community centers, and local restaurants or coffee shops all come to mind. When we get out of the mindset that camp staff is typically young adults, we open our eyes to a wide spectrum of additional applicants with a ton of potential.

In some ways, recruiting high-quality staff for camp is one of the hardest things about our jobs. As we have more demand for our camp programs, we have to cast an even wider net to find the right applicants, putting ourselves out there to connect, network, and even sell the job. But, keep this in mind: It never hurts to ask someone to apply—the worse they can say is no!

ACTIVEWorks Camp & Class Manager is Here to Help

Once you have staff members on board, you need to train them. And with not much time to do so, you need an easy and efficient solution to help you do it. Camp & Class Manager provides everything you need to set your staff and your participants up for success. With accessibility features, advanced communications tools, and comprehensive reporting capabilities, Camp & Class Manager can help organizations like yours build a more accessible, efficient, and stress-free environment, as well as a welcoming camp experience that will enrich your participants’ lives for years to come.

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