By Jonathan “J.C.” Cohen, Camp Director
At the conclusion of each summer, we reach out to our camp families to find out what they thought and how we did. For the last several years, we have been using a “Customer Satisfaction Index” developed by the Foundation for Jewish Camp that allows us to have our results analyzed by a team of professional researchers, and to have our results benchmarked against 72 other Jewish camps from across North America.
This year, 40% of our families completed the survey, which, according to the researchers, means our results are “statistically valid.” (That’s a good thing!) Once again, we ranked very, very high on almost all measures – and in almost every instance, better than the North American average. Here are some of the highlights:
Likelihood to Recommend and Return: 90% of our families said they were “extremely” or “very” likely to recommend Jacobs to family members, others from their congregations, and friends. 70% said they were “extremely” or “very” likely to have their child return next summer. Wondering why it wasn’t the same 90%? In some cases, their campers simply aged out; in others, families stated that the cost of camp was their concern. (More on that later…) And for a few, session length is their issue.
Social Environment: Parents were very, very complimentary of the relationship between campers and staff members, the “overall programming”, and the leadership and staff of the camp. They felt strongly that the “ambience” made their children proud to be Jewish, and that we provided a “healthy, safe & secure” environment. Our counselors and staff members were highly praised for helping campers build relationships with each other, for having meaningful relationships with campers, and for being sensitive to camper issues and needs.
Program: Our program received strong rankings across the board, with noticeable improvements over last year in the arts and outdoor adventure activities. The data suggests that campers want greater ability to “customize” their experience; although, when we delved into the narrative comments, much of this was a combination of either not getting to do the activities they wanted to do (because of space limitations), or not getting to do those activities enough (for example, wanting more time on the climbing tower or in the lake).
Communications: Although our numbers were still very strong across the board, some things did jump out at us. Some parents felt our turnaround/response time wasn’t fast enough when they called camp; and, if their child visited the infirmary, they were also not always satisfied with our response time. These are areas that we continually focus attention on, but I was not surprised. Some parents are never going to know enough or receive enough information – it’s just so different having your child at camp than it is having your child at home. There were the technology issues that plagued us second session that had to have an impact on the numbers. When a parent develops enough of a concern that they feel compelled to reach out to the camp, not hearing back from us quickly is stressful. And, when a child is the infirmary, away from home, the amount of communication is never enough, no matter how well (or not well) we are communicating. Parent communication is a hot issue for us – we’ll keep plugging away.
Spiritual, Cultural and Religious Life: Our marks were very high in these areas. Parents felt very strongly about how we built Jewish values in their children, created an appreciation for Shabbat, delivered educational programming, and made their children feel that they were part of K’lal Yisrael, the Jewish People.
Facilities: Our facilities continue to receive generally high marks (well above the North American average). Our 2011 pool improvements continue to be regarded highly, and the 2012 addition of the Wet Willie Waterslide was a huge hit. As is true in every camp in North America, parents feel the cleanliness of the cabins, especially the bathrooms, needs to be improved upon. I gotta tell you, we really pushed our staff more than ever before, and inspected more than ever before; but still, the marks were not as high as we would like. Maybe they never will be – even the most maintenance-friendly and plush camper cabin, cleaned by an army of professionals, is never going to match our own homes, and will never be good enough for many of our camp moms. It IS camp, which means a certain level of “roughing it”. But, we’ll continue to push harder.
Food: The “healthy” improvements made this past summer were definitely noticed, and were generally well- received – which we were pleased to hear. For some families, we have a ways to go in terms of the quality, type and variety of our food offerings, and we will continue to explore cost-appropriate options. (For others, we’re trying too hard – they say that the kids are very active, and that their just kids, so they’ll be fine – let ‘em eat cake!)
Health/Safety/Security: There is no question in the minds of our families that Jacobs Camp is a safe, secure place to send their children for the summer.
Cost of Camp: For the most part, families believe the price of camp is “reasonable” relative to the both the service provided and the outcomes derived, and that we do a good job of explaining why camp costs what it does. In terms of financial assistance, 92% of families knew camp scholarships and camper incentives were available, and those who needed that assistance (61% according to the survey) knew how to apply for it. Especially in these challenging financial times, I am pleased about the high awareness of our campership programs and efforts because it is so vital to our community: 31% of families said if it weren’t for the outside funding, their child would not have come to camp last summer, and 51% said it will be an important factor in their decision-making for next summer.
A Few Stats that I Loved:
- 78% of families knew of our Facebook presence, and 66% of them took advantage of it.
- 63% of families are aware of our Twitter presence, though only 27% of them use Twitter themselves. (I will not be deterred!)
- When asked “were there other camps you considered for your children this past summer”, 86% of families said “no” – it was Jacobs or nothing.
On a 1-5, low-to-high scale, 58% of our families ranked their household Jewish involvement as a 4 or 5.
- 78% of families indicated that, because of time spent here, their children were more interested in being involved Jewishly outside of camp. And,
- 70% of families indicated that their children’s time at camp increased their family interest in being involved Jewishly outside of camp.
Jacobs Camp makes children and their families want to be active Jewishly!
We greatly appreciated so many families taking the time to complete the Customer Satisfaction Index. Even from the praise, we learned a lot. And, the many narrative comments gave us so much to think about.
A number of years ago, I heard musician Alison Krauss interviewed on NPR. The interviewer noted that, while many other artists vary their play lists frequently when they are touring, Alison and her band choose to play the exact same set list every night. He asked if they got bored playing the same songs, and wondered why they didn’t change up the set list just to keep it interesting for themselves. Alison’s response was simple: Every show is another opportunity to get it just right.
For me, the same is true about the summers at camp. Will we ever get it just right? Nope, not gonna happen. There are just too many variables at play, and too many of the players change from year to year. What keeps my job interesting, and camp interesting, is the striving.