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Summer Staff Compensation Reflections

18 Aug 2021 9:25 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

Highlights of 8/6/21 UMCRM Community Conversation

What has been UM camping's history of summer staff compensation?

  • We have been slow to keep up with summer staff raises.
  • Other cost increases, which have been out of our control, became the priority, pushing summer staff raises down the list of things to fund.
  • Typically we struggle every year in hiring enough quality summer staff. This year, all industries were struggling to hire staff.
  • We have been afraid to raise camper rates. It is an important value to keep camp accessible for every child.
  • We know that returning staff are exponentially more valuable the longer they stay, but salary increases do not reflect that value.
  • Bonuses (hiring bonuses or end-of-summer bonuses) have become more popular in recent years.

Why is increasing summer staff salary base pay important?

  • Higher wages bring the opportunity of working at camp to a more diverse group of people. Affording to work at camp currently could be considered a "privilege." Only those with other sources of financial support can work at a low wage.
  • Increasing wages is the norm in the business industry right now. Increasing the pay rate will make camping more competitive with other industries trying to hire the same demographic.
  • "The experience" of being on summer staff is not enough to get young people to apply for these positions, or may not outweigh the realities of the cost of living and education.
  • United Methodist doctrines and Social Principles support fair pay and justice for workers.
  • Paying more will influence how we are perceived in the marketplace. What we charge and what we pay sets a certain expectation.

So how do we fund it?

  • Change the camper fee structure; adopt or adjust tiered pricing.
  • Charge the actual cost of camp, front-loading scholarships rather than cutting expenses.
  • Provide payment plans for families to pay for camp throughout the whole year, instead of all at one time.
  • Strengthen fundraising efforts. Consider who benefits from us having excellent, well-compensated camp staff (camper families, churches, local businesses...)?
  • Reach out to civic organizations like Rotary Club to sponsor leadership development through multi-year bonuses.
  • Reach out to larger churches to fund salaries.
  • Invite conferences or other denominational entities to provide support, interpreting the value of camps in culture of call and young clergy recruitment.
  • "Adopt A Counselor" program - donors sponsor a staff salary but also serve as a prayer partner, send care packages, etc. Fun way to engage staff alumni.
  • Change end of summer bonuses and other incentives into a weekly pay increase.
  • Take incremental steps to increase the base salary over several years so your budget doesn't take a huge hit all in a single year.

Special thanks to UMCRM colleague Nick Coenen (Pine Lake, WI) for initiating this conversation. Many of us came away with a new idea or insight, and it helps to know that other camps struggle with the same challenges. Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments!

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