How is camp doing?

Posted On: Saturday, May 9, 2020

Thanks for asking!

How is camp doing?” Whether leading a church service, talking to families on opening day, or unexpectedly bumping into an alumnus while grocery shopping, this is the question that I get asked the most, now more than ever. 

Often I’ll spend a few moments talking about the phenomenal dedication of our staff, or reflecting on a memory of how I saw camp impact a child this past summer. I eagerly share the multitude of moments I get to experience every day of the summer that affirm why camp is so important.

I talk about the effect camp has on our children, youth, and staff – how I’ve watched them grow, gain confidence, learn to live in community, and experience the love of God. I talk about what we’ve done – new programs that allow us to serve more families, hilarious themes where staff dress in silly costumes, or activities that help campers to develop new skills. I talk about the impact that camp has

But when I think about it, I don’t really answer the question. 

All of those answers share what camp is doing, not how it’s doing. And while the what is far more interesting than the how, I thought I would take a little time today to answer the question, to give you insight into Cairn’s reality.

The Real Question You’re Asking
Many of you have questions about how COVID-19 affects camp. What happens if Cairn has to cancel the 2020 season? What does it mean for Cairn if there is no revenue coming in this year? To answer these questions I need to give you a short overview of how camp runs, so bare with me for a minute as I give you a peak into everyone’s favourite subject - finances.

The Inside Scoop: Cairn’s Finances

  1. Seasonal Income - Year Round Expenses
    Cairn is a seasonal business that operates year-round. What does this mean? It means that we earn 100% of our income in just 4 months, but we incur expenses over the entire year. While some of our expenses stop when campers leave, many don’t. Our offseason (September through April) expenses include:
  • Property Costs – Cairn is blessed to have 197 acres of beautiful Muskoka property to maintain. This means hydro bills, property taxes, building insurance, winter site upkeep, plowing, monthly propane tank rental fees, building repairs, tool replacement, etc.
  • Operating Costs – While onsite camp programs are limited to the spring and summer it takes year-round work to make camp happen. From recruiting & registering campers, to managing our books, to hiring our 50+ seasonal staff our “offseason” is filled with the business of camp. This means we pay phone bills, website hosting & updating costs, banking fees, internet access costs, payroll for year-round staff, camp registration software costs, liability insurance, bookkeeping & accounting costs, licensing & accreditation fees, etc.
  • Program Costs – Some of our program expenses occur outside of our operating months. These include purchase of replacement equipment (ovens, canoes, laundry machines, etc.), curriculum development for our faith programming and Camp In Your Own Backyard (CYOB) program, deposits for service providers, etc.
  1. Subsidized Camper Fees
    Cairn is a non-profit organization that believes camp should be accessible to every child. To help make camp a reality for our families Cairn’s camper fees are kept at a subsidized rate. Even with subsidized rates camp is still a luxury that many families can’t afford and so we also provide camperships and other bursary options. The bottom line is we don’t charge as much as camp costs us to run. To make up the difference we rely on grants, partnerships with bursary organizations, and the generosity of our donors.
  2. How We Use Our Revenue
    Because we don’t carry a significant profit from year to year (see 2) we use early registration fees to help us cover all the costs of camp (see 1) that occur months before any camper steps onto site. What does this mean? This means that while our first 2020 camp session isn’t set to start for another few months we have already spent money on the 2020 season.

What about Cairn’s future?

Now that I’ve given you a bit of background let me answer the big question - What happens to Cairn if we can’t run camp in 2020? I’m going to be honest, it will be a very difficult year for us. The Camp Board and I have been busy over these past 7 weeks making plans, and building the path that will lead Cairn through the impact of COVID-19. We have already begun exploring new revenue streams, cutting expenses, and implementing a fiscal plan to safeguard Cairn’s future. But we will need your help

Our goal, as always, is to insure that Cairn is here for years to come, providing transformational camping experiences for future generations of campers

Right now we are unsure of what this summer will bring. We are still waiting on news from our government and health officials as to whether onsite camp programs will be possible in 2020. Once we know more, we will let you know what the summer of 2020 will look like and how you can best help camp, so please stay tuned to our future emails. While so much feels different and uncertain right now there is one thing I am very certain of - our camp family is strong, dedicated, and resilient. I know that regardless of the circumstances, our community will find a way to connect and offer each other support. I know that once we are able to gather together again in person camp will be here to welcome us home. I know that each of you will do whatever you can to help to keep camp strong for years to come

Yours in camping
Michelle "Konk" Roberts
Executive Director

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