Spring Volunteer Days at Camp

The spring is a common time for camps to host volunteer days, camp days, service days, work weekends or clean-up days. Not only are they a great opportunity for camps to prepare for the summer, but they also give alumni and current families the chance to connect and engage with your camp’s culture.

Whenever your camp has volunteers on site, it is critical that extra layers of protection are taken to keep everyone safe. This is especially important in the springtime after camp has been closed and the grounds have not been as frequented. Among many things, common injuries we see during spring volunteer days are slips, trips, and falls or injuries from tools and machinery.

Below are things to consider to keep everyone safe when hosting volunteer days.

Preparing for Volunteer Days
Below are things to consider before hosting volunteer days:

  • Create a registration process for volunteers to sign-up. Collect basic information like emergency contact, permission to treat, existing medical conditions/limitations, etc.
  • Determine what projects the volunteers will work on. This may be building new picnic tables, opening up cabins or clearing trails.
  • Determine what skill level is needed for each project, and who on your staff will determine what volunteers have that skill set.
  • Determine what projects should only be completed by professionals or those with specialized training/certification. This may include operating specific equipment or machinery like chainsaws, power tools, heavy chemicals, etc.
  • To give an opportunity for all to get involved, provide a less strenuous project like filing, counting or organizing something in the camp office.
  • Communicate with all volunteers about proper attire, sunscreen, hydration, etc. before they arrive.

Considerations for Including Minors
Below are things to consider when including minors in volunteer days:

  • Based on the activities, determine if the project will be for adults only (18+) or if minors can get involved.
  • If including minors in projects, determine what the minimum age will be for the project.
  • If minors are unable to participate in the project, determine if you will still allow them on site.
  • If allowing minors who are not participating in projects on site, determine who will be responsible for supervising them. For example, will that be the staff’s responsibility, the parent/guardian’s responsibility or will there be activities set up for youth.

Documentation for Volunteers
Below are items your camp should collect and document for every volunteer:

  • Volunteer Waiver: Have all volunteers sign your camp’s volunteer waiver.
  • Personal Equipment Waiver: If a volunteer is bringing personal equipment to assist in a project at camp, have them sign a personal equipment waiver.
  • Emergency Contact: Collect and keep on file an emergency contact for every volunteer.
  • Photo Release: If your camp plans on taking photos of the day, collect a photo release waiver for all volunteers.

Documentation for Groups
Below are things to consider if a corporation or company is attending volunteer days:

  • Create an agreement between the company to clearly outline the expectations of what your camp will provide, and what the company will provide. This may include meals, housing, tools, etc.

Safety Considerations
Below are things to consider to keep everyone safe during volunteer days:

  • Determine who will be the primary person in charge of each project. This may be a staff member or an experienced volunteer.
  • Identify a person that is responsible for first aid. Communicate with all volunteers who that person is, where they are located and how to find them.
  • Give a safety orientation to all volunteers. Train and orient them to your camp, necessary safety information and anything else they will need to know in order to complete the volunteer activity or project.
  • Clearly communicate the expectations regarding behavior and conduct during volunteer days.
  • Based on the projects, provide proper personal protective equipment (PPE). If volunteers are providing their own PPE, check to make sure it is up to your organization’s safety standards.
  • During orientation, show all volunteers how to use all PPE properly and set expectations that they are to wear it throughout the entire project.
  • Follow your organization’s policies and procedures at all times. Do not make exceptions for these programs.

Supervision Considerations
Below are things to consider when supervising volunteers throughout the day:

  • Structure your entire day so that free time is limited and supervised breaks are built into the day. This will eliminate the opportunity for volunteers to fill their time with unapproved projects.
  • Consistently supervise volunteers throughout the day to make sure they are safe and set up for success.
  • Intervene if volunteers are involved in any risky behavior.

Overnight Programs
If volunteers are spending the night at your camp, consider the following:

  • Determine what camp activities will and will not be offered.
  • Clearly communicate what activities will be off limits and take steps to properly secure and store away those items. For example, locking up the kayaks/canoes on your lakefront so that they are inaccessible.
  • Clearly communicate what items will not be permitted on camp property. For example alcohol, fireworks, personal boats, etc.

For additional information, read our other resource on policies and procedures for volunteers at camp.