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American Camping Association strategic plan: 1993-1996.

Update on the Strategic Planning Process

After the first draft of ACA's strategic plan was mailed to all members in September, the members of the ACA National Strategic Planning Committee embarked on a series of feedback meetings. At each of five regional meetings, section presidents and other ACA members discussed the draft plan for at least six hours. Members of the strategic planning committee facilitated the discussions and transmitted regional feedback to the entire committee.

To seek more feedback, other committee members attended meetings of various groups that had been scheduled during the fall (such as the ACA National Education Council and AIC Council). In total, 187 ACA members provided verbal feedback in meetings on the draft plan. Another 47 ACA members wrote letters to the committee.

On behalf of both the strategic planning committee and the ACA National Board of Directors, I thank all who contributed their time and ideas. I can assure you that your concerns were heard and appreciated.

The strategic planning committee met October 30 through November 1, 1992, to modify the draft plan to accommodate members' feedback. The plan was presented to the national board on November 14. With relatively minor changes, ACA's strategic plan for the next three years was adopted and is presented on the following pages.

Two items from the plan must be approved by the ACA Council of Delegates and have been placed on the council's agenda by the national board. These items are; 1) approval of the revised mission statement, and 2) approval of the public policy response mechanism.

Further member comments on the strategic plan will be sought at an open forum on the association at the annual conference in Pittsburgh this March. The next step in the strategic planning process is implementation. Members who have thoughts about activating the plan are invited to continue providing input by communicating with ACA National President Connie Coutellier and/or by attending the open forum on the association.

The strategic planning process we have set in motion now must be kept moving forward. Throughout the implementation phase, continued adjustments will be made to reflect the realities of operating the association. Evaluation is also an on-going process and will provide data for the next round of planning in 1995-96. Association resources (money, time, and personnel -- both staff and volunteer) will be allocated to achieve the various components of the plan. Thus, member input is not only welcomed, but necessary, at all stages of the process.

I extend a resounding thank you to our colleagues who served as members of ACA's National Strategic Planning Committee. They are pictured on page 21. The committee gave seven days to the strategic planning effort in retreat settings in Indiana, plus travel time, attendance at ACA regional and other meetings, and uncounted hours of reading preparation.

ACA can be proud of these volunteers and their commitment to our association's future. Our work on the committee was a challenge: we discussed, in depth, many difficult issues for which there are no easy answers. We came from different perspectives and belief systems, and therefore did not see issues the same way.

Nevertheless, we worked hard. We worked hard together. And, true to our roots in camping, we sincerely enjoyed getting to know each other. Our commitment to ACA outweighed our individual agendas and the strategic plan presented to the national board reflected the thinking of the entire committee.

ACA Strategic Plan

Presented on the following pages are ACA's proposed mission statement, five strategic directions, and seven strategies vital to ACA's future. They are presented in an order dictated by logic, rather than as a prioritized list. Each initiative is important to ACA's future.

Within some strategic directions there are multiple strategy statements. Each strategy is elaborated upon by strategic initiatives. In cases where the reasoning behind the strategy may not be self-evident, a rationale statement is provided.

Definitions of terms as they are used in this plan are listed on pages 19 and 20.

Mission Statement

Currently, ACA's mission statement reads:

"The mission of the American Camping Association is to enhance the quality of the experience for youth and adults in organized camping, to promote high professional practices in camp administration, and to interpret the values of organized camping to the public. "

After hearing members' feedback and the recommendation of the strategic planning committee, the ACA National Board of Directors submits the following revised mission statement to the Council of Delegates for consideration at the conference in Pittsburgh:

"The mission of the American Camping Association is to serve organized camps, affiliated programs, and the public. To accomplish this mission, ACA:

* educates camp personnel to create positive growth

experiences for children, teens and adults, using the

outdoors responsibly as a program environment;

* encourages professional practices through accreditation

and certification programs;

* promotes advocacy of issues affecting camps; and

* communicates the value of camp experiences to the

public and encourages camp opportunities for all."

Strategic Direction: Who We Are

Strategy I

The American Camping Association will be an inclusive organization of members who are committed to ACA's mission and the value of the camp experience for all segments of American society.

Strategic Initiatives

1. Develop a strategy to increase membership. 2. Explore simplifying the membership system, including

the service fee structure. 3. Create a climate of acceptance of diversity within

ACA. 4. During the three-year scope of this plan, emphasize

recruitment of populations that are under-represented

in ACA. 5. Refine and implement an outreach model developed

with the African-American kindred group.

Rationale: The strategic planning committee heard

abundant feedback from the field objecting to what

was seen in the draft plan as a focus on African-Americans

to the exclusion of other groups. The

committee recognizes the need to diversify ACA and

agrees that Asian, Hispanic, and other populations

must be included. The committee also believes that

in the immediate future the strategic plan must start

where ACA is - with a resolution of referral from

the Council of Delegates already accepted by the

national board on the topic of outreach to African-Americans

in camping. The committee believes that

much will be learned about the process and methods

of inclusion from experience with the African-American

model. The intent of the committee is that ACA

will use this collaborative model to reach out to

include other under-represented groups. 6. Review and revise, as necessary, ACA's nondiscrimination

policy included in the ACA Codes of

Ethics, utilizing existing legal definitions as guidelines. 7. Reflect the diversity of society when leaders are

selected and staff hired in ACA. ACA must provide

leadership opportunities and avoid utilizing people

in stereotypical roles. ACA should recognize and

utilize all skills and expertise of our members, not

just their personal experiences as individuals from an

under- represented group.

Strategic Direction: What We Offer Our Members

Strategy II

ACA will identify management skills necessary to address the challenges and pressures affecting camps and deliver educational services to help camp personnel respond.

Rationale: Although results of the 1992 member survey indicate a high level of satisfaction with ACA services, the strategic planning committee cautions ACA against complacency in the area of member services. New, cutting edge, meaningful programs which meet members' needs are vital to growth of the association. The strategic initiatives presented below will guide ACA in the development of new member services.

Strategic Initiatives

1. Research and articulate the value of camping. 2. Develop educational tools that describe how to use

appropriate technology and techniques in the management

and marketing of camps. 3. Provide resource information to camps to enable

them to continue service in the future. Such information

may include, but is not limited to, succession of

ownership, preservation of camps as camps, encroachment,

increasing sponsoring organizations'

commitment to camping programs, and outside

sources of funding for camp programs. 4. Develop and maintain a database on current demographic

trends, societal issues, environmental

concerns, and legislative/regulatory issues. Disseminate

this information and interpret how it affects

camps and their ability to serve their publics. 5. Develop programs to educate members on managing

for diversity, including multi-cultural sensitivity and

training in diversity and human resource management. 6. Provide appropriate services to affiliated programs

such as conference centers. 7. Provide environmental and other programs by working

in collaboration with organizations that share a

common mission, e.g. National Wildlife Federation,

Association for Experiential Education.

Strategic Direction: How We Deliver Services

Strategy III

ACA at all levels must be committed to serving the needs of members, camps, and those conference centers participating in the accreditation program. All members, and accredited camps and conference centers are entitled to specific core services. ACA will establish, provide, and fund these core services, and seek ways to increase and improve service.

Rationale: The strategic planning process revealed many concerns surrounding the current system for delivering member and camp services. Sections are a very important channel for the delivery of ACA benefits and services. However, the size and resources of sections vary enormously, resulting in a highly unequal distribution of member benefits and services across the organization. Members in some sections are not receiving core services provided in other sections.

Regional meetings and correspondence indicate that sections value their autonomy and do not want to have a "McDonald's" (the-same-everywhere) approach to member services. On the member survey, members indicated that, while they were not particularly satisfied with the quality of section services, they do not want to change the current system.

However, the committee believes that the current system of service delivery needs careful study because of: 1) the inequity of member services; 2) conflicts among sections and between sections and national; and 3) concerns that the organization's effectiveness and ability to clearly communicate to the public may be limited by its historic (since 1921) section boundaries. Such a study of the current system of service delivery should look for ways to assure equal distribution of core services, while still allowing and encouraging sections to provide additional services to their members. Members expressed a strong commitment to local governance and autonomy as well as a desire to participate in national ACA governance. This commitment should be honored.

Strategic Initiatives

1. Define the core services to be provided to all members

by the national organization and sections. Note:

it is understood that the core services provided by

sections would be approved by the Council of Delegates

through their power to approve the section

chartering document. 2. Review the current delivery system to be sure it

provides the optimal delivery of those core services

to members and to camps and conference centers

that are accredited. If changes result from such a

review of the current service delivery system, ACA's

governance structure may also require change.

Strategy IV

ACA recognizes the need to maintain and strengthen

the links between ACA and its councils.

Strategic Initiatives

1. There must be a timely study with the Association

of Independent Camps Council to facilitate their

operations consistent with ACA's 501 (c)3 status. The

study group must represent ACA and AIC equally.

Rationale: Being classified by the Internal Revenue

Service as a 501(c)3 "Charitable Organization" provides

several strategic benefits to ACA, including

eligibility to apply for governmental and foundation

grants. A study group needs to explore ways to help

AIC meet the needs of its members in a manner

consistent with ACA's 501(c)3 status. 2. Define steps tb facilitate communication between

the ACA National Board and the AIC Council. 3. Explore whether the not-for-profit members desire

services from and are willing to support a Not-for-Profit


Strategic Direction: How We Finance the Organization

Strategy V

ACA will generate sufficient financial resources to accomplish its mission and effectively serve its members.

Strategic Initiatives

1. In Order for ACA to exist over time, revenues must

exceed expenses. ACA has a mix of programs,

projects, and activities, some of which cannot be

self-supporting but are important to its mission. To

support those activities as well as provide for an

operating reserve, other programs must do better

than "break even." 2. ACA will increase its operating reserve to assure no

disruption in programs and services.

Rationale: In the past, short-term economic downturns

within the association have caused a disruption

in the delivery of programs and services due to lack

of available funds. In order to assure the uninterrupted

delivery of programs and services to members

and the public, ACA must have adequate financial

reserves. 3. ACA is committed to working in close cooperation

with the American Camping Foundation to develop

of resources for projects and programs that advance

the mission of ACA. Specifically, ACA will strongly

support the American Camping Foundation's efforts

to raise additional unrestricted endowment funds.

Rationale: The ACF was formed to develop, hold, and

invest the endowment funds and to assist in the

financial development of ACA. The boards of ACA

and ACF have recognized that the current amount

of unrestricted endowment is not adequate to fund

new projects of ACA. 4. ACA should work toward the creation of a Development


Rationale: ACA's revitalized "I Believe" annual campaign

would be further strengthened by the level of

coordination and organization provided by a development

department. ACA's ability tb obtain

foundation and government grants would be significantly

strengthened. The Development Department

would also be a primary source of staff support for

the American Camping Foundation and its work to

increase endowment funds.

Strategic Direction.: How We Relate to the External World

Strategy VI

ACA will work aggressively to increase the public's awareness of the value of the camp experience and the accreditation program.

Strategic Initiative

Strategy VII

1. Develop a coordinated plan to inform families and

other care-givers about the value of the camp experience

and the availability of accredited camps.

ACA has the responsibility to identify external issues

that affect organized camps. These issues may require

research and/or policy development.

Strategic Initiatives

1. Become a consistently effective force in shaping

legislation and regulation affecting camps. 2. Become a consistently effective force in the identification

and research of external societal issues,

holding educational forums, and developing information

on such issues' effect on organized camps. 3. Become the primary source of information on organized

camping for ACA members and the public. 4. Create and implement a mechanism to evaluate

issues that affect camp as an industry or issues that

are important to members. That mechanism must set

forth an orderly method for developing organizational

policy or position statements. Such a mechanism is

recommended for action by the Council of Delegates

at the annual conference in Pittsburgh, in 1993.



When used in discussions of the committee and in this report, ACA means the collective whole of the organization.


Acronym for the Association of Independent Camps, a special interest group within ACA's membership whose members generally independently own and operate their own camps. AIC is not separately incorporated. It was formerly known as PIC, Private Independent Camps.

Ambassador Program

A new public awareness program in ACA which utilizes a corps of trained local volunteers as "ambassadors" for camping. These Ambassadors seek speaking engagements at which they can present a brief program advocating the value of a camping experience for all children.


The ACA National Board of Directors.


A sustained experience which provides a creative, recreational, and educational opportunity in group living outdoors. It utilizes trained leadership and the resources of the natural surroundings to contribute to each participant's intellectual, emotional, physical, social and spiritual development.

Conference center

For the purposes of ACA's newly developed conference/retreat center standards, a conference center is a residential facility designed for adults and other groups who come together for meetings, training sessions, and educational or inspirational programs. Such a facility generally operates at least three seasons of the year and provides dedicated meeting space, food service, hospitality and support services, access to facilities or environments for release and diversions during free time, and housing.


A body within ACA that provides specialized services to one of the special interest groups, such as AIC or RAC. This body is selected from within the membership of that special interest group. The following councils currently exist:

AIC - a council elected by the members of the Association of Independent Camps through a representative electoral process.

RAC -- a council designed to serve the needs of camps related to religious organizations. The council is made up of denominational camping leaders or representatives appointed by the denominational group.

Not-for-Profit -- a council created to serve the unique needs of agency and other not-for-profit camps. It includes religious camps. At this time the NFP Council is not functioning.

Kindred groups

ACA does not have a written definition of kindred groups. However, a kindred group is commonly understood to be an informal cluster of members who share a common interest. Examples of kindred groups are: African-Americans in Camping, Girl Scouts, Salvation Army, AIC, and the Association of Camp Nurses.


Any dues-paying individual within ACA no matter in which category membership is held.


A component of ACA that has responsibility for the organization on a comprehensive basis. It could be the board, a committee, staff or a combination of them all.

Organized camp

An entity which provides a camping experience as defined above.

Planning horizon

The period for which a plan is developed. A three-year cycle for planning, with some of the issues having a longer cycle, has been chosen.


Acronym for Religiously Affiliated Camps, a special interest group within ACA's membership whose members generally direct camps that are affiliated with a religious denomination.


The local, operational unit of ACA.


Pertaining to the positioning of the organization in the most advantageous manner possible prior to actually committing resources, but controlling how resources are eventually committed.

Strategic direction

In this report, an area of work in which ACA's efforts are vital to the future of the organization.


In this report, a statement of focus for the next three years, within a strategic direction. Strategic Initiative Specific actions to be undertaken related to a specific strategy.

501 (c)3

A section of the U.S. Tax Code that defines a specific type of tax exempt status available to educational and charitable organizations that permits them to receive tax deductible contributions from individuals. These types of organizations are expected to operate for the "public good."
COPYRIGHT 1993 American Camping Association
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:includes related article on members of planning committee
Author:Heidrich, Katheryn W.
Publication:Camping Magazine
Date:Jan 1, 1993
Previous Article:Conference/retreat center standards to come before Council of Delegates.
Next Article:Building your camp's future: how to hire a development director.

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