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Moving forward.

Almost nine years ago, I introduced myself to the American Camping Association through the first of these columns. I began that column with a simple hello. Now it is time to say good-bye.

In that first column, I made several observations about the camp field that were based on an "outsider's" perspective. ACA's focus on improving people's lives was one thing that attracted me to the organization. Now, from an "insider's" perspective, I can be proud of the fact that I have spent the past nine years serving an organization that is so focused. ACA's commitment to enhancing the lives of children and adults through the camp experience remains its greatest strength. The recently developed mission statement reaffirms that commitment.

As we make career choices, we have to evaluate what is best for ourselves and the organizations we serve. I have been involved in that evaluation process for some time and have come to the conclusion that it is time for a change, both for me and for ACA. The last nine years have been fascinating, fun, and at times very frustrating, but I would not trade them for any other time in my life.

Changes and challenges

ACA has seen several important changes over the last nine years.

Financial performance

ACA's financial performance has significantly improved. We have operated in the black for the past seven years and it appears that we will close out this current fiscal year in the black as well. That string of consecutive years of operating in the black is the longest such period in ACA's history and was achieved by expanding non-dues sources of revenue. In 1988, 52 percent of ACA's revenue came from dues and service fees. In 1996, 48 percent came from dues and service fees.

Being financially strong is one of the most important measures of an organization's ability to meet future challenges. All organizations must be able to meet those challenges if they are to survive. ACA has survived and flourished for more than 87 years. It is well positioned to continue long into the future.

Member services

ACA is delivering more to its members than ever before. Over the past nine years, we have developed the capacity to plan and conduct more educational programs. We have held two risk management conferences and more Basic Camp Directors Courses, and have expanded and improved programming at the ACA national conferences.

We have developed new and innovative training materials from the risk management conferences and grants from the U.S. Coast Guard. Camping Magazine has been expanded, improved, and now incorporates Inside ACA. Standards for Conference and Retreat Centers were developed to meet emerging needs of a segment of our membership. The bookstore has been greatly expanded to meet more members' needs. ACA's involvement in the legislative and regulatory arena is broader than ever before.


ACA's governance is more effective than it was in 1988. The 1989 redesign of our governance was intended to create a leadership board that could more effectively respond to changes affecting the camp field. Many of the improvements in member services were facilitated by having a leadership structure. While absolute costs to govern the organization have gone up, the cost as a percentage of expenditures has gone down, from 5.4 percent to 4.1 percent.

Public service

ACA's service to the public has also expanded over this time. When I first became acquainted with ACA, it was virtually invisible to the public. That is no longer true. The campaign to get the camp message out has been incredibly successful. In the past year, we achieved more than a half billion media impressions about camp. 1997 is off to an outstanding start and we expect to achieve continued high levels of public exposure throughout the rest of this year.

Moving forward

The success we have achieved is the direct result of the mission we serve. Our ability to gain public exposure, to achieve success in the legislative arena, and to grow in programming has come about because we are committed to enhancing human development through the camp experience.

It has been my pleasure to serve you through the past nine years. While I will miss being your executive vice president, it is now time to move forward - both for ACA and for me.

John A. Miller is the executive vice president of the American Camping Association, headquartered in Martinsville, Ind.
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Copyright 1997, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:American Camping Association
Author:Miller, John A.
Publication:Camping Magazine
Date:May 1, 1997
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