September 2013

JData Revealed: Overnight Camp Highlights, Summer 2012

One year ago, the 145 Jewish overnight camps associated with Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC) reported the following facts and figures about Summer 2012.


  • Between 2011 and 2012, overall enrollment grew 3%, from 66,539 to 68,497 campers. Over 12,000 of these participants were new to Jewish camp.

  • Not all camps shared equally in this growth. About half of the camps increased enrollment; the others remained the same or declined (Figure 1). Camps in the South were more likely to grow than camps in other parts of the country. Camps in the Northeast were the most likely to see decline.

Figure 1. Camp-by-Camp Percentage Change in Enrollment, 2011 to 2012 (n=137)

Retrieved March 1, 2013, from

Note: JData reports percentage change (as opposed to numerical change) to provide a common standard by which camps can compare themselves to others. Percentage change also serves to give a sense of how extreme the change is. At the same time, it should be noted that change in smaller numbers creates larger percentage change. If a camp of 50 loses 10 campers, it will show a 20% decline. If a camp of 100 loses 10 campers, it will show only a 10% decline.

  • Overnight camp attracts significantly more girls than boys. In Summer 2012, 54% of campers were girls; 46% were boys.

  • Camp is largely a middle-grade phenomenon (Figure 2). The greatest increase in enrollment occurs between 3rd and 4th grade; the greatest decline between 10th and 11th grades. This pattern may be a result of the number of programs offered for lower and upper grades and/or the market demand for such programs. These are obviously related factors and it is difficult to assess their individual impact on enrollments.

Figure 2. Campers by Grade, Summer 2012 (n=134)

Retrieved March 1, 2013, from

  • Almost all of the camps had excess capacity in Summer 2012 (i.e., beds that could have been filled but were not). If the desideratum is to be at least 80% full, the field divided into two groups of camps: the 46% that achieved this level of enrollment in Summer 2012 and the 54% that did not (Figure 3).

Figure 3. Summer 2012 Percent Capacity Utilized (n=135)

Retrieved March 1, 2013, from

  • On average, 79% of the campers eligible to return in Summer 2012 did so.

  • On average, 56% of first-time campers in Summer 2011 returned in Summer 2012. This number suggests that extra effort or different tactics are needed to retain first-time campers.

  • The retention rate for first-time campers overall and for the subset of incentive grant recipients was virtually identical. Incentive grants may serve to get children to camp in Year 1 but seem not to differentially affect the decision to return in the succeeding year.

  • In Summer 2012, camps gave about $18 million in financial aid. On average, financial aid was the equivalent of 12% of a camp's budget.

  • Almost 30% of campers received financial aid in 2012, with an average financial aid package of close to $1,500 per child.



  • Over 17,000 people worked at camp last year. 94% were summer-only hires.

  • Among these numbers are almost 1,400 staff members from Israel. Overall, Israelis are about half of the international staff at camp and 7% of all staff.

  • 68% of camp personnel are program staff: bunk counselors, assistant counselors, and activity and Judaic specialists. The average ratio of campers to program staff is 4 to 1.

  • Given the essential role that program staff play in a child's summer experience and their potential role in carrying the camp's Jewish message, funders have been interested in the percentage of counselors at a camp who are Jewish. As seen in Table 1, bunk counselors are more likely than activity specialists to be Jewish, a pattern that has been noted for over a decade.

  • Although many camps had no change in their hiring patterns, those that did were more likely to employ higher (rather than lower) percentages of Jewish staff in Summer 2012 than in the previous year (Table 1).

Table 1: Percent Jewish Staff

  Percent of Camps
  Bunk Counselors Activity Specialists
Percent Jewish Staff in 2012 (n=134 camps) (n=127 camps)
100% 73% 45%
90-99% 17% 22%
80-89% 5% 9%
Less than 80% 5% 24%
Change in Percent Jewish Staff between 2011 and 2012 (n=91 camps) (n=88 camps)
Less 12% 24%
Same 73% 45%
More 15% 31%

Retrieved March 1, 2013, from

  • In 2012, most camps had professionals with expertise in Israel education, counseling, and marketing, communications and/or recruitment. Fewer than half, however, had a development professional on staff (Table 2).

Table 2: Percentage of Camps with Specialized Staff

Israel education 68%
Counseling, social work, or psychology 54%
Special needs 36%
Hebrew language instruction 27%
Marketing, communications, recruitment 53%
Fundraising or financial resource development 43%
Digital outreach 42%
Alumni relations 39%

Retrieved March 1, 2013, from

Note: Between 118 and 123 camps responded depending on the item.



  • The great majority of camps (86%) have a governing board. At least two-thirds of these boards have committees for fundraising, finance, and governance—three structures considered best practice for nonprofits. (See Table 3.)

Table 3: Board Structures

Development or fundraising committee 81%
Finance committee 73%
Committee on governance and leadership development 66%
Alumni committee 62%
Term limits for board chair 54%
Term limits for board members 47%
Minimum gift requirement for board members 25%

Retrieved March 1, 2013, from

Note: Between 98 and 107 camps responded depending on the item.

  • In 2012, 49% of the camps had an annual campaign; 36% were in a capital campaign; and 33% had an endowment fund.

  • Three-fourths of the camps maintain an alumni database and reported an estimated total of over 464,500 living alumni.


Summer 2013

We will soon add Summer 2013 data to the data reported above. This longitudinal record can help the field manage its growth and change. Data from a single summer tell only a slice of the story. Data from multiple summers will show trends in the field and help us sort out what is enduring and what is a "blip on the screen.”

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