Published on December 8, 2022

Making Camp Financially Accessible

Campers studying a log at Pleasant Valley

At Mass Audubon, we are committed to ensuring that every child can experience the friendships, community, confidence, and connection to nature that takes place at our summer camps.  We have long made scholarship funds available to support families facing financial barriers to sending their children to camp.  We are expanding this effort by implementing a sliding scale for all camps in 2023. This will remove more financial barriers and expand access to camp for families by providing an easy and equitable process.   

With the sliding scale structure, camp tuition will be based on a family’s annual gross income.. At registration, parents and caregivers can select the tier that matches their family’s income. The registration system will calculate the balance due based on their selection. Income verification is required for any tier with a discount. 

Early Adaptation of Sliding Scale at Pleasant Valley 

Pleasant Valley piloted the sliding scale pricing structure this past summer at our Berkshire Nature Camp with great success—nearly 30% of families received financial assistance. This is an incredible increase over past years, where only a small percentage of families applied for scholarship funds.  

There were many families who let us know that they had previously not been able to attend Berkshire Nature Camp because of the cost and were delighted that their camper could now benefit from this great experience. We also heard from higher income families who were excited to help contribute to getting more folks to camp. The sliding scale also allowed us to focus our other scholarship efforts on the highest need families. 

Thanks to the outreach help of our Culture Rx partners at Volunteers in Medicine, Community Health Programs, and MACONY Pediatrics, as well as Jewish Family Services of Western Mass, and to the investment of our incredible donors, we were able to provide full scholarships to 25 campers.  

Arcadia to Institute First Year of Sliding Scale in 2023 

The 2023 camp season will be the first year Arcadia uses the sliding scale, but newly hired Camp Director Tim Donner already has experience with—and enthusiasm for—this access strategy.  

Tim comes to Arcadia from Portland, Oregon Audubon where he helped institute their first year of sliding scale payment process last year.  

“The process worked really, really well,” Tim reported. “We had more a diverse mix of kids in terms of income, race, and neighborhood. Over half of campers paid less than the full price. One parent thanked us by saying, ‘This is the only way I could bring my kid to your program.’” 

Portland Audubon turned to other organizations for help and advice, but Tim is appreciating how expertise already exists within the organization. “I can turn right to my colleagues at Pleasant Valley for help in making sure the startup of sliding scale goes smoothly at Arcadia.”   

Full Scholarships Still Available  

If cost is still a barrier under the sliding scale structure, additional financial assistance is also available in the form of scholarships, thanks to the generous support of our community.   

In the West we are also organizing new camps in urban areas such as Springfield and Pittsfield where all or most campers attend for free and receive support services such as transportation and meals to ensure they can attend.  

We are thankful for COVID relief funds of the American Rescue Plan that allowed us to launch these camps, but these funding programs are temporary. Support from our community will be essential to continue expanding our reach and impact.  

Full details about how implementing sliding scale will impact registration for this year will be shared with camp families in late December/early January.