Camps and recreation departments are often looking for ways to increase income. After all, the more money you bring in, the more supplies you can purchase, the more you can pay staff, the more marketing you can do, the more facility improvements you can make, and the more scholarships you can offer.
Running birthday parties can be a great service to offer. Most camp and recreation professionals already know how to put together an event for youth, so why not extend that expertise into birthday party planning.
Of course, there’s a lot that comes into play to ensure that every birthday event is a success. You have to think about the theme, the activities, the food, and the decorations to use during each event. But, hey, you’re a camp professional. That’s what you do.
The goal with a service like this is to take all the stress away from the parents so they can relax and enjoy the party, and to provide a magical experience for the kids. Here are ten things to consider when running a birthday party service.
Work Out the Details
1. Registration Form (paper or online)
On your website you should have all the information about your birthday party service, as well as a registration form. Once that is filled out, like a wedding DJ, it’s best to meet with clients ahead of time, preferably face-to-face, to work out the particulars and show them around.
- Name and age of birthday child
- Date and time of event
- Desired theme
- Will there be food and who will supply it
- How many will attend
While name, age and date of event is pretty obvious, let’s explore a few of the other required information.
Themes are an important part of a child’s birthday, whether that be Dora the Explorer or Minecraft. It’s best to have a menu of themes available instead of just asking what the client wants. You don’t want to be in a position where a parent asks for a 39 Clues party based off the book series if you are completely unfamiliar with the content. You wouldn’t even know where to start.If you have decorations and props already for a few themes, start by offering those. Overtime, you can build up your library of themes, or keep it simple by offering only a handful of generic ones like fairies and superheroes.
Based on your facilities you may have some options on where the party will take place. Will the games be inside or outside? Will the food be served in the dining hall or a picnic table in the park? Decide which facilities you want to offer and set a price for each option based on size, amenities and ease or difficulty of set-up. That fee will be part of the overall cost of the party service.
Will they be bringing their own, have it catered by a third party (that must be on your pre-approved list of vendors), or will you be providing the food? Will it be a full meal, ice cream sundae bar or just some snacks? What about the cake? All of this will depend on your facilities and what you are WILLING to offer. Perhaps you have no desire to provide food, or perhaps you want to keep all food option in-house. Lay out the options and price them accordingly.No matter what food is served or where it comes from, tie in the theme. This could include themed paper plates, table decorations and music.
5. How Many Will Be Attending?
While you don’t need to know who is going to be invited to the party, you do want to have an idea of how many people will be there (children and adults), especially if you’re providing food, gift bags and/or activities. Depending on food, gift bags, staff needed, etc. your service can have a base fee and then a per child fee. If adults will be eating it can be a per person fee. Another option is to not have a base fee and just raise the per child or per person rates.
Having cake and ice cream, opening presents and playing a few party games is one thing, but parents who are paying for a service want more than that. Offering additional services that a client can add-on to one of your birthday packages is a must. Here are a few to consider:
- Special Activities
- Goody Bags
- Service Projects
Entertainment can be provided by your staff or from an outside vendor. Here are some examples:
- Mobile DJ
- Costumed Characters
- Video Game Truck
- Mobile Petting Zoo (unless you already have your own petting area)
Being a camp or recreation center, this is where your service can really shine. You most likely already have the staff to offer a variety of activities. Here are just a few options:
- Pool Time
- Group Games
- Team Building
- Escape Room
- Game Show
- Lake Blob
- Tie Dye
The more you can tie the activities and entertainment into the theme, the better.
8. Goody Bags
Goody bags and their contents will depend on the ages of the kids. While preschoolers may love crayons, Play-Doh and candy, teens won’t care about gift bags or will want something more substantial in them. If you want some interesting ideas that go beyond an Oriental Trader order, check out this GeekMom.com post. Want some alternatives to goody bags that you can offer? Check out this SunshineandHurricanes.com post.
No matter the age (though teens may be more apt to want something like this), consider offering some service options. The party could be a community project like building a bench for a park or somewhere at camp, or maybe they could paint a building. Another service option would be to ask for donations instead of gifts. Donations could be in the form of toys, clothing, canned goods or money. I’m just hitting the surface with this. I’m sure you can come up with more ideas. Feel free to share them in the comments below.
It’s best of you place one or two people in charge of your birthday party service. After that, put together a list of locals that would be available to work, from cooks to activity leaders and lifeguards. If you are hiring an entertainment company, you may not need as many staff. Small parties may only need a couple of staff, while large parties will obviously require more. I suggest having someone MC the party as well, someone who is charismatic.
Now that you have a date and time for the event, and know what the client wants as far as entertainment and/or activities, it’s time to put together a schedule for the client and your staff.
- Time to start setting-up
- Time client will arrive
- Time guests will arrive
Your set-up will include decorations, a table for the food, a table for the gifts, maybe a photo booth area, activities, sounds system for the entertainment, parking signs, signs leading guests from the parking lot to the correct location, balloons – lots of balloons, themed plates and napkins, etc.Make a list of everything that needs to be set-up. Don’t wait for the last minute to start, especially if it’s your first event.
It’s wise to check your area for others that may be offering birthday parties. What do they offer and what do they charge? Here are some businesses that may offer this service.
- Bowling Alleys
- Skating Rinks
- Pizza Parlors
- Recreation Centers
- Craft Shops
- Mini Golf Centers
- Dedicated Birthday Services (Google is your friend)
Be upfront and clear about your refund and inclement weather policies. If the client wants to cancel the party a few days prior to the event, what is the refund policy for that?If an outdoor party is planned and it rains that day, what is your back-up plan. It’s important that you can easily transition into a plan B indoors if this happens.
You’ll learn a lot from the first event. Take notes and revise your set-up, schedule and add-ons. Keep all that information in a binder. Have sections in the binder (or separate binders) for each theme.
Offering a birthday service can be a lot of work, but it can also be a good income generator and a great way to expose families to the other programs you offer during the summer and beyond.
Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments below.