The 250 Game, Expanded

Date published: March 13th, 2017 | By Matthew

If you’re tight for time, here’s a one-sentence summary of this post:

If you refer a family to Longacre, and that family enrolls, we’ll send you $250 as a thank you.

There are lots of ifsands and buts to cover, but that’s the gist.

Still interested? Here’s the full version.

I’ll start at the beginning. When a parent calls the office for more information, one question we ask is, how did you hear about us?

Usually, the answer is word of mouth. We call that a referral.

A few years ago, in an effort to increase referrals, we created The 250 Game. It went like this: if you enroll your child, and he brings a friend with him, we’ll send you $250, and we’ll send the referred family $250 also.

Beginning today, we’re expanding The 250 Game. Now, whether you enroll your child or not, if you refer a family to Longacre, and that family enrolls, we’ll send you $250, and we’ll send the referred family $250 also.

And there’s no limit to the number of referrals you can make.

Originally, our rationale for creating The 250 Game was this: if we have to spend money on advertising, we'd rather send it to people we know than to Facebook and Google (not that we have anything against Facebook and Google — we like them).

Still, we hesitated to open it up to everyone because we didn’t want to create conflicts of interest.

I can explain. Let’s say you’re looking for a summer camp for your daughter. A friend of yours, let’s call her Leslie, recommends Longacre Leadership Camp in Newport, Pennsylvania. You’ve never heard of Longacre Leadership Camp (or Newport, Pennsylvania) so you look it up on the interwebs. You like the website. You call for more information. A few weeks later, you’re ready to enroll your daughter when you discover, in a roundabout way, that Leslie stands to receive $250 if you enroll your daughter. You pause. You wonder, “Did Leslie recommend Longacre for legitimate reasons or for a financial incentive?”

That would be a reasonable thing to wonder because, in that case, Leslie has a conflict of interest.

And that was our rationale for not opening it up. We didn’t want to create conflicts of interest. We didn’t want families wondering if they had been referred to Longacre for legitimate reasons or for a financial incentive. It just felt icky.

(We don’t see a conflict of interest if the referring family enrolls their child because people don’t send children to summer camp just for a rebate.)

Fast forward a couple years to last month when we published a blog post called We Sold the Drama Barn. There, we explained how selling the Drama Barn is integral to making our ten-year plan a reality. Specifically, we talked about the importance of filling the camp to its maximum capacity:

We have increased our capacity twice in recent years by lengthening our summer calendar. The first time was in 2013 when we added a 10-day MiniCamp for children and tweens. The second time was in 2014 when we added a second start-date to our leadership camp. Combined, those changes added 50% to our capacity, without changing the number of beds. 

Since those increases, enrollment has grown, but not to capacity. Filling to capacity is important because it means we can invest more in infrastructure.

That post was heavy, and afterwards you sent us lots of feedback, much of it positive, some of it not (understandably).

One parent even called us with a suggestion: expand The 250 Game; make it available to anyone, not just to enrolled families. We explained the conflict of interest problem, to which she replied, then all you have to do is disclose it.

Hmm good point, we thought. It’s not the conflict of interest that’s problematic — they happen all the time — it’s the failure to disclose it.

Wait, so all we have to do is disclose it?

Maybe so. I listen to National Public Radio and they disclose conflicts of interest with some regularity. For example, if they're doing a story on a company that’s also a corporate sponsor, they’ll say, “Full disclosure, Novo Nordisk (or whatever) is a corporate sponsor of NPR”. And then they'll proceed like normal.

So that’s what we’ve decided to do: disclose and then proceed like normal.

And there you have it.

If there’s any chance you’ll play The 250 Game (it’s a very fun game) please read this fine print:

  1. We have existing referral agreements with a handful of camp consultants. In these cases, The 250 Game does not apply.
  2. We send out the checks via postal mail at the end of camp — not at the time of enrollment.
  3. You're only eligible for one referral per family. So, for example, if you refer four campers from three families, we will send you $750 ($250 x 3) because we count the families (three) not the campers (four).
  4. If a referred family wants to play The 250 Game, we will make sure they understand the part about the referring family also receiving $250.
  5. In the event of a dispute, we will side with the referred family, not the referring family.
  6. We’re taking this one summer at a time. Right now, it only applies to 2017. In September, we’ll re-evaluate for 2018.

Two more notes that aren’t really fine print. First, if you refer a family that enrolls but don’t feel comfortable accepting the $250, one option is to donate it to the Longacre Foundation. We can even do it on your behalf. What this would do is restrict your donation to need-based scholarships.

(Longacre Foundation is a project of The Foundation for Enhancing Communities [TFEC], fiscal sponsor. Longacre Foundation operates under TFEC’s 501(c)(3) non-profit designation. TFEC sends confirmation letters directly to donors. All donations are tax-deductible to the fullest extent of the law. Official registration and financial information of TFEC may be obtained from the PA Department of State by calling 800-732-0999. Registration does not imply endorsement.)

Second, we’re backdating this to cover all 2017 enrollments. In the event that a new family found us via referral, we’ve contacted both families and shared the good news.

If you’ve made it this far, thank you.

You are our #1 source of new families. We started The 250 Game to thank you for keeping us in mind and sending us great kids.

If you have questions about any of this, you can always reach me at 717-567-3349 or matt@longacre.com.