App Camp For Girls FAQ
What is App Camp's mission?
The organization's mission is:
Inspiring and empowering girls, transgender, and gender nonconforming youth to pursue careers in technology.
In everything that we do, we look to that mission and ask ourselves:
Is what we're doing the best way to accomplish this mission?
Are other organizations accomplishing the mission better than we could?
Is this the best and most responsible use of our fundraising dollars?
Who is making these decisions?
The App Camp board is made up of five volunteers who give their time to meet monthly and to spend several hours each week discussing, evaluating, and making decisions to support the immediate operations and the long-term strategic direction of App Camp. In addition, they are legally responsible for the organization's finances, conduct, and standing. The amount of time that board members have been involved with the organization ranges from one to six years with the current average board tenure being over three years. Occasionally, the board has even been responsible for day-to-day operations during transition periods. The Executive Director reports to the board and takes care of all of the operational aspects of the organization, including fundraising, marketing, and the management of volunteers and staff. You can read more about the board and leadership at https://appcamp4girls.com/about.
Why aren't camps happening this summer?
The board and the co-Executive Directors have looked at a number of factors regarding the camps:
Total number of youth registered to date
Comparisons to past years' registrations and timelines
Number of similar programs offering STEM opportunities to our target audience
Plans for future recruitment and registration
Upon review, we decided that camps were unlikely to meet the registration needs required for successful camp experiences. We also want to do the right thing for the youth, giving them ample opportunity to find other programs.
What have the outreach numbers been?
In our six years of existence, we have:
Reached over 250 youth as campers
Held camps in seven cities in the US and Canada
Created 68 apps as learning tools
The camp registration numbers have been:
2013: 24 campers in 1 city
2014: 36 campers in 2 cities
2015: 48 campers in 3 cities
2016: 68 campers in 5 cities
2017: 51 campers in 4 cities
2018: 27 campers in 3 cities
2019: 3 campers in 1 city
What do you mean when you say App Camp is not sustainable? Don’t you have enough money?
The board has wrestled with the question of sustainability for more than two years. Starting a non-profit is like starting a business. We expected to face challenges early on, but also expected that we would learn from those challenges and improve so that we could grow and reach more youth.
Some of the first challenges we faced were related to volunteer and camp organizer retention and burnout. After some review, we decided to take the big step of hiring a paid, professional Executive Director instead of being 100% volunteer run and directed. This in turn, naturally, required more funds, but we felt that it was a necessary step to take the organization to the next level of operations, outreach, and fundraising.
More recently, we began to look hard at our reach, our ability to scale, and the overall cost per camper. In an ideal world, App Camp would have been able to scale to more cities, reaching more youth, and the cost per camper would come down with the economies of scale. After six years and different approaches, we were not able to find a model that was easy to share and replicate.
There are many factors that make the App Camp model difficult to scale:
The high volunteer to camper ratio
The high cost of laptops, iPods, and iPads required for each camp
The time required to prepare equipment for each camp
The time and cost of transporting the equipment between camps
The curriculum is specifically built for a one-week intensive program and didn’t translate well to after school or weekend programs
We also considered many other options including:
Looking into ways to keep volunteers and youth engaged year-round
Leveraging our physical assets such as Apple laptops, iPods, and iPads year-round by leasing or loaning them to other programs
Expanding our curriculum to other formats such as video in order to reach a global audience
Re-tooling our curriculum to work as an after school or weekend program
Moving to a multi-year engagement model with youth to help them with high school, college, and beyond
Many other ideas and approaches
Unfortunately, we did not have the resources to pursue these new avenues and came to understand that without the ability to scale our impact to reach more youth or to reduce the overall cost per camper, the App Camp model was not sustainable.
What does this mean for the organization as a whole?
With the cancellation of 2019 camps, App Camp has acknowledged the difficulty of finding sustainability in the summer day camp model. The board will spend time researching ways to push forward our mission, but ultimately, we have made the decision to wrap up regular camp operations and to figure out the next steps for the organization.
What happens after the WWDC fundraiser concert?
The App Camp board is focused on the following priorities, in no particular order, during lead-up to, and after, WWDC:
Determining the best use of our remaining funds, from donating these to other organizations making an impact, to potentially setting up scholarships for past campers, some of whom are already in college!
Determining the best landing spot for our curriculum, documentation, code, and other resources that have been created by volunteers and consultants over the years.
Preserving the name, identity, and other intellectual property of the organization for a suitable period of time to avoid confusion.
Being a resource to our community by providing advice and recommendations on how to make the most impact in this space.
Is there anything else that could have been done to change this outcome?
Running a non-profit is not unlike running a business. Sometimes things just don’t work out the way that you planned. We can assure you that it wasn’t a lack of support from our community—we know that we have one of the most supportive and generous communities that a non-profit could ask for. There isn’t any one thing that has brought us to this place, but there were challenges we faced over the years that have contributed to where we find ourselves today, including:
The difficulty of moving from a scrappy, new non-profit proving a concept to a mature organization that is able to stabilize its operations, fundraising, and impact
The need to start bringing on paid, full-time staff to drive the organization's mission and operations in a sustainable way
The competition for prospective campers as similar programs became available (this is a good thing for our target population!)
The tragic death of our original operations director in 2016
Building a program around an expensive model (in equipment, but also in volunteer contact hours) because of the nature of the technology sector
Justifying the costs of operation, number of youth reached, and operating model to our supporters
We realize that App Camp is a labor of love for many people in our community—from volunteers and organizers, to past donors, to the founders, board, and leadership, to the youth we have reached and whose lives we have changed forever. We hope that everyone who has been involved in supporting App Camp feels a tremendous sense of pride in what has been accomplished through this organization. To paraphrase Steve Jobs, we truly have put a dent in the universe and have opened the door to tech careers and explorations for so many who otherwise may not have had the chance. Now, we wish to celebrate our past successes and make the most impact with what we have left.