A New Way of Looking at Camp Contributions

We want to move both our camp--and invite the world--to looking at human energy exchange, mutual support, and finances in a different way than the pricing system that runs most of this country. We do not want to stay rooted in old systems that (we believe) promote separation, stratification, and exclusion. We instead welcome in a way of conducting business that values honor, honesty, mutual support, and inclusion.

In short: as a returning family, we tell you what it costs to run camp, and trust that you'll find the amount that best supports our camp given your family's situation.


All told, it costs about $225 per child per week to run the camp in the way we enjoy and value, and that gives the children the experience we feel they deserve.  That comes to $640 in Oregon (or $200 for the 1-week camp) and $450 in Vermont [$550 for those selected for the additional three-day lead camp]. 

If this is all you feel need to move ahead, please click on the button to the right (or the bottom of the page) to return to the enrollment page. If you'd like to hear more about why we're doing this and how it works, feel free to read on.



We want our camp philosophy and our attitude towards money to align:

  • Inspirations Camp is about welcoming each child at their level, tapping into their gifts, and welcoming / challenging them to their next step in theatrical expression, whether they've never been on stage or have been in 30 youth productions since they were three years old. If a child is interested in theater and can uphold our behavior and participation norms at camp, we welcome them to join the camp family. We do not and will not discriminate based on a child's perceived theatrical ability.
  • Similarly: we want to welcome each family to participate, whether they've got millions to spare or are scrounging for every meal. If a family is interested in this theater camp, we welcome them to join the camp family. We do not and will not discriminate based on that family's financial situation. 

A feeling of family works best if it goes both ways. While we deeply considered offering tuition our first year or to everyone who enrolled through a philosophy comprised of a combination of the gift economy / pay what you will / pay what you think camp is worth / pay what you're able, we were reluctant, as a start-up camp, to risk our philosophy being mistakenly perceived as an unconscious handout.

Consider a restaurant that offers a mix of full price, discounted, and free meals, where the customers get to decide what they pay. Such a restaurant would go out of business if everyone came imagining its philosophy were a free invitation to try to get as much as one could while paying as little as possible. One would instead hope that those who value the restaurant, the hard work it takes to run one, and the very real expenses of food purchases, salaries etc. would contribute what they could to keep that restaurant going--and trusting other patrons were doing the same, while allowing those in true need to have meals for free.

Being in a society where getting something for nothing can be seen as a bonus, we were hesitant to offer tuition in a gift economy model our first year. Without people having had a previous connection to our theater camp, we imagined a worst-case scenario where everyone chose to pay either zero or very little, our camp went bankrupt, and we had to shut our doors the next year. We wondered if even with good intentions, an otherwise busy parent / family juggling very real expenses (say nothing of saving up towards college tuition and such) would see our camp's tuition philosophy even on an unconscious level as a way to just save some money or redirect it towards other pursuits, and that our contribution pool would not be enough to run camp on.

However, now that you as a camp family have been through a camp cycle, have seen what this camp brought to your kids and the community, and are familiar with the spirit of the camp, we're inviting you to look at your contribution in a new fashion: as a way of making a camp you value not just exist but thrive, both for your child's experience but also others in the community. What you give is then a gift towards this camp being able to operate in this and future years, rather than an arbitrary fee amount imposed by an authority.

WHAT our camp offers, and what IT COSTS TO RUN CAMP

Since we're asking returning parents to look within at their financial situation as they come to the contribution amount that feels right, it feels right to be transparent about the costs on our end to run this camp, including being up front about what we're choosing to emphasize and value at Inspirations camps. This is an overview of what we do that we feel makes this camp special, followed by a (partial) list of costs that go into running a summer theater camp

  • Offer a camp that works well for a wide range of children, and trust that they are capable of a great deal. We create a theater camp experience that can meet and challenge both those who have considerable experience in theater and those that are new to it, or even shy or scared. Rather than gear our camp only towards those who are Broadway-stars-in-training, or assume children are incapable of talent and dilute our show to a seemingly easily accomplishable half-hour yawner, a show where watching it is akin to drinking three-day-old watered-down instant chocolate milk, we instead
  • Create an original musical that 1) tells a compelling story; 2) has a range of songs designed to appeal to both children and adults; and 3) offers pedagogically appropriate roles to children ages 7-14.  I estimate that about 2000 hours of dedicated work goes into the creation of each full-length show we offer, plus time to make the recordings and/or sheet music for our families to help in learning the songs.
  • Have a caring, talented staff that is available for a wide range of camp moods and camper needs. We want our camp to be versatile enough to do anything from a full-camp run-through of the show to having the flexibility to break-out into 4-5 separate groups for games and rehearsals.
  • Pay our staff a living wage for Portland, Oregon and Chelsea, Vermont.  While some of our staff will be on a gift economy payment plan (varying wages based on their needs), on a root level we want to give them enough to live comfortably so that when they're with us at theater camp, they can share their gifts freely without worrying about their next meal (As you might imagine, these wages are pro-rated over their time with us in the summer--it is not within our means--and we don't ask this of our camp parents--to give all of our staff enough to live on year-round.)

In addition to staff salaries, we pay for theater/space rental, insurance, payroll services & payroll taxes, art supplies, website upkeep & technical help, flyer printing costs, outreach, studio rental (for recordings), and computer/office supply costs, among others.

When we divide these costs up among the likely number of attendees--and guessing some will be able to pay more, some less--we arrive at what it costs to run camp, averaged per attendee. We share this figure with you not so that you will pay this exact amount but so that you are plugged in to knowing what it takes to run this camp. We trust that you will take this in and balance it with your family's situation; and whether what you contribute is above, at, or below this level, we will accept your contribution in gratitude.

We recognize that it's possible to go Cadillac and spend a lot more money. For instance, we could get hand-sewn silk pantaloons made for each child with 300 jewels per outfit. But alluring as that might be, for us the true heart of the program is our children and their energy, our staff, and the show we offer. Fancy props, costumes, and sets might be nice, but aren't the main focus of our program.

Could we run the camp more economically? It is possible. We could have fewer staff, pay them less, or devote less time to creating what we believe are quality musicals. However, if we did so, we don't feel we could in integrity stand behind the camp experience we do today. We practice thrift where we're able; but it will always be important to us to hire the right people for the theater experience, bring a show and camp experience that welcomes children to joy and growth, and be able to offer this camp to families that for various reasons would not be able to pay the full cash amount it takes to run camp.

[Note: for those interested in the more detailed nuts and bolts, the more exact figures for running camp: if that information is helpful for you in coming to your contribution, send us a line, and we can send you a one-page overview of the costs associated either with the Oregon or Vermont camp]

So: again, we're inviting you to cognize what you feel this camp is worth to you, your children, and your family, work with your current life situation, and give to the camp in a way that feels in balance and integrity, both to your situation and to what you know of our camp costs.

While we're open to discussion of your individual family's contribution, or sharing more about camp costs / what feels good to both of us, we also respect your privacy should you wish to come to that on your own. Further, once you arrive at your contribution idea, we pledge on our end not to second-guess your figure, argue, or attempt to cajole you to pay more. We value this because one of the whole ideas here is to create and maintain an environment of mutual trust and respect.

However, once you've made a contribution plan, we ask that you stick to it unless that proves impossible. We ask this because we need to make our camp's financial decisions based on the contributions we anticipate coming in on the timeline that has been set up; if whimsical changes were to happen, that could upset what we've created and planned to do.

At camp we aim to be part of creating a world where there is a sense of there being enough, rather than scarcity; of resources being shared, rather than locked up or hoarded; and most importantly, everyone having a place at the table, and no one--really no beings--left behind.

With this system of contribution for camp, we hope we are moving one step closer to that world.