Creating Special Moments of Gratitude

Do you ever ignore a call when you don’t recognize the phone number? I confess, I do. And most times I’m right: it’s usually a telemarketer or a random call to give to this political cause or another. But last week, my ignored call left me with an awesome voice message. Trust me, it’s worth a listen:

Like many of you, I was inspired by the tenacity of our friends at Shalom Institute in Malibu, following the destruction of their camp by the Woolsey Fire in November and I made a gift. I give to several different organizations, but rarely do I get this sort of lovely response!

The Story Behind that Fantastic Message

I asked Marsha Katz Rothpan, Director of Development at Shalom Institute, the home of Camp JCA Shalom, to tell me how this call came to be. She explained that this was part of an organized Thank-A-Thon. Because of the devastating fires, Hanukkah Family Fun Day and the annual Hanukkah-thon (Phone-A-Thon raising funds for camper scholarship) were cancelled. It felt right to instead gather together a group of people and thank the annual and wildfire relief fund donors, regardless of the gift size – approximately 900 donors for whom they had phone numbers. "It just felt right,” Marsha said. 

Not only the donors felt the impact of the Thank-A-Thon. Shalom Institute used the opportunity to further build a culture of philanthropy: they invited key friends of the organization to get together and make calls. This included a few campers, board members, volunteers and some staff. Helping with the Thank-A-Thon was a way that a small group of people made a difference and gave back to their camp.

How Was the Thank-A-Thon Organized?

The day started with a welcome from the Executive Director (Rabbi Bill Kaplan), Camp JCA Shalom Director (Joel Charnick), President (Gil Breakman) and a few words from Marsha. But their Development Assistant Maia Erickson managed the bulk of the Thank-A-Thon. She lived at camp and lost everything in the fires; she is especially passionate about Shalom Institute and the effort to support and rebuild the camp. After the welcome, Maia reviewed with the callers the materials she created for the day, including an overview of the Thank-A-Thon and a caller script. There was also a group of campers and parents who spent time writing thank you notes to be included with formal letters being mailed.

What Was the Response to the Phone Calls?

“I'm blown away at being thanked"

"This call made my day!”

"Even though I was only there for one summer, camp had an enormous impact on my life”

It turns out I wasn’t the only one who found the phone call moving. Some donors were surprised they received a call because they couldn’t afford to give as much as they would have liked. Some said the call gave them “the best feeling” and that it made it “the best day.” Many donors got very emotional on the phone. Others asked if they could make their donation an automated monthly gift; if they could be sent an appeal letter so they could give again; or how to find out if they could get their employer to match their gift!

What Does this Mean for YOUR Camp?

This was another experience showing the enormous power of gratitude. As we start 2019, think about how you and your camp can show gratitude to your donors in a meaningful way.

Written by Laurie Herrick. Laurie is a mentor for JCamp 180, and director of GIFT and the GIFT Leadership Institute, professional courses designed to build a culture of philanthropy at camps. The emphasis of her work is empowering organizations to cause breakthroughs in the ways they think, plan, collaborate, relate to supporters, lead, and fundraise.

Who we are: JCamp 180 is a program of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation (HGF). Our goal is to significantly enhance the long-term effectiveness of nonprofit Jewish camps in North America. To meet this goal, we provide affiliated Jewish camps with consulting services, annual conferences, shared resources, professional development, and matching grant opportunities. Find more at