I didn’t invent the rainy day, man. I just own the best umbrella.
- Almost Famous
Summer 2022 is presenting new and different challenges to camps, and camps are finding innovative ways to address these issues. Thank you to Jamie Simon, CEO of Camp Tawonga for taking time to speak with us about how the six nonprofit Jewish California Bay Area camps are collaborating to address challenges. Read on for the main ideas from our conversation.
What can you share about your cooperation with the local Jewish camps?
About 5 years ago, the San Francisco federation created the Bay Area Camp Collective, which is all the local camps meeting quarterly with our local federation to think about what are the challenges facing us, and how can we share resources to overcome them.
We really don’t see each other as competition, we see each other as making the greater community better, and that there is a different Jewish camp for different kids…There’s plenty of kids to go around and we want all kids to go to Jewish summer camps even if it’s not our own.
Do you work with any other local camps or agencies?
We have a neighborhood roundtable right before the summer where we bring together all the local camps…Jewish and non-Jewish - it’s all the local camps [and] local emergency services. To think about how can we be good neighbors. How do we want to support each other through the good times and the bad times. I think it’s a real gift as we’ve had challenges that we’ve had such amazing relationships with the other camps that have really come through when we’ve needed them and hopefully they feel the same about us when they’ve needed us.
Don't Reinvent the Wheel - Sharing Resources
What are some examples of resources that you share?
[We]…share marketing resources, fundraising resources, staffing resources, so we all can thrive…We are constantly helping each other through really good communication and support.
Note: Are you looking for communications templates or examples or have examples to share with your peers? Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org - we are updating a resource bank of communications to share with the field.
How does sharing staff among camps work?
During the hiring season, let’s say Camp Tawonga has filled all of our counselor spots and we still have counselor applications, we will send them to [another local Jewish camp]. Because we just want them to get to go to a camp.
We’ll also advertise for each other…If another camp has an open spot we advertise it to our community as well…making sure very camp has the staff they need.
This summer, Tawonga was short because a lot of our staff had COVID – about 15 staff had COVID. And so we called up the local camps and [URJ Camp] Newman and JCC Maccabi Sports Camp sent us some staff. Maccabi Sports Camp started a week after us, Newman had some extra folks. And so we just borrowed them for a week and [then] they go back to their camps.
Can you tell us some examples of when staff has been shared among camps during camp?
In 2013, we had a tragedy at camp, and a lot of our staff went home. And [URJ Camp] Newman sent us a bunch of staff for a weekend and they came up and filled in so our staff could mourn and go to the funeral and be a community and they sent us a bunch of counselors for the weekend and they went back to Newman.”
What about salary, training, supervision, and other details?
[Staff] go through any of our trainings and they are well-trained. Whether they have been through Tawonga’s training or any of the local camps, they have the skills to do good work and so we don’t have to train them from scratch. We can give them a little of the nuances or differences, but mostly it is very similar and transferable. If we hire someone for a week for example, we pay them. And we supervise them while they are here. If they go back to a different camp then their camp pays them the other parts of the summer.
Do you have any additional thoughts for other camps who want to cooperate with their peer camps?
The best advice I can give is when one of us is thriving, we are all thriving. When one of us is struggling, we are all struggling. And that we’re in this together…So if someone needs staff, we need to share staff. And if someone needs communications, we need to share communications. And if someone needs an ear to listen to, we need to be that ear.
I really see the whole camping movement as a gift we’re giving the world. And that it’s not like one of us needs to succeed more than others…I want us all to succeed. And that means sometimes giving staff, sometimes giving a hug. It can be basic or big, but we’re all better when we help each other.
Who we are: JCamp 180 is a program of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation (HGF). JCamp 180 invests in the long-term organizational effectiveness of nonprofit Jewish camps to ensure our community’s future and connection to Judaism. We partner with professional staff, lay leadership, movements, and allied organizations to inspire a culture that promotes philanthropic support by focusing on strategic planning, governance, and fundraising, and providing matching grants, consulting services, professional development, and research. Find more at www.jcamp180.org