New Opportunities for Connection in a Time of Physical Distancing

Photo by Jude Beck on Unsplash

Sometimes when faced with a crisis we panic. We have to shake ourselves out of our stupor and remember how, over the years, we’ve put in place structures and actions to build a sustainable organization. You made a visionary strategic plan, you set goals, and you took daily small steps to build a strong organization. These small steps  may feel irrelevant at this point, but they aren’t. Of course, we can’t know what the future holds, but some of the practices you put in place, or hoped to put into place, make total sense now. 

One of those steps includes connecting one on one with your supporters. No, I don’t mean face to face meetings. I mean personalized connections.

Remember:  In a Culture of Philanthropy, your supporters are partners with you and the organization - be sure they feel that way! 

Here are four relationship building actions you and your team can take to make sure your funders don’t forget you and your camp.  If you are a development professional or Executive Director, you can organize board members or staff to each do a small part of these tasks from home:

1. Write cards. Pull out a package of blank cards and write a few personal notes. Ask people how they are doing. How are their families? Write a small paragraph in your own voice about how things are going at your camp (that you can use in each card). It’s fine to say that it is hard, and also good to let people know what you are working on toward camper and alumni engagement. What new initiatives have you launched? 

2. Make phone calls. Pick up the phone and reach out to some of your more isolated donors. How are they doing? Is there anything they need? Take the time to really listen to them and get to know them a bit. Be sure that whatever you learn about their concerns or their passions gets captured in your database. Again, let them know how your agency is fairing. It’s fine to acknowledge that it’s a difficult time. Share what you’ve learned and how you are moving forward.

3. Have the Executive Director record a video and share it with funders. Do NOT have this be an ask at this time (more on when to ask coming soon!). The purpose of this communication is to connect people to the vision and maintain confidence in camp leadership. The ED should thank your donors for all that they’ve done to support camp. Explain, as the visionary leader, how you are moving forward, despite the circumstances. Jewish camp is a year round community. Show how you are engaging families, campers and alumni now! Tell them that you will continue to keep them in the loop as things progress. Give them a way to reach you if they have questions or ideas. 

4. Gather and share stories widely. There are two types of stories. Those that you have from prior camp years and those which are current. Both types should be part of your communications to donors. Have them see videos from camp that illustrate how fun it is. When you hear from campers or staff about what it might be like if camp doesn’t happen - share those stories. Camp is a meaningful part of the growth and development of the children in your community. Let your community see that and understand how difficult it would be if your program did not happen. 

Have any other ideas for connecting with your donors during this crisis? Let me know about them!

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