An Open Letter to all new Board members of Jewish Summer Camps of North America

Dear new Board member,

Thank you.

Thank you for stepping up to bring your leadership, wisdom, and dedication to your favorite Jewish camp. What you do during your term of board service will improve the lives of Jewish children, shape memories for a lifetime, and bring new joy to living Jewishly.

Your volunteer service can have a positive impact for generations to come. The best way to ensure that happens is to approach your board service with a strategy.

Here at JCamp 180, a program of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, we are eager to support you in your lay leadership. We are available to provide you with guidance, training, resources, and advice at no cost to your camp.

In return we urge you to work hard and smart on behalf of Jewish camp.

Here are our Top 10 Tips for you as you begin to serve on your camp's Board or Camp Committee:

1. Get Oriented - This should include a Board member job description, Board Handbook including all Board policies, a review of the organization's financial standing and budget, a copy of the most recent strategic plan, and a review of the current issues facing the Board. If your camp isn't able to provide such a thorough orientation, volunteer to create a task force to create one for all future Board members as your first assignment on the Board.

2. Find a Buddy - Some camp Boards set up a buddy system connecting experienced Board members with new Board members. But even without a formal system, you should make it a priority to meet with an experienced Board member informally outside of Board meetings for coffee and discussion. You will be more effective sooner if you establish relationships and connections with existing Board members from the start.

3. Make a Pledge - All nonprofit Jewish camps expect that 100% of the Board members will give a meaningful donation every year of Board service. As a Board member consider making camp one of your top three philanthropic committments each year. A monthly giving program allows you to make a larger pledge and budget your payments so camp can put your donation to work right way for scholarships and other important resources.

4. Join a Committee - Don't wait for an assignment to get involved - find out which Board committees are active and doing interesting work. Board members consistently rate committee service as more rewarding than Board service. So look for a project to sink your teeth into that is clearly defined, will help the organization, and where you personally can make a positive impact.

5. Visit Camp over the Summer - Some camps are far away from our places of work, but make sure you visit camp in session for a tour to see the program in action. Feel free to ask lots of questions about any and all aspects of the program. Ask about systems for emergencies. Ask about problems with facilities and capital improvement plans for the future.

6. Use Your Clout - Your new title of "Board Member" is powerful, so put it to work in your community. Wear your name tag and title when attending camp visiting day, alumni gatherings, anniversary events, fundraising events for camp, etc. Offer to write personal thank you notes to donors or make thank you calls, and identify yourseld as a Board member. Raise the visibility of camp by attending Jewish community programs or family events and introducing yourself as a camp Board member, and explaining why Jewish camp makes a difference. Include your Board service in your résumé, CV, and LinkedIn profile.

7. Open Doors - You'll be surprised how other will follow your lead and will donate to camp if you personally ask for their help. You can open the door to new prospective donors to camp and help more children experience Jewish camp with more scholarship funds by connecting your good friends and networks to camp.

8. Promote camp - Use your online social networks to share images and stories from camp. "Like" your camp on Facebook and engage with their posts (if appropriate). Tell your friends why you support camp. Word-of-mouth is our most powerful marketing tool - spread the word!

9. Read up on Jewish Camp - Read the research on the impact of Jewish camp at the Foundation of Jewish Camp. Read your camp's website and history. Be able to tell anyone, in your own words, why Jewish camp is important, and what makes your camp special. Request the most recent parent and staff survey results to learn what the camp is doing well, and what can be improved. Check out the JCamp 180 Knowledge Center for resources and help.

10. Attend Jewish Camp Conferences - JCamp 180 has a free annual two-day conference in Springfield, MA for lay leaders and camp professionals to support you in your work in Jewish camp governance, strategic planning, fundraising, and technology. Our next one will be on October 27-29, 2019. Also, the Foundation for Jewish Camp holds a conference every other year for the wider Jewish camp world. And take part in our free JCamp 180 webinars throughout the year on a variety of topics for camp Boards and professional staff.




JCamp 180 Staff and Mentors...and Jewish campers everywhere!