Board's Role During Camp

By Julia Riseman, Mentor, JCamp 180

Camp is in full swing. Professional staff members and counselors are swimming in the day-to-day details of camp. But what can Board members do to make this the most successful camp season ever ... and ensure many camp seasons to come?

First, get out of the way, but don't walk away. As a Board member you know to leave the day-to-day operations of camp to the professionals. But there are some very specific, important, and hands-on things you can do during the summer that will make a difference.

Here are 10 ways Board members can stay involved this summer:

  1. Support your professional staff. Email them with good wishes for the summer, and check in on how things are going (but don't expect a quick reply!). Most importantly, let them know you support them in this important work. More specifically, if you are the Board President, be sure you have an agreed upon schedule and system for regular communication with the Camp (Executive) Director the over the summer, and plan on a visit to camp at least once this summer.
  2. Keep working. The most important thing a Board can do over the summer is keep the momentum going on all Board-related projects: strategic planning; development; succession planning; etc. Keep active over the summer on whatever Board committee you serve on. In addition, the summer is good time to informally connect with other Board members and strengthen your connection and get to know members better. Get together over a cup of coffee, or just talk over the phone.
  3. Attend planned events: including visiting day, alumni gatherings, anniversary events, etc. Introduce yourself as a Board member, schmooze, and build relationships. Your attendance, as a Board member, makes a statement. For example, you can take part in local bus departures to camp. Wear a name tag - with "Board Member" on it. Introduce yourself to parents, and thank them for entrusting their children to your camp. It will make a positive impression.
  4. Open the door to new support. Offer to help invite, transport, and host a prospective major donor or Foundation/Federation representative for the day up at camp. Sometimes all it takes is a personal invitation to motivate someone to come to camp during the busy summer and see with their own eyes the magic of Jewish Camp.
  5. Thank your donors! You can volunteer to write personal notes to donors, updating them about the ongoing summer and thanking them for their support. Sign the note as a Board member.
  6. Ask about the wish list. Do the counselors have a wish list for items they still would love to have up at camp? Last week I read an email from camp staff requesting donations of used board games, musical instruments, and additional art supplies. If they don't have a wish list this year, surprise the counselors with a gift basket of goodies for the staff room.
  7. Review the Board's role in responding to an emergency. The Board President should review the emergency plans with the Camp (Executive) Director each summer. Double-check that you understand camp's communication plan and what is expected of you as a Board member during an emergency.
  8. Meet at Camp. The Board should consider holding a Board meeting or Board weekend retreat at camp during the summer. Holding the Board meeting while camp is in session is worth the extra time, travel, and effort - since it brings Board members in close contact with the mission of the organization. Here we see, feel, hear, and experience for ourselves the impact of Jewish Camp on the lives of children and young adults.
  9. Represent Camp in the community. During the summer, camp staff leadership cannot attend Jewish community programs or family events to represent and promote camp, but you can. You can help raise the visibility of Jewish Camp by attending events, introducing yourself as a Board member, and explaining why Jewish Camp makes a difference. (See Camp Works from the Foundation for Jewish Camp for ideas on what to say.)
  10. Promote camp! Use your online social networks to share images and stories from camp. "Like" camp on Facebook. Tell your friends why you support your camp. Spread the word!

In conclusion, as a Board member, you are an ambassador and a high ranking representative of the camp. Your individual involvement - what you say, what you do, and where you show up over the summer - makes a statement. Collectively, the Board is an incredible resource for the big picture of camp: looking ahead strategically; ensuring the financial health of the camp; and building relationships with donors and prospects that will help sustain the camp long after the current Board term ends. This important work doesn't stop just because camp starts.

Thank you for all you do in support of Jewish Camp, and enjoy the summer!