“You Can’t Do It Alone” - Camp Ramah in the Poconos Reboots Its Legacy Efforts

Has your camp Legacy program stagnated? Learn from how Camp Ramah in the Poconos revitalized their efforts

You can’t do it alone. If there’s a development director or camp professional who thinks they can revitalize and reboot their legacy program alone, they aren’t being realistic. It takes a team of development staff and committed lay leadership.”
– Missy Stein, Development Director at Camp Ramah in the Poconos.

In 2016, Missy Stein and her team undertook the task of revitalizing and rebooting their legacy program. Their successful efforts may provide some guidance for other camps that seek to do the same. Here’s their story.

Camp Ramah in the Poconos operates both an overnight Jewish camp in Lakewood, PA and a day camp located in Elkins Park, PA, 170 miles to the south. The overnight camp has been in existence for close to 70 years and the day camp just over 20 years. In 2010, the camp leadership and board of directors committed to participate in JCamp 180’s 3-year-long Camp Legacy Training Program. The leadership team formed a camp legacy team, and following an intensive training session, wrote a case statement, a stewardship plan, and committed themselves to the goals of the Camp legacy program. They launched their legacy program that same year, and began seeking the after-life commitments that were the heart of the program.  After three years, the camp had succeeded in enrolling 68 members into its legacy society, an achievement for which they received the Grinspoon Foundation incentive of $25,000. 

As many camps can relate to, over the course of the following years, Ramah’s legacy team lost its luster with competing development priorities moving to the forefront. The legacy team disbanded, the all-important stewardship waned, and the legacy program faltered. Changing board membership and staff forgot, or never knew, why legacy was so important to the camp’s stability.

In 2014, Missy Stein was hired as development director for Camp Ramah in the Poconos. Working as a one-person development department, along with her JCamp 180 mentor Klara Grape, she established a development plan that would be consistent with Ramah in the Poconos’ strategic plan. Following Klara’s death, JCamp 180 mentor Julia Riseman became Missy’s support in the revitalization of the Legacy program. 

Missy worked with Julia to create a development plan that would be consistent with Ramah Poconos’ strategic plan insuring continuity by setting goals for Today, Tomorrow, and Forever.  The annual campaign, the capital campaign, and the legacy campaign became the focal points of the development plan. 

One of the priorities of the development plan was revitalizing the legacy program, and a subcommittee was formed that included lay leaders Vivian Barnett, Rachel Gross, and Nathan Relles. A full-time development assistant was hired, and one of the first goals of the subcommittee was to name the legacy society. 

Hebrew language plays an important role at Camp Ramah in the Poconos and all agreed that the word, Moreshet, meaning legacy, should be incorporated into the name. Thus, the Moreshet Ramah Legacy Society was born, and a logo was created. The next step was to design a brochure that conveyed the message of the Moreshet Ramah Legacy Society and explained how to become a member. 

With a logo and brochure in hand, and with the support of their JCamp 180 mentor, the team set its sights on returning to excellence in stewardship. Adhering to the concepts of care, share, invite, and honor, multiple touches with the Moreshet Ramah Legacy Society were implemented. 

The simplest and first touch point was sending personal Rosh Hashanah cards to each legacy society member. The second, and more challenging, step was revamping the letter of intent and creating a gift confirmation form. But before the subcommittee could send out the brochures and the gift confirmation letters, they realized that they needed to get 100% board participation as members of the Moreshet Ramah Legacy Society.

Missy noted, “Before you can effectively reach out to the broader community, you must get commitments from your board of directors who are your leaders. They have to be educated not only for them to join the legacy society, but also for them to fully understand what it entails so they can have confidence when sharing the message.”

When Visiting Day arrived last summer, a Moreshet Ramah Legacy Society table was there to greet everyone and give out “Proud Legacy Society Member” stickers.

Each Moreshet Ramah Legacy Society member received a Hanukkah gift and personal note this year thanking them for their support in endowing a future for Ramah in the Poconos. 

There is still a lot of work to be done, but now the Moreshet Ramah Legacy Society has moved from the back to the front burner as part of Camp Ramah in the Poconos’ three-part development plan – Today, Tomorrow, and Forever. With an active development committee, a full-time development staff, and a legacy society subcommittee all working together, the possibilities are endless.

Missy Stein will participate and present in the JCamp 180 webinar “Reboot Your Program” on January 18th, 2018. We welcome you to attend and hear first hand from Missy Stein - Development Director Camp Ramah in the Poconos, Elli Krandel - Manager Sustainability and Engagement Beber Camp, Perlman Camp, and the Perlman Retreat Center, and Julia Riseman - Mentor JCamp 180. 

Get started now on revitalizing and revamping your legacy program!