NW camps reap rewards at Grinspoon Camp Conference
By DEBORAH MOON
article created on: 2010-12-15T00:00:00
Eleven leaders from B’nai B’rith Camp and Camp Solomon Schechter joined more than 325 leaders from some 80 Jewish overnight camps across the country for the Ninth Camp Conference, hosted by the Grinspoon Institute for Jewish Philanthropy Nov. 21-22. The focus was to engage Jewish camp leaders in the best practices for improving the long-term viability and success of Jewish camps across the nation.
Representing BB Camp, based in Portland with camp facilities near Lincoln City, were Executive Director Michelle Koplan, Development Director Michelle Caplan, and five lay leaders Irv Potter, Kyle Rotenberg, Felicia Rosenthal, Jaimie Harper and Steve Friedman. Representing Solomon Schechter, founded by Portland Rabbi Joshua Stampfer near Olympia, Wash., were Executive Director Sam Perlin, Development Associate Cheryl Puterman, Board President Donna Peha and Vice President David Schwartz.
The theme of this year’s conference was “Telling Our Stories,” designed to tap into the Jewish tradition of storytelling to help improve the Jewish overnight camping movement. In addition to keynote sessions, the conference included more than 20 breakout workshops, all drawing on storytelling.
“I was intrigued to see the ones (workshops) our lay leaders chose and how invigorated they got,” said Koplan.
Caplan added, “Having five lay leaders there gave them the opportunity to understand what is going on in the camping world and to inspire them to be more involved.”
But BB Camp leaders left not only with new information and energy, they also came home with a $10,000 check from the Grinspoon Foundation in recognition of the camp’s success in building a planned giving program.
“We now have 67 members, mostly couples, in our legacy program,” said Caplan. “Since we passed our last goal, we received a check for $10,000.”
The incentive grants for reaching mutually agreed upon donor pledges per year are just part of the Grinspoon Institute’s Camp Legacy Initiative, which also trains lay and staff leaders on planned giving solicitation and provides marketing and outreach resources.
Perlin said Solomon Schechter has not yet launched a Legacy program, but plans to do so soon with the support provided by the Grinspoon Foundation.
This year Perlin said the highlight of the conference for CSS participants was the opportunity to network, socialize and collaborate with other camps.
He said another highlight was “learning about how to tell our stories from CSS—With 57 summers there are a lot of success stories for CSS. … We learned of some best practices from other camps and also came to a place of great pride about all of the things CSS is doing right.”
Koplan said that a highlight for her was Brandeis Professor Amy Sales’ study revisiting the effects of Jewish summer camps. Koplan said that study once again showed how important Jewish camping is for children. She said the study also showed dramatic improvements and growth in professionalism in Jewish camps since the first study eight years earlier.
Koplan said that the Grinspoon Foundation has been a tremendous resource for BB Camp. She said when she and Potter first attended a Grinspoon camp conference about six years ago, Potter was so inspired by Harold Grinspoon’s description of the camperships he created in Massachusetts to provide incentives for first-time campers, that Potter launched a similar program for BB Camp. After that, Koplan said the foundation contacted her and said Grinspoon was interested in expanding his camp growth efforts outside his own state and wanted to aid BB Camp. Since then the foundation has provided BB Camp with incentive grants and matching grants for capacity building, both of which the foundation now does on a national basis.
According to a foundation press release, during the past five years, Grinspoon has committed $10.6 million in matching grants and more than $7 million in consulting services to help Jewish camps raise money, improve facilities and technology and grow attendance. As a result, the camps have raised another $50 million on their own to be used for capital improvements, expansion and endowments. Working in partnership with the Foundation for Jewish Camp, the Grinspoon Institute has helped Jewish camp attendance grow from 43,000 in 2004 to 70,000 campers across the nation today.
Both BB Camp and Solomon Schechter have benefited from the capacity building matching grants said Koplan and Perlin.
“Our campers have increased over the past several years; In fact, we have reached capacity, and last summer we had over 50 kids on the waitlist,” said Koplan. “We have embarked on a physical master plan expansion project to build capacity over the next 10 plus years. We’re just breaking ground on our first new cabins. So exciting! Once the master plan is complete, we’ll have added many more beds for campers, totaling 256 campers.”
“Camp Solomon Schechter has gone through many changes over the last 10 years when 10 years ago registration was at an all time high,” said Perlin. “Camp has in the last three years since I have taken the helm increased its camper numbers each year. Last summer we had 540 campers and our goal is to continue to grow.”
“With the recent success of our Grinspoon campaign, CSS has begun to renovate its cabins and add new and exciting things to camp,” said Perlin. “CSS is committed to creating the best facilities for a 600 camper experience.”
“A new challenge course, sports facilities and waterfront have given the camp a great boost,” added Perlin. “The Harold Grinspoon Foundation has helped CSS tremendously toward this cause as has the Sam Israel Foundation in Seattle and our other generous donors. … The camper population has gotten much more diverse with campers attending from many different socio economic backgrounds, religious denominations and geographic locations. Camp Solomon Schechter is an independent camp with its roots in Conservative Judaism.”
Caplan said that she stayed after the conclusion of the main conference to participate in special session for the 15 development directors participating in the Grinspoon Institute Fundraiser’s Training. At the extended session, Caplan said she shared her work on expanding BB Camp’s alumni association. Caplan said the year-long GIFT program has given her the tools to be a successful camp development professional.
“In all my years in Jewish communal work, this is the first time I’ve felt there is a resource outside my office I can turn to,” said Caplan. “We have a support network we can share and work with.”