The Board of Trustees of the Farm & Wilderness and Ninevah Foundations met in our quarterly meeting October 23-24, 2021. Although we were (still!) virtual, the October meeting is usually a joyful one, and this year was no exception. It was wonderful to be with the camp directors as well as most of our year-round staff.
Camp directors had two main themes to their reports. This was the hardest summer ever, with significant challenges to both camper and staff resilience due to the COVID restrictions we had in place. At the same time, the magic was alive, each camp’s spirit prevailed, and we met our One Goal: healthy, safe, and fun camps. Trustees shared their deep gratitude to our Camp Directors and their summer staff, as well as our Re-Opening Task Force, and other year-round staff who hard work made this summer happen..
The summary of 2021 from Frances was that we will end the year well by several measures. Specifically, safe, healthy and fun camps for campers and staff; financial strength due to enrollment and annual giving; strengthening F&W’s culture and operating capacity; and continuing to build our marketing foundations. Emerging 2022 goals include fully-enrolled camps with enough seasonal staff to run high quality programs, and building to long-term financial sustainability. Trustees heard more from Frances on each of these topics, and how our crack Leadership Team is approaching our 2022 goals. For instance,
- I hope that you have found the time to explore our beautiful and functional new website. Staff’s intention was to make it more user-friendly, especially to families who don’t yet know us but are interested in Vermont summer camps.
- Along with returning to full capacity in each of our camps, Development has launched a wrap-around campership program that will help increase our racial, ethnic, and socio-economic diversity. It will explicitly support BIPOC, low-, and moderate-income families with more than campership awards (for instance, equipment and greater help for families who may not have transportation to visit their child’s camp).
- In order to ensure all of our camps have the seasonal staff they need to operate high quality programs, we will increase our recruiting efforts and better communicate the benefits of working at our camps, with a focus on developing skills for life. Our goal is to have hundreds of skilled applicants for our 200 seasonal staff positions.
- Speaking of staff, our management team will also be hiring directors for SAM and Tamarack Farm, and navigating the IB/BDC transition as Polly Williams can only spend 2022 directing both camps. Staff and Trustees are excited for the relaunch of TF this summer, and Frances’ Program Team will be assessing that program as we go.
- In light of specific post-camp comments from families, Frances shared our systems and processes when campers depart early from camp, and improvements that the team will make to these processes so there is greater focus on ongoing communications with families after their child leaves camp.
The rest of the meeting was devoted to the Board’s functioning. We looked at a draft of the new mission statement (not yet ready for prime time); we heard from our Board Stewardship Committee and our HR Committee about work they’re engaged in at this time of year. We had an especially compelling discussion about the size and composition of our Board itself.
It’s hard to believe that the Board has been operating virtually since April of 2020. Some of us have never met each other in person. Half of the Board (eight of us) had never experienced an October Board meeting at which we heard from camp directors. We’ve adjusted amazingly, and are so grateful to both seasonal and year-round staff for their dedication and work above-and-beyond. We’ll be back (virtually…) in early February.
In the Light,