The Nonprofit Marketing Blog

Reboot with These 6 Summer Camp Strategies

Our daughter Charlotte’s world right now is probably familiar to many of you.

She’s in the middle of a blissful summer at a few different day and overnight camps. At the end of every day, her mind and creativity are stimulated, she’s made new friends, and she sleeps soundly with a smile on her face. Charlotte finishes the summer inspired, energized, and smarter than ever.

As a longtime overnight camper myself, I greatly envy her. Finally, this summer I decided to follow her summer camp strategy lead and am doing something completely different from the everyday. I’m taking a two-month sabbatical to refresh and restore—my first-ever break beyond a brief vacation since I rushed out of college to work.

For many, however, a sabbatical isn’t possible, so I wanted to outline effective approaches used by fellow nonprofit staffers and consultants. I became a reboot detective, determined to find what’s working since rebooting is so valuable and so productive in teeing you up for a great fall and beyond.

I did what I typically do when I’m looking for answers—ask my friends and colleagues. Here are some of the fantastic approaches I heard from our peers in the field:

Seek a different point of view. Gillian Ream Gainsley, who works in communications and development at the Ypsilanti District Library in Michigan, does something very surprising.

“My summer camp plan is to go to overnight camp. Literally. I’m on the board of a summer camp and spend a week volunteering there every year. It’s the most rejuvenating part of my year,” Gillian says.

“Mostly, it’s a fantastic break. But I do communications for a youth organization, so it’s a great way to take a deep dive into how kids talk and think and feel. You have a much better sense of what their (and their parents’) needs are after a week of 24-hour interaction at camp.”

Get together and get outside. Caroline Avakian, founder of Source Rise, which connects journalists with experts in international development, spends more time outdoors and with her family. “Not only is it necessary, but I find that it fuels my work and creativity, making me much more productive during my work time,” she says.

Make a commitment to doing summer differently. Unless you’re lucky enough to actually go to summer camp, as Gillian does, it can be super hard to pry yourself away from the day-to-day routine, no matter how much you want to. That’s where I often fall.

You’re much more likely to succeed in getting to your own version of summer camp if you formalize your commitment. I did so by telling a few close friends and colleagues about my plan and asking them to keep me honest. My husband is good at policing as well!

I’m not alone here. “I have to consciously cut down on work hours to do that,” admits Caroline. “But it’s worth it since my productivity shoots up when I do get down to business. I tend to goal-set instead of clocking in my hours, so as long as I feel I’ve met my goals, I’m happy. That said, my ‘summer camp’ goals tend to be more focused on strategic priorities and organization. That focus gears me up and preps me for the busy fall season.”

Take a new approach to the same old. Danielle Brigida, senior manager of social strategy and integration for the National Wildlife Federation, is one of the most creative people I know. She brings that creativity to the way she tackles her work, including her own version of summer camp.

Like most of us, a lot of Danielle’s day is spent tackling ongoing challenges. Although the challenges themselves don’t vary wildly, she spices up the way she approaches them: “I break out the sidewalk chalk and the Idea Frisbee in the summer. I grab whomever I’m working with, and I just toss the Frisbee around when we need to think up clever names or ideas around campaigns. We find that moving while we brainstorm really helps.”

Work your body, nourish your soul. Many of the folks I spoke with increase their physical activity when summer comes around or add seasonal treats like biking and waterskiing.

Danielle, for example, goes way beyond the Idea Frisbee. “I went out on a limb and signed up for a marathon in Iceland in late August,” she says. “So I’m mostly training for that and spending as much time outside as I can. I also try to balance the running with yoga.”

Connect with peers in the field to build satisfaction and smarts. Graphic designer Julia Reich uses summer’s slight dip in her firm’s client work to build relationships with other nonprofit marketers and, she hopes, find some strong strategic alliances.

How will you get a little summer camp this summer? Please chime in with your comments to share how you recharge and look at things differently.

With refreshing practicality, Nancy Schwartz rolls up her sleeves to help nonprofits develop and implement strategies to build the strong relationships that inspire key supporters to action. She shares her deep nonprofit marketing insights—and passion—through consulting, speaking, and her popular blog and e-news at GettingAttention.org.

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Linda Lombardi
Content Manager

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