JCamp180, a philanthropic organization based in Massachusetts, is the reason why Ontario’s Camp Gesher has brand-new cabins and a much more sophisticated board of directors.
The organization, a program of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, better known for its PJ Library program, has a mission to make non-profit Jewish camps run like the million-dollar businesses that they are.
“Our camps need to compete with for-profit and non-Jewish camps,” said Mark Gold, JCamp180’s director. “We need to be running a more professional camp.”
Camps apply through a competitive process to receive mentoring and funding from JCamp180. “We’re looking for camps who are willing to do the hard work and look at their bylaws, their strategic processes,” says Gold.
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Camp Gesher was the first Canadian camp to be accepted over a decade ago, said director Shaul Zobary. Ten Canadian camps, and 105 in the United States, are now affiliated with JCamp180.
“They were able to mentor us, teach us how to get money from donations [and] how to restructure the board,” Zobary said.
JCamp180 provides matching funds for capital projects, and Camp Gesher has used the money to build new cabins and upgrade its drinking water system.
One of JCamp’s newest initiatives encourages camps to develop endowments from wills and bequests.
“It’s difficult to run campaigns that won’t pay off for 30 years,” acknowledges Gold. JCamp teaches camps how to ask for these bequests and also provides a financial incentive of up to $10,000 for camps that manage to do so.
Equally as valuable, JCamp180 and the New York-based Foundation for Jewish Camp have helped camp directors learn from each other.
“Camps used to be working alone, without any organization that supported them,” says Zobary. “Now we share information.”
Whether it’s asking his colleagues how much they pay for insurance or if they have a policy on sexual harassment, “now I send one email and get 20 back,” says Zobary.