Last week I had the opportunity to work with the leaders of a resident camp in the midst of their summer camping season.
After navigating the curvy, narrow roads leading to the camp, I arrived just in time to watch groups of campers and counselors leaving breakfast and heading out to their morning activities. Their faces beamed with excitement and anticipation.
In between meetings throughout the day, I seized opportunities to interact with the campers and counselors whenever possible. They were eager to regale me with stories about swamp hikes, stargazing, kayaking, and more. Even the temperature of the lake water and the best options on the salad bar were hot topics that day.
As I drove home, I reflected on what a great day it had been for me. I hadn’t been on site at a resident camp during their summer camp season in several years. For me the experience was renewing and energizing. Witnessing the camp’s mission in action, even briefly, clearly reminded me why I chose a career working for nonprofit organizations, and now working as a part of the DBD team helping nonprofits become stronger.
A few days later, still basking in the magic of my recent camp experience, I recalled a nature activity from my camp days. We called the activity “A Bug’s Eye View.” It involved setting up opportunities for campers to see and experience the world through the eyes of other creatures. Through the activity, campers learned that looking at things from a different point of view can help them appreciate those things in a completely different way.
Instead of visiting camp that day in the role of an administrator, evaluator, parent or board member, I was able to get the “Camper’s Eye View.” The campers’ perspective shed a new light on the important, life-changing mission of summer camp and made a profound impression on me. It was something I had intellectualized, but hadn’t actually felt, for years.
If you could use a reminder of why you do what you do (and who doesn’t?), I propose that you consider getting out of your office, immerse yourself in your organization’s mission by taking a “Bug’s Eye View” Day this summer. Your passion for your nonprofit’s mission will be renewed and you will most likely have extra energy for your work. At the very least, you will have some great new mission-in-action stories to share.
Here are a few suggestions to help you maximize your “Bug’s Eye View” Day:
- Clear your calendar for the day.
- Dress appropriately. (i.e. no business suits or name tags)
- Leave your phone, tablet, laptop and briefcase at home. (I know its scary, but can help to avoid distractions)
- Go alone. (Again, avoid distractions.)
- Experience your mission from the perspective of those you serve. Take a class, visit with clients in the waiting room, play (don’t lead) a game, help a group of volunteers, etc.
- Do your very best to avoid slipping into your professional role. In other words, don’t use this particular day to evaluate front line staff, inspect facilities, make notes, etc.
- Participate, mingle and reconnect with your organization’s mission from the “Client/ Camper/Member/Congregant’s Eye View.”
As we all know, it is the responsibility of every nonprofit leader to advocate for your mission and to inspire others to join you in realizing it. Regularly renewing your commitment to your mission is crucial to renewing your passion and sustaining your ability to do that.
A special thanks to the YMCA Camp Eberhart campers for inspiring this blog!