Revitalizing and Renewing

Preparing for a Comprehensive Campaign

Located on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness of Northern Minnesota, YMCA Camp du Nord has been gathering families and groups on the shores of Lake Burntside for 60+ years.

As Camp looked to the future, they determined they wanted to improve many of their facilities, acquire a neighboring parcel of land, and, most importantly, endow Camp with resources for the future. While growth wasn’t their priority, renewing and revitalizing Camp was.

With this strategic vision, Executive Director Niki Geisler and the Board of Directors determined that they needed to move forward with a campaign.

At that same time, Niki became aware of a special Capital Readiness learning opportunity for camps provided through YMCA of the USA. Camp du Nord was accepted to the first cohort group in 2015.

The cohort, facilitated by DBD Group in partnership with Y-USA, helped du Nord refine its case for support and identify top prospects for both donations and campaign leadership. It also taught best practices for planning and executing a major campaign.

Following the 10-month cohort process, Camp du Nord retained DBD to conduct a feasibility study on their proposed campaign goal and projects. Through that study, conducted in the spring of 2016, it was determined that Camp had the support to move forward, plus additional leadership and donor prospects were identified.


“The way DBD Group helped Niki design the campaign was powerful. People were invited to tell their stories about camp in one-on-one conversations, community events, small groups, and gatherings behind the Dining Hall. These conversations were about PASSION — how camp has helped us raise our children to be ethical, compassionate people with a love for the natural world; how camp has connected us with people with whom we’d never otherwise known; how camp offers an experience of community.  We make decisions about our time and resources with emotional information, and the campaign successfully connected our emotional tie to camp with the giving of our time and talent.”  

Devon Anderson, Community Campaign Chair

A Not-So-Quiet Phase

Camp kicked off its campaign in a “quiet” phase in February 2017. Niki and her team used summer time effectively by hosting weekly ‘listening sessions’ on the dining hall deck with du Nord families, explaining the long-range vision for camp and answering questions. These casual conversations with committed families planted seeds for future fundraising support.

Over the course of the next two years, gifts and resources were secured from a variety of sources, including individual donors, foundations and even through a State of Minnesota grant in partnership with the MN Land Trust. Some of the capital projects were funded right away and construction began, even as some of the other projects were still part of the on-going campaign.


Leaders Make the Difference

In the fall of 2018, the campaign went public, and through a combination of special events, direct response and one-on-one asks, Camp du Nord completed the campaign successfully, celebrating their victory in February 2019.

At DBD, we often say “leadership is everything” and that was certainly true in for Camp du Nord. Niki recruited great volunteers. The Campaign Steering Committee was co-chaired by Kimberly Scott and Skip Wilke. They met monthly for strategy planning with the exception of the summer months during which they implemented a ‘summer engagement plan’. She also recruited a very effective Community Campaign committee, chaired by Devon Anderson, which took the lead for the campaign in the fall of 2018.

One of the most meaningful parts of this campaign was that one of the campaign co-chairs, Skip Wilke, who had been a devoted supporter of Camp du Nord for decades, lost his battle with cancer during the campaign. His early gift helped galvanize the campaign in the early going. But it was his legacy gift that will truly help support camp for generations to come.

Through this process, the du Nord staff and volunteers exhibited both courageous vision and a steady commitment to take the next right step, overcoming challenges and helping secure the future for Camp du Nord.

YMCA Camp du Nord outdoor chapel
“The stars truly aligned for us during this campaign. Through the support of DBD Group, we were well positioned and prepared to follow a thorough plan. Their staff were with us every step of the way, helping us share our story in creative and powerful ways. The strength and support of the volunteer leadership team, however, was truly what led to the success of this record-breaking campaign for du Nord. DBD is right, leadership IS everything, and we were blessed with phenomenal leaders. Our generous community responded with tremendous support and we are incredibly proud of the campaign results.”

Niki Geisler,
Vice President of Camping, YMCA of the North