Camp Stewardship – We need S’more of it!

by Gwen Tolman on September 1, 2017

Fundraising is tough; there is no getting around that. As a professional fundraiser, you have many different duties to be successful at your job: you are a relationship builder/manager, coordinator of staff engagement, manager of volunteers’ fundraising efforts (sometimes that includes board members), you are a record keeper and grant writer. The list could go on and on depending on the programs you support.


One of my favorite things about being a fundraiser is stewardship. This is probably the thing I love most about my job. I mean, who doesn’t like to be recognized and thanked for their donation?

It is your job to put a smile on a donor or volunteer’s face to let them know the impact they have had on your campaign. I think that is pretty cool and a great way to get those warm fuzzies everyone dreams about when it comes to work. The summer camp environment provides many different opportunities for you to find creative ways to thank your donors. A little effort on your part can go a very long way to ensure your donors continue giving to camp for many years to come.


Here are some tips and ideas that have worked with me during my time working in Financial Development as it relates to camp:



Postcards are a fantastic way to let your donors know what is going on at camp and how your campers feel about their summer experience. Check out this postcard we sent out to donors last summer. The campers fill in the blanks and counselors write a note to your donors on the back. This is very easy to coordinate by using your leadership staff at camp to find quality counselors with excellent writing skills.


Hand Made Thank You Cards

Here’s something I did this summer at Camp Thunderbird and it has been a HUGE hit. I enlisted the help of Arts & Crafts to have campers create handmade thank you cards, seen above. The campers crafted a thank you and then wrote what they love most about camp inside their piece of art. This was accompanied by a letter signed by me, detailing the impact their donations had on camp this summer.


Impact Report

During the 1st quarter of each year, I send an impact report to all donors from the year prior. Check out our Camp Harrison and Camp Thunderbird impact reports. With the help of staff, I highlight everything that happened at camp the year before, including how much money we raised and how camp used this generous support. This is also a great piece to use throughout the year when talking to new potential donors about camp and why they should support our campaign.


Invite Your Donors to Lunch

What better way to appreciate your donors then to invite them out to camp to see everything in action! We hosted two donor lunches this summer at Camp Thunderbird and Camp Harrison, inviting these special friends to join us in the Dining Hall for lunch with the campers. We started off with a brief tour of camp and finished in the Dining Hall with lunch. Each guest also received a special gift for attending lunch.


I hope you find these ideas helpful and perhaps these spark some creative ideas of your own!


Gwen Tolman has served as the Financial Development Director for the YMCA of Greater Charlotte’s two resident camps, YMCA Camp Thunderbird and YMCA Camp Harrison since 2014. Gwen is also a staff alum of Camp Thunderbird and enjoys reconnecting with fellow camp alums while engaging them in all the exciting and wonderful things going on at camp. 


YMCA Stewardship Week is August 28-September 1. Read the blog to be inspired by some of the best-in-class samples submitted by fellow Y development professionals. Follow us on Twitter where we’ll be sharing even more resources and ideas on donor relations best practices, gratitude, and engagement with our donors – search #YGratitude to find us. And finally, visit the Stewardship Gallery on Exchange and check out the new sample additions.