Our first annual day of giving June 1st. Stay tuned for a Facebook live campfire, videos, shenanigans, heartfelt stories, and more!
We just became a not for profit!
Jack and I try and be as transparent, honest, and genuine with our marketing for Stomping Ground as possible. As we open up this new chapter of fundraising for camp we want to retain that level of transparency.
With that said, let me set the scene for you. It is Wednesday night, right at the beginning of May. Jack and I just had a nice big bowl of chili and are now basking in the glow of our computers. It is 9:00 pm and the house is quiet except for the typing. Jack is working on a website for another camp that is due before we kick off Stomping Ground and I am on him to finish so that he can get back to being my partner in planning staff orientation, ordering program supplies, and designing what will be different and better about Stomping Ground this summer. I just finalized the staff orientation schedule and am thinking about our day of giving: June 1st!
Jack and I spend about 80 percent of our work week working on Stomping Ground related things, marketing, hiring staff, planning the program, talking with new and current families. We then spend another 20 percent of our time trying to make enough money so that we can live while still running camp. We joke about Stomping Ground being our expensive hobby, but think of it more as an investment in our dream jobs.
Ways we make money:
After traveling the country visiting over 200 summer camps, we made a lot of friends that run camps. With that experience and a little self-directed education around marketing and design we fell into some opportunities to help our friends run and market their camps. We basically freelance the skills we developed to run Stomping Ground to other camps. Jack designs and makes websites, and I make drawing videos. You know, like the Ken Robinson RSA animate video… but not quite that good. ( link to some of my videos ) We also do some speaking, training and consulting with other camps. It isn’t the most lucrative way to make a living or the most glamourous, but for now it gives us the freedom we need to work on Stomping Ground.
2017 will be our 3rd summer of Stomping Ground and we are getting better at having an actual budget. Jack just got off the phone with another startup camp laughing about hidden costs. We got into this because we love kids, know how to run camp, and have a unique vision for the world. Neither of us had business experience or an MBA before this and if we are being honest, a lot of the unseen, or miscalculated costs are coming out of our own pockets.
I tell this to you not because I am looking for pity, or for you to say, “Oh sh!t! Jack and Laura are heroes!” or something. No! Not at all. We have chosen exactly what we want to do and mostly how we spend our time. I’m sure that if we wanted to make more money we could (hear that mom!). But we are so happy. I can’t imagine being happier, and some of the excitement comes from having to scrape things together to get this vision of ours off of the ground.
Becoming a Not for Profit
This past winter we finally received our 501c3 Non Profit status. Big news. We are so excited, and a little anxious about how this changes things. We honestly have no idea how to start fundraising. We have talked with non-profit camp directors, non-profit executives in the community, read a few books on fundraising, and watched too many YouTube videos. We know we are going to make fundraising mistakes and are clearly novices in this area.
Our plan is to apply the same ideas we have around marketing camp - being vulnerable, building real relationships, and asking for advice, to fundraising for camp.
Before starting Stomping Ground I hated the idea of sales. I hated the idea of looking and feeling like Matilda’s dad selling used cars. Now, I love getting a prospective parent on the phone. I love asking about their child, and earnestly wondering how we are going to welcome and support this camper in our community in the summer. Talking with parents, meeting families and sharing our dreams has been our secret sauce. Marketing and sales hasn’t been slimy or strange it has been connecting with real people and brainstorming together whether Stomping Ground made sense for their families.
So with fundraising I hope we can do the same. It seems like a bit of a stretch to me to say “Give me your money” instead of “Send your kid to this empathetic, inspiring community.” But maybe we can reach the same core human need to invest in the future by helping to define it.
Investing in a more empathetic world
Families invest in us all the time, making the biggest investment that I can imagine. They send us their kids! I hope there are other people out there who would invest financially in camp. The money will go to bringing more kids into the program, funding our currently unfunded scholarships (we will give away over to $30,000 in unfunded scholarships this year). Some day this imaginary money will also go towards the huge step of buying our own site. Really, how cool would that be? Stomping Ground having a site of our own would be unreal. Jack and I have been dreaming about this since we started visiting camps 5 years ago.
Let’s be real with the numbers for a second. 500 dollars for us means a new music studio, 1,250 dollars is how much we pay our staff for the summer, 2,000 is half of our program supply budget. A dollar goes a long way to making a week unforgettable for a child at camp.
All of these dreams of making camp what we want it to be feel closer than ever. This June 1st we will be holding our first (maybe annual) Day of Giving. The money we raise will help bring more campers to camp and give all campers a better camp experience. I hope you will consider donating and dreaming with us on creating a more empathetic world.