Published June 16, 2020
Agenda for June 2020 Meeting
The Farm & Wilderness and Ninevah Foundation Boards will hold a brief meeting on June 20th. This is not in our regular schedule of meetings, but in these unusual times, I felt we needed to come together more often. This will be the first meeting attended by our six new Trustees, who will have attended orientation the night before.
Because we only have one decision item, from Conservation (to sell .5 acres at Ninevah to a family there) we’ll be spending most of our time hearing reports from members of the Leadership Team. We will start with Finance because of our financial status these days drives so much else of what we can do. A report from Development/Marketing will come next because we must add to the F&W Recovery Fund and want to turn our attention to Summer 2021. Program Team will talk to the Board about how to maintain momentum while most staff are furloughed starting July 1. The clerk of the I&E committee will report on their discussions about increasing the presence of people of color at F&W, especially in year-round staff.
I cannot say that the meeting will be short and sweet, because it will be the last Board meeting before most staff leave us; it is devastating to all of us to have to be without them for any period at all.
Report for June 2020 Meeting
The F&W/Ninevah Foundation Board of Trustees doesn’t usually meet in June but these are unusual times. Sadly, many of our year-round staff will be furloughed starting July 1, and we wanted to see some of them and hear from them before that date.
On Saturday, June 20, we started with a 90-minute orientation for our six new Trustees. We then opened our Board meeting with Silent Meeting, as is our custom. Because we are a community and community members support and lift each other up, we always have a time for check-ins; at this meeting we each were asked to answer the question, “What is one anti-racist or social justice action you took this week?” The answers were rich and varied.
F&W/NF is driven by three things: program, conservation, and money. We heard about all three.
Program is what children and young people experience at camp and in the off-season; it’s the magic that happens in cabins, in the gardens, on the lake and on the trail. We began to consider scenarios for summer of 2021, asking what it would take to reopen safely? Before we decided to cancel, our Program Team generated many scenarios; we didn’t use any of them this summer, but the plans are there and might be implemented. Assuming that we reopen, all campers for whom 2020 would have been their senior year at their camp will be allowed to return in 2021 to their camp. Indian Brook and Timberlake will offer, in a one-year experiment, three 11-day sessions (two in July, one in August) for First Lodgers. Aging-up BDC campers who are 11 will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Stay tuned for more details about these developments. Finally, we’re also starting to work on some year-round programming. This might take the form of bringing our I&E expertise to schools and other organizations, or marketing our retreat facilities more expansively. We had an update from our I&E committee, which is considering how we can ensure diversity in our camper and staff populations, as well as asking what we need to do in order to hire more BIPOC at the Leadership Team level.
Conservation is about our stewardship of our lands and lakes. This includes pulling invasive species from beside our roads, to monitoring our lakes for aquatic invasives, to buying and selling land so that we protect it from development. The Board agreed at this meeting to complete the sale of .5 acres of land at Ninevah to an abutting property owner who agreed not to develop the acquired land.
Money is what makes all of this possible. No money = no program, no conservation. Several people have asked me, since the decision to cancel camp this summer, why that gave us a nearly $1 million deficit – if we aren’t running camp, paying summer staff, feeding everyone, what do we have to pay for? Despite not having camp, we are still a thriving organization. We have a farm – gardens and animals – who need our care and tending. Even though most year-round staff are furloughed, we pay their benefits including health insurance. At both Ninevah and Woodward we run a Greeter program to monitor both lakes for aquatic invasives; we do receive some money from the state for that, but it costs more than we receive. Possibly most important right now, we have to pay for our Zoom account! (I asked this week if I could be added to the F&W Zoom account so that I don’t have to ask others to send out Zoom links to calls; I was told that it costs $15.99/month for that, so no. I’m so glad that our Finance department is taking care of watching our pennies!). The Board’s Finance Committee presented COVID budgets for both Ninevah and F&W. It was exciting to see that F&W’s current deficit is projected to be only $600K for the year ending 12/31/20. Our Development (fundraising) department has worked very hard to chip away at that ~$1M deficit, and so far the F&W Recovery Fund has raised about $400K to pay to keep the farm going; to create a hardship fund for staff who are furloughed, laid off, or who never got to come work for us this summer; and to build up the campership fund for next summer, because we anticipate a larger need than ever. We are enormously grateful to the 358 (out of 560) families who have so far completed their rollover/refund/donation forms. 33% have rolled their entire tuition over to 2021 (that reduces our deficit), 3% donated their entire tuition to us, and 21% donated to the Recovery Fund. Other members of our community donated during the recent online giving day, and still others are responding to the Spring appeal letter. The Admissions department falls under Finance (because tuition is our major source of income) and Trustees heard a report on how we’ll respond to questions from prospective camp families during the next period when we have fewer staff working. The Trustees also approved a Minute of Appreciation for Sam Arfer, whose job as Admissions Director was eliminated in a reorganization of year-round staff. That minute reads:
- Sam Arfer has served in the Admissions Department of Farm & Wilderness since September, 2008 as both Assistant Admissions Director and Admissions Director;
- Sam has a 36-year history as camper, staff, and valued member of the F&W community;
- Sam’s connections to camp families have been an important part of our retention efforts;
- Sam’s enthusiastic descriptions of a summer at camp have been a cornerstone of our camper recruiting efforts and encouraged multiple new families to join us;
- Sam has given countless hours to the development of the campership process;
- Sam has served as a valuable colleague to staff and leadership;
- Sam has been responsive to Board requests; and
- Sam has been a beloved member of our camp family.
Now therefore, the Board of Trustees expresses its sincere gratitude and appreciation to Sam for his service, dedication, and love for both Farm & Wilderness and the Ninevah Foundation, and holds him in the Light as he embarks on his next professional venture.
I am not certain any member of the Board of Trustees would tell you that it’s a fun job right now. But we are resilient, we are strong, and we are enormously grateful to our staff, who make the magic happen, even when camp is cancelled.
See you after the August Board meeting. Feel free to ask me any questions about this meeting.
Clerk of the Board
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