It’s often nerve-wracking when someone attending your event asks if they can stand up and make a statement to the entire group. After all, you don’t know what they will say, and this is a group of your better donors for whom you wish this entire evening to be a most positive experience. Do you risk disappointing them by denying their request, or do you risk them making some kind of negative comment about the evening or your organization?
Fortunately, all turned out well. Recently the Georgia-Cumberland Conference has begun a donor stewarding process at our camp meeting. During this traditional time when members from across the conference are encouraged to attend a time of spiritual renewal and encouragement, we decided to invite our significant planned giving and estate donors to an evening banquet one of the nights of camp meeting. Invitations go out in March with a RSVP request for our meal held the end of May. On this evening, Southern Adventist University Food Services caters the meal in the President’s Dining Room adjoining the cafeteria. Our Conference president, Ed Wright, meets the donors and shares a few experiences of how God has been at work through the ministries of the Conference during the last year. Each year a different ministry leader in the Conference, such as a pastor, a school principal, the youth director, or the Conference evangelism coordinator, shares a description of the blessings of God in their area of focus. Alongside of each plate, we place a twenty-four page booklet entitled, “Because of You.” In this booklet are listed several ministry activities across our Conference describing how those ministries are reaching and discipling people through the gifts of members like those reading the booklet.
The entire evening is just a time of affirmation and appreciation. There is no promotion of upcoming projects, or a request for increasing giving, it is just a time to love on those who are being generous with God’s work.
So the individual who asked to speak to the entire group, got up and I held my breath as he began to speak. “I just want to thank the Conference for this evening,” he said. “This is so wonderful for you to invite me and the others in the room. And I am glad to be part of a Conference that does something like this tonight.” With that, he sat down, and I could let my breath out in relief.
Camp meeting provides many opportunities to interact with our constituent clients. Depending on the venue where your camp meeting is located, the daily schedule arranged by the Conference and the PGTS director’s purpose for being at camp meeting, that will shape the approach you use.
Our initial challenge was the physical layout of the venue itself as the Conference uses the SAU campus. Although the main meetings are in the PE center, no ministry is allowed to set up a booth there. Anywhere else relegates us to a peripheral location, with one year having us far away from the traffic flow, around the corner and toward the back of the outside corridor of the aquatic facility. We had a total of six people come to that location!
Recently, we partnered with the ABC to set up our booth just inside the door of their store. Then we advertised in the camp meeting brochure to come and see us in the ABC. This helped to drive some additional traffic to the ABC, which they appreciated. We offered a drawing for a beautiful signed Nathan Greene print of the second coming, an Andrews Study Bible and an Oklahoma Ellen White Helps Study Bible. Also a dish of Hershey chocolates was popular! That year we had over 40 individuals sign up for an appointment, in addition to scores of others who entered the drawing.
At another location on campus, we provide sno-cones for all the children (and teens and adults) after the children’s programs end. This gives us a chance to engage the parents of the children to offer a will where they can determine a guardian for their children should it ever be needed.