On a gorgeous, sunny day that organizers couldn’t have arranged any better, Camp Fire and about 100 of its closest friends gathered to celebrate the culmination of a five year effort. To the casual observer the day was seamless and perfect, which, of course, is exactly the way you want your donors to feel walking away from an event. But each well-thought-out detail and smooth transition was the result of somebody’s hard work. Here are some key ingredients that make such events a success:

Camp Fire CEO Barb Dubovich and Rasmuson Foundation President Diane Kaplan

Normally, a surprise-filled donor appreciation event that ends with a gasp from the crowd and the executive director in tears would not be a good thing. But Camp Fire Alaska is not your typical nonprofit organization and the dedication of the newly remodeled Camp Kushtaka (Camp K) was not your typical event. Thanks to the meticulous planning of CEO Barbara Dubovich and the entire Camp Fire board and staff, the only surprises on May 31 were the good kind.

Camp Fire Alaska recently completed a $3.25 million renovation of Camp K facilities on Kenai Lake. On a gorgeous, sunny day that organizers couldn’t have arranged any better, Camp Fire and about 100 of its closest friends gathered to celebrate the culmination of a five year effort. To the casual observer the day was seamless and perfect, which, of course, is exactly the way you want your donors to feel walking away from an event. But each well-thought-out detail and smooth transition was the result of somebody’s hard work.

Here are a few of the key ingredients that made the event such a success:

  • Camp Fire planned far enough in advance to ensure that major donors and other stakeholders could attend.
  • They picked a date that ensured that the facility would be ready (camp opened the following day so staff was there, the place was spruced up, there was food in the kitchen, etc.)
  • They helped to coordinate transportation for people who lived far from the site.
  • There was plenty of parking available, as well as the right number of tables, chairs, and snacks!
  • Advance communication made it clear what to expect.
  • The agenda was inclusive – the CEO served as Master of Ceremonies but she gave other people the floor and allowed them to share in the moment.
  • There was appropriate recognition of donors at various levels, including in-kind donors and former board members.
  • And, of course, there was Camp Fire’s remarkable ability to control the weather, broker a temporary cease fire with resident mosquitoes, and find the one spot in the state not burdened by road construction.

Now back to the aforementioned surprises. Near the close of the event, Barb was preparing to unveil a signboard for what she thought would be the newly completed Rasmuson Foundation Community Hall. But Barb has done so much for this project and for Camp Fire, that the building name didn’t seem quite right. So, without her knowledge, Barb Dubovich’s fans had a second sign created. And before a crowd of Camp Fire’s closest supporters, a stunned executive director got her first look at Dubovich Community Hall. Not a dry eye in the building.