Camp Outlook provides free multi-day canoe trips to teens who would otherwise not have the chance to go to camp. Photo: Camp Outlook
Have you ever looked around yourself at work and thought, “Who are these people, really?”
There's more to everyone around us than what we see in the present moment. At Traction on Demand, I work alongside a business development manager who used to be a bartender, a developer who used to work at a tofu factory and a CMO who was a helicopter mechanic in a former life. And me? I used to lead teens on canoe trips. That's why I'm particularly excited for Camp Outlook to participate in this year's Bandit World Tour.
Dear reader, by now you may be familiar with the Bandit Tour for Good—our annual road trip from Vancouver to San Francisco. Over the years, the Bandits - guided by the philosophy of “give what you're good at" - have donated their time and Salesforce platform expertise to more than 70 nonprofits. But why should the West Coast have all the fun? The third annual Bandit World Tour will take place from April 8 to 10 in Eastern Canada (central, really, depending on where you are in this gigantic country).The Bandits will travel from Montreal, to Kingston, to Toronto in time for Salesforce World Tour.
Oh, nostalgia. I used to drive the Outlook bus. It's just one of the many things that needs to be accounted for in the operating budget.
A 50th anniversary digital makeover
Camp Outlook, now in its 50th year, is a completely volunteer-run nonprofit based in Kingston. “Outlook,” as it's affectionately called, provides free 5, 9 and 14 day canoe trips to teenagers who otherwise would not have the chance to explore the beauty of Algonquin Provincial Park. (I'm talking howling wolves, statuesque moose grazing in the marsh, loons calling their iconic song... you get the picture.) While Queen's University students have historically made up a major part of the staff, volunteers from all over Canada have participated in Outlook's magic. In my time, I paddled alongside an engineer from Duncan, BC and an occupational therapist from Toronto.
But Outlook can't run on volunteer passion alone. According to Greg Gransden, the Outlook board member in charge of fundraising, running the grassroots nonprofit comes with several challenges. A major one is that no one is getting paid to run a camp for up to 140 campers each season. “That means the time we devote to running the organization and fundraising is limited because we all have day jobs,” he says. Aside from the time constraint, they also don't have a way to collect, organize and use donor data. “We're trying to build a donor database which, for complicated reasons, we’ve never had before.”
Sometimes, providing a teen with an experience they otherwise wouldn't have is enough of a life re-set to get back on track.
No nonprofit is an island
The impact of a small nonprofit can never be underestimated. As Greg explains it, “The idea behind Outlook is that young people form inter-dependent groups when they're in the wilderness. They have to live and work together to accomplish the day-to-day tasks involved in canoe tripping: navigating, portaging canoes and supplies, setting up camp, cooking and cleaning. With no Internet or electronics, you have time for long conversations and stories by the campfire. All this can have a transformative effect on someone who's struggling to find their way in life.”
It's the dedication of volunteers like Greg, along with a digital makeover, that will allow this small nonprofit to keep canoeing into the next 50 years. With some face-to-face time with the Bandits, Greg will have the opportunity to capitalize on Outlook's upcoming anniversary. “Fundraising has always been a big part of Outlook but it’s never been systematic, consistent or organized. I'd like to set up a system that future boards can use for fundraising that's easy to use and can do the things we need it to do, like send out e-mails, tell us who our donors are and help us calibrate and measure our fundraising efforts.” Follow the adventure as the Bandits meet up with Camp Outlook and other nonprofits during Bandit World Tour. See you on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter!