Business Practicality Guides Nonprofit Performance

“We always knew there was a place in Dallas for Camp Fire,” Sheri Hemby, Camp Fire Lone Star Program Executive, shared in recent conversation. “So when a market analysis came back with confirmation of our belief, we set out with a clean slate to forge a fresh, innovative Camp Fire Lone Star.”

Though Sheri has been key to the council’s renewal, she said, “It’s really been our advisory board that has led the charge. Their role in fundraising, new site opportunities and setting the tone of culture for our council has been critical to Lone Star’s success.”

The council’s confidence and willingness to reinvent how Camp Fire Lone Star functions within the community it serves paid off. Instead of simply delivering programs, the council delivers programs that deliver sustainability. By leveraging partnerships within the Dallas community, Sheri and her team started “running the council like a business,” Sheri confirmed.

Though Sheri recognized that nonprofits such as Camp Fire serve a basic human need for compassionate connection, she also realized that not-for-profit organizations need and to back up the compassion with sustainability. Since Camp Fire Lone Star was reengaged as a council in the spring of 2015, Sheri and her advisors have made the deliberate decision to focus with precision on the needs of the marketplace. One of these needs was better options in fee-based, after-school care. With Camp Fire’s research-based, measurable, and accountable academic enrichment programs—such as Building Blocks, Interaction, Wise Kids, and Wise Kids Outdoors—the council was in a distinct position to serve this market through a differentiated value proposition, again, a nod to strategic business decision making.

Guided by focus on one specific market—afterschool—the Council has served over 1,200 youth in the Dallas area. Current partnerships include two Dallas school district elementary schools and four local nonprofits. In addition to traditional before-and-after-school programming, the council offers “break” camps during spring, summer, winter and other school-year gaps. Examples include a winter break camp-themed Winter Wonderland; two Where the Wild Things Are spring break camps; and a teen leadership camp for 50 youth held at the State Fair of Texas in partnership with the city of Dallas. And Camp Fire Lone Star is just getting started. “We have three more camps planned for this spring, with the potential of 20 more,” Sheri shared. Indeed, there was a place in Dallas for a smart, savvy, responsive Camp Fire council. The council’s success is proof.