Interview of John Mathers, Camp Quality Canada

two kids at Camp Quality

camp_quality_logoJohn is a Principal of Woodington Partners Cost Management consulting firm. He joined the Camp Quality Board in 1998 and is Chair of Camp Quality Board Nominating Committee

Camp Quality operates summer camps and year-round family programs for children with cancer in Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario. Programs include six region camps, New Heights — a camp for teenagers with cancer and Breaking Borders — a unique, customized expedition for young adults with cancer. They also run a puppet program that travels to elementary schools in select regions across Canada to teach kids about childhood cancer.

Camp Quality has been around for 30 years. They have six paid staff and over 600 volunteers across their programs.  They make every effort to direct donated funds to camp programming.

I spoke with John Mathers, director on the Camp Quality board and Chair of the Nomination Committee. He has been on the board for over 15 years, he feels passionately about the work Camp Quality does to provide kids with cancer a place to have fun and step out of their everyday lives.

John shares his experience of being on a charitable board, their board recruitment process and his experience with BoardMatch. He offers some great ideas for board candidates and charitable boards alike.

What make Camp Quality unique?
We are smaller operation than the two other better known oncology camps for kids with cancer, Camp Oochigeas and Camp Trillium. We differentiate ourselves by being in Alberta, Manitoba and four separate geographical areas of Ontario. Kids usually come to Camp Quality from within 200 kms of the camp site.

How do campers and their parents hear about Camp Quality?
Our campers come from referrals from past campers, partnerships with hospitals like CHEO in Ottawa (who also provide many of our volunteers, including doctors) and local marketing by the individual camps. We know the scale and visibility we want to achieve, as well as and our strengths and weaknesses.

You’ve been on the Board of Camp Quality for over 15 years. How did you first join and what keeps you here?
At the time I worked for Imperial Oil and the Imperial Oil Foundation was a founding sponsor of Camp Quality. I liked what I saw at Camp Quality and wanted to help more. Originally I thought I’d serve one two-year term but the more time I spent on it, it got into my DNA.

I have three healthy kids, I’m very thankful for that. This was my way to give back and give thanks. It is rewarding to see the kids at camp and how it changes their lives. It gives them a short time to get away from the trials and tribulations of their daily lives.

What is your board Recruitment process?
The Board identifies skill and experience gaps we need to fill and determines the skills we need from a new recruit. The Board motions to search for new board members and it is tasked to the Nominating committee to search and narrow down a shortlist of candidates.

We put a call out for a new board member through our personal networks and post the open position on BoardMatch.

The Nomination Committee reviews the applications and narrows it down to four or five candidates. We arrange to have a phone conversation with the short-listed candidates and then narrow it down to one or two people for a face-to-face interview with the Nomination Committee.

The final step, we ask the finalist to write a letter of intent to the Board of Directors on why they are interested in joining the Camp Quality board. We want them to demonstrate an emotional connection to the cause and a real passion for Camp Quality. As well, they need to provide a modified CV/bio.

At the next board meeting (and on occasion via email), the Nomination Committee brings forth the motion to nominate the chosen candidates for board approval.

What is your experience with BoardMatch?
BoardMatch is our principal recruiting tool beyond board referrals (friends or friends-of-friends). Network referrals don’t necessarily attract the best candidates. BoardMatch gives us a more objective approach. It is a longer process but we find the people with the skill sets we need and it brings more diversity to our board.

We have excellent experience recruiting with BoardMatch – currently four of thirteen of our Board members were recruited through BoardMatch – the VP, Treasurer, Co-chair of Fundraising Committee and the Chair of the Strategic Planning Committee.

Camp Quality relies heavily on volunteers to serve in leadership roles and help with programming because all our donations should go to directly to programming for the kids.

How do you orientate new board members?
We provide new board members with an information package once they start and expose them to other board members. The Corporate Secretary provides new board members with minutes from the previous few meetings, financial statements and our strategic plan. It is a balancing act to provide them the information they need and not overwhelm them.

Hopefully, we can match a new board member with a mentor, but not always possible since our board members is spread across the country.

It is important to get them acclimatized to the board, set out clear expectations that are well-defined and deliberate from both sides. New board members need to know the work involved, this isn’t for resume padding.

What are some expectations from Camp Quality board members?
Board members are expected to visit at least one camp for a day each year. Some stay and volunteer for the duration of a week. Over my time here, I’ve visited every camp a few times to see the impact of our work. It keeps us grounded to see where the rubber hits the road, to see how we help, what is happening on the grassroots and know why we are doing what we are doing. After each visit, I come back energized.

What advice do you give to our BoardMatch candidates?
Do your homework, find your interest and passion and make sure you join a board for the right reasons. Know what is expected of you, what guidance you can provide and communicate how you can truly help the cause. It does look good on paper but do it because you have a passion for the organization and you have the skills they are looking for that align with that passion.

Prepare to commit your time and energy.

Thank you John for taking the time to speak with Altruvest.

To learn more about Camp Quality Canada, visit their website.