The answer lies in both history and effective management. In the fall of 2006, when Nature Camp was in the process of becoming independent of the Virginia Federation of Garden Clubs, an immediate need was to begin fundraising to undertake the needed renovations from which the VFGC had shied. Only the Nature Camp Foundation, established as an alumni organization in 1987, had the existing 501(c)(3) capability to do that. Meanwhile, it took almost a year before the newer organization, Nature Camp, Inc., could form and then gain control of all Nature Camp’s assets and the required permit from the Forest Service. This it did, just in time to keep Camp open for the 2007 summer sessions. The ensuing years have proved the value of keeping the two boards distinct both in function and responsibility.
The Nature Camp Foundation, Inc., (NCF) focuses on fundraising and support for Nature Camp. This it does by underwriting major capital expenses, organizing service weekends, giving scholarships, and allowing alumni to be kept abreast of Camp’s activities and each other through The Afterglow, the website, and mailings. Its income is derived from capital campaigns, annual giving, and special gifts, thereby providing long term funding options for Camp. It is legally and financially distinct, with its own Articles of Incorporation and By-Laws. Its six directors are responsible to and elected by members in good standing, those who have given time or money for Camp. The other four board members are appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the rest of the NCF board. Limited and staggered terms of office help preserve freshness and independence.
Nature Camp, Inc., (NCI) is the organization that owns and operates Camp, hires and pays the Executive Director and the Caretaker, and through the former, the staff. It is responsible for scheduling and conducting Camp’s sessions. It has its own budget and financial accounts, with income largely derived from direct scholarship donations (from garden clubs, friends, or others), tuition payments and fees. Its financial horizons are short term. It is responsible for the care and routine maintenance and upgrade of Camp assets. It is legally and financially autonomous and is also 501(c)(3) chartered, with its own Articles of Incorporation and By-Laws. Since it has no established constituency, six of the NCI board members (the seventh is the Executive Director) are appointed by the NCF. Limited and staggered terms of office reduce the risk of insider favoritism.
The independence of the two boards is valuable for two reasons. First, the legal separation of the two boards helps minimize liability risks to the future existence of Nature Camp by separating the accounts. Financial transactions between the boards are formal, transparent, and audited. Second, the essential functions of Camp support can be dispersed among the 16 board members to mitigate undue burden on any one of them. Both boards are composed entirely of volunteers serving without remuneration, with the exception of the Executive Director who sits ex officio on both. Nevertheless, coordination between the two boards is important and facilitated in that the President and Treasurer of each board is an ex officio member of the other board.