Dual-Purpose Design Meetings

Would you like to initiate major donations for facility improvements before the next capital campaign even begins? It’s as easy as extending an invitation to potential major donors to take part in a two-day event at the camp! If this seems too good to be true, it isn’t. It’s just a matter of getting the right people together and undertaking the right master-planning process.

App Extra (PDF): How To Develop a Master Plan with Your Major Donors

The common approach to a typical site master-planning and design process is for the design consultant (landscape architect, architect, and/or engineer) to meet with a client to learn what problem is to be solved. The design consultant returns to the office and generates ideas (or concepts), and then presents them to the client to see if

Photo Courtesy Of O’Boyle, Cowell, Blalock & Associates, Inc.

Photo Courtesy Of O’Boyle, Cowell, Blalock & Associates, Inc.

what was discussed is accurately depicted in the generated concepts. Once the ideas are reviewed, the consultant further refines them in the office. These steps repeat themselves anywhere from a few weeks to several months until the consultant has accurately locked in on the client’s vision, or until the fees to generate more ideas are gone.

One of the greatest things about working with camp people (including potential major donors in many cases) is they typically LOVE their camp. Many have been involved with camping since they were seven or eight years old, and many now have professional degrees in unrelated fields because they became side-tracked working as a camp counselor one summer, and decided that was their true passion. So how could any professional consultant–no matter how experienced or knowledgeable about camps or master planning–come in after a meeting or two and tell a group of people who live, eat, sleep, and breathe camp how to improve it?  Many have tried, and a few have been successful, but a better approach is to work with camp personnel and alumni in a way that is different than the approach commonly used with other clients. It is a better approach for camp master planning, and has the added benefit of giving major donors the opportunity to be part of creating the plan.

Exploring The Design Charrette

Here’s the way it works: Instead of developing a plan using the typical process of meetings interspersed with work in the office, the design team develops the plan at the camp in partnership with the key decision-makers (board, staff, volunteers, and potential donors) or stakeholders. This method is commonly referred to as a design charrette, with the goal of creating a well-thought-out and feasible plan within a two- to three-day timeframe. Besides being much faster, a charrette involves stakeholders in the actual on-site design and problem-solving process, and builds consensus from the ground up. It’s a real-life teambuilding exercise!

Prior to visiting the property, a design team:

  •  Reviews the camp’s strategic plan
  • Works to develop an understanding of the goals of the master plan
  • Assembles base maps and plans of the existing facilities.

Once the design team arrives at camp, a complete tour of all of the buildings and program areas is conducted by the stakeholder group so the consultants can see and hear about the camp’s strengths and weaknesses through the camp people’s eyes. Then the design team sets up a work space/studio–often in the dining hall or a program space that has plenty of room for both drawing and meetings–and begins to generate ideas with the stakeholders.

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Related posts:

  1. Building for the Future
  2. The Master Plan
  3. Dream to Reality
  4. Playground Design With History In Mind
  5. Conceptual Steps
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