Bátor Tábor (Camp of Courage: batortabor.hu/en)runs free-of-charge therapeutic, recreational camps for seriously ill children. The organization’s CEO, Erna Kindli, spoke to the Budapest Business Journal about her personal motivations and the indispensable role played by NGOs.
BBJ: From what I understand, you are relatively new to Bátor Tábor; how long have you held the post of CEO, and what initially attracted you to the job and the organization?
Erna Kindli: I joined eight months ago. I’m coming from the for-profit sector: I spent ten exciting years in the software industry. I held various positions at Google for example. I had four major icons for the switch and I hope that these can motivate others to consider a similar career change. The first is impact. I like to contribute my knowledge and energy to something greater than me, something that makes the world a little better. In the non-profit sector, one’s positive contribution is clearer and more tangible than anywhere else. Bátor Tábor helps children with cancer and chronic diseases to regain self-confidence, optimism and hope. Number two is people. Everyone who interacts with Bátor Tábor has a beautiful soul: my colleagues, the volunteers, the kids and their families, our donors, our corporate partners and more. They might have very different backgrounds, personal history, skills or living conditions but they all care about others and want to contribute to a better and happier world. I learn a lot about life from each of them. It is an honor to represent, help and lead them. Number three is intellectual challenges. I like to run my brain on interesting questions and Bátor Tábor is full of these. One day can include discussions about child psychology, medical conditions, CRM software, corporate partner strategy and volunteer loyalty. And all this for a great cause. Number four is getting real and solving real problems. I don’t want to degrade anyone’s job or problems, but after ten years in the for-profit sector and software industry, I was really craving some real problems. I hear this from our volunteers too. At camp, they get out of their “bubble” and realize their problems are actually small – they get perspective and become more resilient.
BBJ: How has Bátor Tábor changed over the years?
EK: Bátor Tábor was founded 17 years ago, and a lot has changed since then. Most are self-explanatory: like more campers, more revenue, a bigger budget, more diverse revenue channels. These are important processes and KPIs, but let me tell you about a change that business people wouldn’t necessarily think about. Childhood, and what it means to be a child, is changing. Children and teenagers are facing completely different problems and environments today, influencing their psychological conditions, fears, opportunities and required skills. Our program team has put a lot of effort this year into adjusting our programs to fit the adolescents and their changing interests. For example, this summer, campers aged 16-18 will learn life skills, such as first aid or setting up a tent. Just imagine what it means for a kid who survived cancer: he has been hospitalized for years and was the one needing others’ help… now, he can become the one helping others.
BBJ: What kinds of changes would you personally like to bring?
EK: What I want to bring to this already pretty innovative organization is to further develop its ability to change. It’s not because we are doing something wrong, but the environment is changing so fast today, whole industries could disappear from one year to another. I think resilience and the ability to change are the most important requirements for the survival or growth of any organization in such a world.
BBJ: Is this year’s 1% tax contribution campaign any different from previous years?
EK: One thing that I was involved with on a strategic level is putting more emphasis online. We recruited an online committee of digital experts that help us pro bono. We meet once a month and they help us both with strategy and tactics to run our campaigns efficiently online. We also have a new creative concept explaining how camp can “restart” childhood for kids who have temporarily lost theirs.
BBJ: What does Bátor Tábor do to remedy the public distrust towards NGOs in Hungary?
EK: We are transparent and positive.
Transparence: We make annual reports and our finances public. Deloitte has been our auditing partner for many years now. More than 60% of our budget goes directly into the programs, which by international standards, is very good. The rest are required costs to maintain our programs, such as fundraising costs. You can experience how well our funds are spent if you volunteer at one of our camps. Our programs are free-of-charge for the children, their families and the volunteers.
Positivity: Certain nonprofits try to fundraise by manipulating negative emotions, such as pity or shock. The kids we help have lost their childhood due to a serious illness and spent a lot of dark days in hospital. Yet, instead of focusing on the disease, we always communicate the positive impact of our work: feelings of hope, optimism and belonging.
BBJ note: This year’s deadline to fix your 1% tax donation is May 22. Ask your accountant what you need to do to ensure the money goes to the charity of your choice, at no additional cost to yourself, rather than into the central state budget.