I have worked with many YMCAs over the years to discover how they are viewed within their communities. Many times the results are surprising. These “Community Perceptions Reports” are eye-opening for our YMCAs, and can sometimes be a little discouraging.Misperceptions that we see the most are around the mission and charity work of the YMCA. Ys often get pigeonholed as “swim and gym.” Those in the community and even YMCA members forget that the Y is a nonprofit with a mission for youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility.Three ways we work with YMCAs to combat community misperceptions are:
- Find out what YOUR community really thinks about you. Often there are commonalities between what multiple communities think, but in order to combat community misperceptions, you really need to have data on YOUR specific community. Try the following:
Conversations – use a common set of questions and field a wide range of demographicsPhone Interviews – you may want to use a third party for these, getting honest answers over the phone can be difficult if the person you’re talking to senses you’re too invested in the topicSurveys – online surveys are easy and free with a tool like Survey Monkey, just make sure to keep it professional (and short and to the point).
- Once you have the hard data, it’s very important to share this information openly and honestly with your board and staff. Share both the good results and the bad results so you can be realistic about your solutions. Most importantly, establish where you are and then map out where you want to be. Don’t forget that staff need education too to ensure they are able to tell your Y's story.
- Finally, make sure you are using all available channels to engage your community. Use social media, media campaigns, and public events as opportunities to share your mission, not just sign people up for memberships. And, don’t forget about engaging your members in your mission too. Your members are the biggest mouthpiece you have into the community and they can be a valuable source of promoters for the YMCA. For more information on how to engage your membership in your mission, visit daxko.com/engage.