In the second installment of our Accelerate Leadership Roundtable series, we partnered with Community Rec magazine to sit down with industry leaders from across the country and learn more about how they’re accelerating their organizations’ missions through this transitional year and beyond. Leaders included:
- Kristina Boshernitzan, Member Experience Director at the Shalom Austin JCC
- Lolita Haverlock, Senior Vice President of Operations at the YMCA of Central Ohio
- Parrish Underwood, Chief Advancement Officer at the YMCA of Metropolitan Atlanta
As we move closer and closer to fully reopening and a post-COVID world, our panelists provided their predictions for what the future may look like for their communities, as well as what they’re doing to stay abreast of constant changes.
Rejoins and New Joins
Our discussion began with the promising megatrends throughout the Movement showing that 35% of members who cancelled in 2020 have rejoined in 2021. Additionally, 16-20% of new joins across the Movement are entirely new to their facility. All three panelists identified that rejoins and new joins at their facilities followed these trends.
Additionally, they all attributed a large part of their success to strong communication plans that emphasized health and safety procedures, allowing them to win back cancelled members and attract new members. By focusing on safety and sanitization throughout the pandemic, they gained the trust of past and potential members. Once these individuals felt comfortable returning to public fitness and community programming, they knew who they could count on to take health and safety seriously.
Elaborating on their communication plans, Kristina, Lolita, and Parrish all reported that the pandemic gave them an opportunity to reevaluate and improve upon how they communicated both internally among their teams and externally with members.
For the YMCA of Central Ohio, leaders outlined a shared mission or “North Star” for their entire organization. They then committed themselves to creating the future they envisioned with intentional outreach to demographics they historically didn’t serve and conscientious plans to tell the story of why a Y membership means more through membership stories.
For Parrish at the YMCA of Metropolitan Atlanta, messaging centered around making sure the public knew three things: the YMCA is here for you, here for the community, and we want you here. He says focusing on this simple messaging has increased engagement in memberships, volunteers, and philanthropy.
Rapidly Changing Policies
Communication came up as a major theme again when we shifted focus to discuss the CDC’s new guidelines around mask wearing. Over the past year, organizations have had to be extremely nimble as safety guidelines and recommendations regarding pandemic protocol changed daily. Now that we’re entering a new phase of the pandemic journey, the same holds true.
Kristina with Shalom Austin JCC says the key to keeping up and keeping the community on your side is to have clear, consistent communication. Parrish echoed that sentiment saying, “The best thing that’s worked for us so far is a high degree of communication, even if that communication is ‘We don’t know.’ or ‘We don’t have the answers yet, but we’ll get back to you.’ I think we’ve bought ourselves more grace with our members because they realize that we will continue to operate with their safety and wellbeing in mind.”
Childcare and Child Programming
While many YMCA and JCC programs struggled to keep engagement up through the pandemic, one area that’s remained a constant need for communities is childcare and child programming. Both the YMCA of Central Ohio and Shalom Austin JCC provided virtual learning assistance during the pandemic—the YMCA with proctor pods and the JCC with learning extension centers. In both cases, the continuity of child programming has led to sustained child programming interest now that school is out for the summer. Both organizations have reached 100% of their summer camp enrollment goals. Lolita says building parent confidence through the pandemic and offering that support when many other daycares and childcare options shut down has helped to build interest and engagement in the full range of her organization’s child programming.
Revenue Recovery Plans
Revenue recovery is on the minds of many leaders in the Movement and our panelists were no different. For Lolita of the YMCA of Central Ohio, the name of the game for filling the revenue gap is efficiency. To meet their goal of reaching 85% of their pre-COVID revenue, the reprioritization, restructuring, and streamlining of operations has been paramount. Their new staffing structure gives full-time staff more direct member service time, which delivers the type of experience that creates loyal members. In addition, they’ve also reevaluated their programming to make sure they’re making the best use of their dollars to serve more members.
At the YMCA of Metropolitan Atlanta, 85% of revenue was a goal benchmark after they saw 40% less revenue generated in 2020 than anticipated. To fill in the gaps, Parrish says their organization is focusing a greater degree of intentionality on technology and how it can benefit their Y by broadening their audience and revolutionizing their membership options. “We’ve never been a traditional organization. You don’t stick around for 179 years doing the same thing,” he said. “I’m hoping this will be the next era or revolution of how we continue to show up for and evolve for society.”
Part of leveraging technology to create the future began out of necessity with virtual offerings during the height of the pandemic when facilities were forced to shut down to members entirely. For Kristina at the Shalom Austin JCC, she doesn’t expect virtual offerings to disappear entirely but based on the needs and wants of her community, she expects it to take a backseat to in-person offerings. At the YMCA of Central Ohio, virtual offerings will continue to serve as an enhancement to traditional facility offerings, providing the opportunity to share resources between Y branches and extend services to those who live far away from Y facilities.
As our world and the nonprofit fitness community continues to change month by month, we’ll continue our commitment to providing valuable insight from leaders across the Movement. Be on the lookout for our next roundtable in September.
In the meantime, for more inspiring content, check out the Accelerant Podcast, where leaders from around the country share their stories. For more visit daxko.com/podcast.