In the third installment of our Accelerate Leadership Roundtable series, we partnered with Community Rec Magazine to sit down with nonprofit industry leaders from across the country and learn more about how they’re accelerating their organizations’ missions and evolving to meet the changing needs of their communities. Leaders included:
- Jill Zoria, Director of Marketing Strategy & Development at the Butler County Family YMCA
- Romain Decourtye, Vice President of Marketing, Membership and Digital Strategy at the YMCA of San Diego County
- Sabrina Smeltz, Chief Executive Officer at the Wakeman Boys & Girls Club
With 2022 right around the corner, our panelists provided their predictions for what the new year will bring and discussed how they’re working now to meet the changing needs of their communities.
For all our panelists’ organizations, COVID-19 fundamentally changed how they were able to connect with and serve their members and youth. During 2020 and 2021, they all pivoted and pushed through unforeseen obstacles to serve their community. For Romain at the YMCA of San Diego County, child programs—including summer camp, before- and after-school care, and youth sports—have been in extremely high demand. Parents are yearning for a way to get their kids the social interaction they’ve been missing, and the YMCA of San Diego County has been there to fill that need. Romain predicts that programs will continue to be a huge emphasis moving into 2022.
At the Wakeman Boys & Girls Club, which serves youth from the age of 3 to young adulthood, the pandemic has intensified the need for the programs and support that they already provide. The trauma-informed care that the Boys & Girls Club has always had in its toolbelt has been used more than ever in the wake of COVID-19. During a time when everyone feels alone and isolated, Sabrina saw community as the solution to meeting the youth’s needs. She reached out to community partners to together form a network of support for the city’s youth.
In a period of continued recovery, finding new sources of revenue is top of mind for all three leaders. At the Butler County Family YMCA and the YMCA of San Diego County, childcare and child programming were the shining light of revenue throughout the pandemic and will continue to be going into the new year. Jill says without membership to rely upon for revenue, her organization leaned heavily on state-licensed childcare during a time when many other private childcare businesses shut down due to the pandemic. The Butler County YMCA was able to both fill a need and make the revenue to keep serving its community through childcare.
Romain echoes that filling in the gaps of businesses and organizations that closed due to the pandemic was big for his YMCA. When other youth sports leagues folded, the YMCA of San Diego County stepped in to provide those opportunities for children. By partnering with sports professionals, like the area’s professional soccer team, they were able to deliver top-quality curricula and programming at an affordable cost for families. Looking to 2022, Romain plans to re-evaluate and refine their portfolio of programming to ensure they can execute each at the highest level possible.
For Sabrina at the Wakeman Boys & Girls Club, the solution to accelerating revenue has been providing more access to participants through a new tiered pricing system. By creating a pricing structure based on income, they were able to remove some of the barriers keeping families from signing up for programs and increase overall revenue. “It’s all about how you make it work for your community,” Sabrina says. “Every community is different. Every need is different, and it’s just being flexible to meet them.”
For all three organizations, giving went up during the past year with additional funds coming in from emergency COVID gifts and increased philanthropy. To keep up that momentum for fundraising, all three leaders agree upon one tactic: telling their organization’s story. Romain says often nonprofits use fundraising campaigns as a time to talk about the great work they do for the community, but they neglect to tell that story throughout the rest of the year. “The Y doesn’t need brand awareness,” he says. “But what it needs is brand identity awareness. We see in our research that people don’t know all the things we do, particularly with social services.”
Jill and Sabrina both agree that making the public—including members, donors, and the general community—aware of the impact that Ys and B&GCs make is essential. Jill says when possible, it’s best for potential donors to hear stories of success directly from members and program participants whose lives have been transformed by the Y. At the Wakeman Boys & Girls Club, Sabrina is working to make storytelling part of her staff’s culture, so they’re always equipped to share the full scope of what their organization does.
As the nation experiences a staffing shortage across nearly every industry, staff care is an increasing concern for our leaders. “Taking care of your community starts with your staff,” Romain says. Sabrina says as a “people business,” their staff is invaluable to their mission. To keep staff properly cared for, the Wakeman Boys & Girls Club has enacted regular town hall meetings and more frequent check-ins to get feedback from staff. All three leaders agree that creating a team atmosphere has been key to keeping morale up. “We love our staff like family,” Jill says.
As our world and the nonprofit 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 November.
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.