With a three-generation personal history in the Y, David Thompson’s Y roots run deep. He has remained engaged in his community through various roles in many different branches around the country. As the current Group Vice President for the YMCA of Greater Dayton, David shares lessons in gratitude that have carried him through the pandemic, and give him hope in the future of The Movement.  

  • Broad Focused Roles: David’s role blends branch operations and marketing. The context switching between these duties helps him develop a holistic picture of the Y, informing marketing strategy, and giving him a chance to engage directly with members of the community. Evaluating community perception of new offerings, training staff on new tactics, and getting marketing feedback on the fly all help David make quick campaign adjustments to ensure success.
  • Digital Footprint: We all know about changes in virtual offerings, but David wants to take it further. What about QR codes and touchless options for membership and program sign-up? And what about a strong push to maintain virtual meetings for parents and staff? A strong digital footprint is vital to recovery and can open interesting avenues to serve the community even beyond the pandemic.  
  • Choose Happiness: Changing minds and hearts starts with your own.  At some level, as David points out, we are choosing to be content. For David, even in the toughest situations, it is important to find silver linings, engage members in hope, and continue serving a mission driven incentive.  

This interview took place on March 26, 2021  

Podcast Transcription

Saranda West: For those of you that practice gratitude journaling, get ready. You're going to be grateful for this conversation you're about to hear. I know I am. As usual, I go in thinking this is going to be the takeaway. We're going to geek out on websites and digital offerings, and then I get surprised with something completely different.

David Thompson is the group vice-president for the YMCA of Greater Dayton. David is in a unique role, at least compared to other YMCAs. It's a blend of branch operations and marketing, but man, David has a heart for the YMCA and his community and his family and everyone around him. I'm so grateful for the reminder of why we do what we do every day: serve and love. To all of my Y and J friends, Thank you. Thank you for loving your people so well.  

David Thompson: People may not always remember what you say, but they remember how you made them feel. I know that in my own life, if I'm doing this well, that's something that I try to put into practice because I can look back in my own life, and I've been fortunate to have coaches, pastors, family members, supervisors that have all either demonstrated love or care for me.  

That's really, I think, ultimately the best way to impact somebody for good. Certainly when it comes to the Y, if we can impact not what they know about the Y, but maybe how they feel about the YMCAs, that's how we really go about making the biggest impact in changing minds and changing hearts and being mission focused.

SW: Accelerant: a substance use to aid the spread of fire, accelerating or causing acceleration. This is the Accelerant podcast.

Hi there. Thank you for joining me today on the show. I'm your host, Saranda West, and I tell you what, we are jumping all across the country in season two. Today, we are talking with David Thompson in Dayton, Ohio. David is the group Vice President for the YMCA of greater Dayton. David, welcome to the show.

DT: Thank you, Saranda. It's nice to be with you today.  

SW: Now David, you've been working with the YMCA for many years. Do you have a, like the classic Y story of how you got started?  

David’s Y Story

DT: I don’t know if it's classic or not, but certainly it would be a long story. My story would start with my mom actually teaching preschool classes at our local YMCA in Xenia, Ohio back in 1975 when I was five years old. I grew up at the Y.  

My mom kind of went and ended up being a program director and then a branch executive in our YMCAs that were in our community that I grew up in. Actually, my first job was I had a paper route, but then my second job when I was 16 years old was working for the YMCA.

I was a lifeguard and swim instructor at our Y, and 35 years later, I am still working for an organization that I love and that I believe in. And yeah, it's been fun. My Y journey has taken me to different places. I worked for the Toledo YMCA for about 15 years, and then I left the Toledo Y to come home to my hometown Y.

I was the CEO for the YMCA Green County. We were a three-branch operation that I later led through a merger with the Dayton YMCA back in 2008. I've been a part of the Dayton YMCA team since 2008. So, a long journey. It's been a fun journey. I don't know how traditional it's been, but it's been great.

SW: I love it. I think that's a classic story, and actually, I'm jealous. I hear a story like yours, how you grew up in the YMCA and actually the community that I grew up in didn't have a Y, so I feel like I got gypped for not being able to have a story like that, but they found the Y later.

DT: Yeah. You know, one little quick thing that I'll mention just for my own kids. I have three children. They're 18, 16, and 14, my 16-year-old this week without her dad's prompting, she started her first job at the Xenia YMCA, at the same place I did. She started out in our child watch, so I was just a little bit of a proud dad.

SW: That's awesome. I'm sure she'll love it. David, with your career in the YMCA, and you mentioned the merger with Dayton, and I think that's resulted in a different role for you at the Dayton Y. So, Group Vice President is your title. Help me understand what all of that includes.  

Context Switching

DT: I have a strange job with the Dayton YMCA. It blends two different roles, and it blends branch operations with marketing, so I am the vice president that's leading our marketing and communications for the YMCA of Greater Dayton. Then also, when I serve in branch operations, I directly lead our largest membership branch, which prior to COVID, we had just over 18,000 people that belong to the Kaufman YMCAs. It's the branch I lead. Then I also supervise one of our executive directors that leads our Xenia YMCAs.  

SW: How do you context switch? With a role where you're thinking about marketing and leading that team, and then I'm sure you get phone calls. “Hey, there's something happening at the branch. I gotta go take care of right now.” How do you context switch?  

DT: All the time. It's constant switching from wearing one hat to the next. I've been living in that context now for 11, 12 years and switched back and forth between them. I'm fortunate to work with great people. I have a very strong branch team, program directors and people that I have the opportunity to work with at the Kaufman Y, and then I have a strong marketing team as well. Being able to carve out some times with my staff at the Xenia Y, I spend my mornings in Xenia with that team, my afternoons on one day a week with my marketing team, and then the other days, I'm with my team at the Kaufman Y. It can be challenging, but at the same time, each one of my days is different from the next, and so it keeps it a little bit exciting.  

SW: Since you are still in the day-to-day of the locations, how do you see that informing or helping you shape the marketing strategy for the organization?

Marketing Strategy

DT: I've come up with a, let's say, a new membership campaign and that we've never operated before. I could tell pretty quickly whether or not it's resonating. At the branch level, number one, those are part-time staff understand the campaign, which is our membership staff. Are they executing in a way that we were thinking how people would execute that plan?

Then third is being able to almost immediately get member feedback. If I've got somebody that is coming into the Y for the first time on a new member, join them. Shoot. If I have the opportunity to be the one that gives them the tour and ask the question, “How did you hear about the YMCA?” and then listen to their response and have that apply to the thoughts and plans that we've put together with our marketing team.

You know, I can quickly see whether or not something's working, and if it's not working, being able to adjust our message, go make a quick change on our website. That's a scary thing, but I do have to able to get into the backend of our website and make a quick change to make sure that we're have the right message that we want to get across to our members and guests.  

Yeah. That has been a fun piece to be able to watch that those two worlds intersect sometimes.

SW: Actually, I'm correlating it for myself, how I work on the product team and obviously work with our customers and then try to help then get that information to our developers in terms of this is what we need to build.

There are so many times that, as you're working with the development team to try to go build something, right? You don't...it doesn't click and you don't get it until you see it. You have to actually be in the YMCA, and so many times we just go to our local Y and have to see it firsthand. Then it's like, “Oh, now I get it. Now I can go fix whatever that is.”

DT: I'll tell you my experience in working with Daxko. There have been a number of times where I'll see something from a marketing perspective, but then I also get to see it from a branch operations perspective and how my team and I are interacting with different products via the mobile app, the Daxko Operations, Accounting, or Engage.  

Those are the products that we interact with the most. It's been interesting for me personally, when I've been able to engage staff from Daxko to say, “Hey, here's what I'm seeing, and here's what I think would be helpful.”

I've really appreciated over the last several years, how responsive Daxko has been to the suggestions that I've personally made. It's been nice to see.  

SW: Thank you for saying that, and we appreciate you because we wouldn't be successful without that. So, thank you for that.

See You at NAYDO 2021!

Kelsey Dupont: Hey, Accelerant. My name is Kelsey DuPont, and I am the Brand Manager for Nonprofit with Daxko, popping in here quick for some more news to help with your fundraising efforts. April 13th through 15th is the North American YMCA Development Organization conference, or NAYDO for short. That's N-A-Y-D-O, not the other NATO.

We are looking forward to seeing you all there. While we wish we could be together in person, we can't wait to see you all at our virtual booth. We understand that needs have changed, and for us at Daxko, that means our approach to helping solve your needs has changed.  

Join our NAYDO virtual booth mini sessions throughout the three-day conference, where we’ll both discuss strategies and tools you can leverage to be a greater change maker in your community.

Our product sessions will cover how to attract new donors, convert and retain donors, manage donations, spring clean your data, and so much more. We'll also be hosting roundtable discussions on the impact of your efforts throughout the pandemic and how these lessons infom the future of The Movement.

Be sure to attend these sessions for your chance to win some super cool prizes. This could be $500 towards your annual campaign or a six-month free trial of our Fundraising Assistant. Follow along on Daxko’s social media accounts. That's at Daxko, D-A-X-K-O, to hear the winners after each product session. So, summing up, we'll see you at NAYDO, April 13th through 15th. To find a full list of our sessions visit info.daxko.com/naydo-2021. That's info.daxko.com/naydo-2021.

All right. Enjoy the rest of the episode.

SW: From a marketing perspective and even the branch operations, one of the things I know we've talked about is just how important that digital footprint is, especially after the last year that we've seen. I guess, in my mind, it's just gotta be even more important today in terms of that message you're getting across to the members, given the pandemic and in 2020.

A Strong Digital Footprint

DT: Yeah, so we're talking about the needs for a strong digital footprint right prior to the pandemic hitting. That was an important piece of YMCAs success. Being able to talk to people through multiple channels and having a strong digital presence with when COVID hit. I think that it was critical for to have that in place too, because when we were closed, having robust and active communication channels were absolutely key to being able to communicate with our members, as well as our community at large and most YMCAs around the country.

We're asking our members to stay with us, please maintain your membership while we were closed. Getting that message across to our stakeholders was vitally important, and we didn't have time to develop a foundational communication channel while simultaneously trying to communicate to people to support the mission of the Y or to engage in our mission activities.

So, if you didn't have that strong digital footprint of a well laid out website, which is just absolutely vital communication channel, in my opinion, or having strong social media channels or maximizing Google or Yelp to your wise advantage, if those. Channels weren't in place. And you had to actually then start to work on developing those in the midst of trying to make sure that you've got the right targeted message.

It would be so very difficult to get out the right message to your stakeholders. Oh, and then thinking about reopening to trying to communicate new practice, new policies even, or to be able to listen to what your local state or county health officials are telling you and how to operate and to be able to communicate that to our members so that they can feel safe when they're coming into the Y.

If you didn't have a strong footprint going into 2020 in the digital world, you better now, because it's so vital to our recovery and to being able to communicate with people and engage them with the Y mission.  

SW: Okay. You're just highlighting all of the reasons why it is so important. How do you see that in terms of looking forward and we're in this recovery phase? Do you see any major changes in that digital offering to help support the recovery?

YMCA Recovery

DT: Yeah. I think that for us and YMCAs throughout the country, having that strong digital footprint is important, but the things that would be does... I see them going through Y360 or virtual Y, these virtual offerings that people are talking about.  

I think Apple is putting together their virtual fitness platform and there have been many other people that have jumped on that. The virtual space is going to be more and more important where the Y needs to be engaged in that area and helping people to be engaged with us virtually. I could see Ys using platforms like Zoom prior to the pandemic.

I can tell you that there were not a lot of my staff that were on a lot of Zoom meetings, but they sure are now. I could foresee things, like our youth sports coaches meetings and our youth sports parent meetings. They don't have to be in person in our Ys and certainly you've given our program directors the ability to host those meetings virtually. We'll continue.

I could also see for our board members. They've been accustomed to meeting virtually through Zoom. Now once we would resume in-person meetings, it would give those that may be traveling the opportunity to participate through Zoom. Oh, our Dayton Y has been doing some virtual nutrition counseling.

Certainly, we've been doing some of that too, with some of our corporate wellness partners. That's been an easy way for us to connect with people where they're at. It's a quick appointment, being able to have a quick touch point with people. I definitely see that continuing. Probably the last thing that comes to mind would be like, when we've all gone out to a restaurant, you've got the touchless menu now, or they've got a QR code, then you scan it and it brings up their menu.  

I think that Ys have a way to be able to learn from that so that we have more touchless ways or virtual ways that we're disseminating information to our members and the members of the public.

I don't see us going backwards. Oftentimes when we think about the mobile phone and how important that is to our community and how people engage with that. I don't see that. I only see us going deeper and deeper in with people digitally, virtually, and I think our Y ultimately will be stronger for it.

"Ys have a way to be able to learn from that so that we have more touchless ways or virtual ways that we're disseminating information to our members and the members of the public. I don't see us going backwards."

Quant Corner

Constance Miller: Hello! I’d like to interrupt this podcast to introduce myself. I'm Constance Miller, Director of Research, Analytics and Insights at Daxko. That means my job is to surface actionable insights to help all we work with make the most informed decisions possible to drive success. We thought the Accelerant podcast would be an ideal opportunity to link the stories you're listening to from amazing people all across the country and add data to deepen the takeaways.

So, here we are in the Quant Corner, where numbers and data tell beautiful stories. In this episode, David said so many key things about virtual and digital engagement that I want to dive into reviewing and efficient news. I spoke to trends in virtual check-ins and programming in a recent episode with Mike Cassidy of YMCA of the East Bay.

A friendly recommendation to listen in. If you missed that one, that means today, I'm going to speak for the first time on digital marketing trends we've been following for those new to that world. It includes things like paid advertising management, local SEO, which is search engine optimization, management, brand reputation management, directory listings, and web design hosting.

Before you think that's only for our marketing team, I'd offer that the importance of a strong, recognizable and well understood brand is indeed essential when it comes to marketing for things like member prospecting, but data shows that it's also essential for driving program registrations with those numbers or other program participants, increased member engagement and even donations.

So, let me end with the actual trend and data here. Of those wellness and fitness facilities who agree with that last statement I just made, we're seeing an increase in prospect to qualified leads of 600% compared to those associations and organizations who don't focus on these areas. That's a 600% return on all the effort that David is speaking to.

For a greater understanding of what's possible here and the marketing terms I just used, check out a quick overview by going to digital marketing in the solutions section of daxko.com and have fun going down a rabbit hole with all you can do. We hope you enjoyed this interview and thanks for stopping by.

SW: We mentioned recovery and you mentioned how many members you had at the beginning. Not even stats, if you don't even have stats, but just, are the active older adults sitting over a cup of coffee in the lobby again? What are you seeing in the branches?

DT: Here in Ohio, we're still operating under the governor's original reopening rules, and some of them can be rather restrictive. The seating that we would have in our lobbies for our members to gather around a cup of coffee is not there. The self-serve coffee is not available for our members yet, and there's still a lot that's in place that we're not able to do, but what we're seeing is that members are finding new ways to connect with one another, virtually and in the branch, too.

Because here in Dayton, we've opened to the best we can, to our fullest capacity, even though it's limited, but we're seeing members that are still coming in and smiling with their eyes behind their masks and the youth sports that are still happening and lives being changed, but we’re looking forward to those days when we can get back to some of the ways that we had operated prior to COVID, for sure.

SW: Yeah, absolutely. In terms of looking back at this past year and even looking forward, obviously you have a big role and have probably made a lot of decisions quickly. How do you personally stay healthy and happy as you've navigated the stressful, I guess?

Staying Healthy

DT: Take each day at a time. I would say for me personally, as a Christian, I do my best to be in God's word daily.

I also make time to be available to my family. I try to squeeze in times for exercise when I can, and I like to be able to take whatever talents the Lord has provided to me and make sure I exercise those to the best of my ability. I would say that we're trying to say contentment, I guess, no matter what circumstance that I would find myself in would be a key to being happy.

Over the last several crazy months, I think that's the way I've approached it: one day at a time, try and be in step with the Lord, and try and love other people and be patient and kind.  

SW: Yeah. Yeah. I like that. I'm actually reading a book right now. It's essentially a philosophy around why you choose to be happy.

You can look and compare yourself to other people or your circumstances to other circumstances, and it's still your choice to, like you said, be content.

For those that hear this conversation, and of course the Dayton Y, you have a beautiful website and offering, and may use yours as an example a lot, but for those that maybe want to follow up and learn more about the Dayton Y, can you tell us how they could do that?

Get in Touch with David and the Dayton Y

DT:  Sure. Visiting our website would be a great place to start: daytonymca.org. You can check out our Facebook pages or follow us on Instagram. Our Marketing and Communications Director, Jessica Baya, does a fantastic job with all of our social media marketing and pages.  

If one of your listeners had a question directly for me, feel free to reach out to me the YMCA or email me at dthompson@daytonymca.org, or they can find me on LinkedIn as well.

SW: Perfect. As we wrap up, David, any final words? Keeping in mind that this conversation would probably be heard by others, maybe not an exact position like yours, because yours is a little bit unique, but someone working with a nonprofit, working with the YMCA, trying to manage the changes coming their way.

Final Words

DT: Okay. This might be going a little philosophical on people. I've always really tried to keep in my own mind, and the way that I relate with people is that there's a saying that goes something like this. People may not always remember what you say, but they remember how you made them feel.  

I know that in my own life, if I'm doing this well, that's something that I try to put into practice because I can look back in my own life, and I've been fortunate to have coaches, pastors, family members, supervisors that have all either demonstrated love or care for me.  

That's really, I think, ultimately the best way to impact somebody for good. Certainly, when it comes to the Y, if we can impact not what they know about the Y, but maybe how they feel about the YMCA, I think that's how we really go about making the biggest impact in changing minds and changing hearts and being mission-focused.  

"When it comes to the Y, if we can impact not what they know about the Y, but maybe how they feel about the YMCA, I think that's how we really go about making the biggest impact in changing minds and changing hearts and being mission-focused."

That'd be my best, kind of, words of wisdom, if you will.

SW: Now, you say in that actually what was going through my head, that the picture I had in my head was actually walking into a YMCA lobby, because, and I've been into a lot of YMCAs, but you always walk in and there is that welcoming feeling.

DT: Yeah, somebody that made a massive impact on my life growing up with the YMCAs was my swim coach, Maria Netherton. Maria is someplace in California right now, and I'm connected with her on Facebook, but I can't remember the things that she said to me, but I know she cared about me and she cared about me as one of her kids, as a person, later as a teenager.

When I would go a little in the wrong direction a little bit, she was one of those influential people that I would listen to because I knew she loved me and knew she cared about me. That's what made the difference. So yeah, I guess if we can do that in the lives of more people, the better off we would all be.  

SW: Let's go do it.

DT: Right. Yeah.

SW: Thanks, David. I appreciate this conversation.

DT: Thanks, Saranda. It's my pleasure. Thanks for having me.

SW: Thanks so much for listening to the latest episode of the Accelerant podcast. As always, this is about inspiring you and me. Okay. All of us, let us know what you've learned, what you want to hear. Any other thoughts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at Daxko. That’s d-a-x-k-o or post with #accelerantpodcast.

Or you can send us an email at podcast@daxko.com. We would love to hear from you. You can find accelerate wherever you listen to podcasts. Remember to hit subscribe. That simple click helps us continue to bring new episodes packed with uplifting and insightful stories. Bonus points. If you leave a review, but other listeners know about us and what Accelerant means to you.

SW: The Accelerant podcast is a product of Daxko, serving the health and wellness community for over 20 years with comprehensive technology solutions to over 17 million members worldwide. Learn more at daxko.com. That's d-a-x-k-o dot com.  

Accelerant is produced by Christy Brown, Sean Ellis Hussey, and me, Saranda West. Sound and editing by Sean Ellis Hussey. Visual design by Jenny Miller.

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