Transforming Lives Means Transforming Operations and Utilizing Technology

Transforming Lives Means Transforming Operations and Utilizing Technology

By Sara Perry
Published On Mar 27, 2021

*Photo courtesy of

After nearly a decade with a different software, the Oshkosh YMCA is excited to launch a partnership with Daxko and use Daxko Operations to boost the efficiency of their three-branch organization. We sat down with Membership Director, Julie Smith, to unpack the pain points they experienced with their previous software, and also hear about the ways Julie is particularly excited to develop a partnership with Daxko in the coming years.

Let’s start with your Y story.

I’m Julie Smith, I’m the Membership Director for the Oshkosh YMCA.

There was no YMCA where I grew up, so I didn’t really know anything about the Y. I have a background in hospitality management, but after 15 years in hotels I was looking for a career change. I saw an open position at Oshkosh and went to my first interview with Jeff Schneider, who was the Operations Manager and is now our CEO and President. After about two and a half hours and basically becoming best friends, Jeff offered me an opportunity to come to the Y, and I have never looked back.

This story sums up my experience nicely. My first day on the job was also the first week of school. My children were 5 and 7 at the time. I got a call from school that my 7-year-old son possibly broke his leg and needed to see the doctor. I’m like, “Oh my God, first day of work, I cannot get up and leave!” In previous work environments, I had been given the message that I couldn’t choose family over my responsibilities with work. So, I felt caught at that moment. But three new coworkers, including my new boss said, “Julie, you are going to grab your purse, and you are going to leave, and you’re going to go take care of your family. And we’ll all be here tomorrow.”

And so that was my first day at the Y. My son broke his leg, and I had more support than I knew what to do with.

That type of support was completely new to me. It was my very first experience with the Y and how they think differently. They have their mission and it’s not just lip service. It’s not just printed on a sheet of paper. We live it and breathe it each and every day.

So along with that supportive community, what are some other reasons you love working at a Y?

The family aspect is incredibly important to me. I also have a set of colleagues that really inspire one another other to do our very best. We’ve created a culture that I believe in. I don’t know that that’s necessarily unique to us, but again, something that the Y definitely thrives on is that spirit of collaboration.

We always say, “Don’t try to reinvent the wheel,” I have colleagues and many of the Ys throughout the region who are a call or email away to help solve different challenges.

That’s been in existence for about 18 years in our region. We are all coming together and embarking on a recovery strategy. It turns out we’ll likely share it with our entire state because that’s just how things are done at the Y. That spirit of collaboration, support, and growth is something I appreciate deeply.

The other thing is in my role, along with my team, we really do get to change lives every day. Changing lives doesn’t have to mean saving lives. It’s not life or death, although we have had those situations, but it’s more about removing barriers. Listening and finding ways where the Y can help a family. And more often than not, we can sa, yes. It’s just in our culture. We can always say yes to whatever their request is. We’ll figure it out.

Can you give some insight into how software and technology support your overall mission, as well as your day-to-day?

When I started, most things were manual. You wrote it on a sheet of paper so mistakes were happening all the time. And now, let’s just look at the last 18 months with the pandemic. We have relied on technology more than ever before. And it’s forced us to think outside the box and not be so close-minded to think that everyone must come inside the building to experience the Y and have it impact their lives.

We need technology to connect with community. We need technology to make things efficient, so that I can have my staff focus on building relationships and have all the information they need at hand so they know what’s important to that member and can communicate it across all lines. Right now, we have a lot of our information in many different places. We have fundraising software, a childcare software, a membership database. Our tennis center still uses QuickBooks to bill. We have information everywhere, and it’s not consistent across the board, which is extremely frustrating.

To illustrate the frustration, let’s say I’m making a decision on how to help a member. I may know that their children are in full-time childcare or I may know what they’ve done for us from a donor perspective. I am going to make decisions based on the information at hand. But to cultivate that relationship, I may need different information. The technology helps us maintain those relationships that are being built across all different facets of the organization. It keeps the relationships consistent. We really need it. We’re naive if we think otherwise.

“The technology helps us maintain those relationships that are being built across all different facets of the organization. It keeps the relationships consistent. We really need it. We’re naive if we think otherwise.”

You spoke to this, but maybe now we’re touching on it a little bit more. What about with challenging parts of your job. Does technology help make those tasks easier?

I spend a lot of time in my data. I did not have a high level of faith in the accuracy of our previous operating software. So, the first seven to eight days of each month, I would print a lot of reports and put them all into Excel spreadsheets to do a deeper dive and double-check accuracy just so I could understand every nuance of what happens from month to month. That was an incredibly long process. And because it was largely manual there was always room for error. I’m taking information from the software and putting it into excel. Not to mention, I’m alone in my office for 40 hours or more not engaging with anyone. So, my time was not well spent.

An example of this: We have corporate memberships. At the beginning of the month, I would spend so much time manually creating an invoice for each and every company. And then I would create personal emails to send to each individual. There are so many other fun and important things I want my entire team to do, but we weren’t able to do it because the software inhibited us. This is an example why we’re excited about switching to Daxko!

How did you first hear about Daxko? What were your first impressions?

It was the early 2000s. Daxko was cutting edge compared to anything else out there at that time, so it was a bit scary. I remember hearing the term automatic bank withdrawal, and thinking “You’ve got to be kidding! It happens automatically?” At that time, it was hard to imagine members willing to give up that control. We felt Daxko was also cost prohibitive at that time, we had just opened a second branch and were struggling financially a bit.

Despite the cost, the entire staff, including myself, rated Daxko very highly in our assessment of software options. But we didn’t choose it, instead we adopted different operating software. Four years later, we went through the process again of rating different software. Despite the highest rating amongst all staff yet again, we didn’t go with Daxko.

And finally, here we are today, after a third round of this process, finally using Daxko. Our IT director said point blank, “If we choose something other than Daxko at this point, we’re foolish.” He said, “I’ve been to all the technology conferences. Daxko is a true partner with YMCAs. I don’t see anyone else on the horizon who is really investing in that way.” So now we’re gearing up to transition to Daxko!

“If we choose something other than Daxko at this point, we’re foolish. I’ve been to all the technology conferences. Daxko is a true partner with YMCAs. I don’t see anyone else on the horizon who is really investing in that way.”

So how has the current implementation process?

We kickoff May 17th. I have great colleagues to the north and south that use Daxko, and they’ve assured me the process is not painful like what I’ve experienced with other software implementation. I have confidence that we do things very similarly to others in our region, so there’s already some reassurance that I’m not starting at ground zero with Daxko.

What are you most excited about with your new partnership with Daxko?

Definitely the efficiency. I’m excited to have a new confidence in our data and numbers and to really have an understanding of where we are. There will be all this data cleansing and proofing. We’ve tried to do a bit on our own, but it’s difficult to handle entirely without help.

Is there anything else that you want to share?

I guess the biggest anchor for me is data conversion. I’ve had back-to-back negative experiences with the conversion of data.  It’s the same for my staff too, so we’re all are a bit nervous about it. But I know with Daxko there are people we can go to with questions and find the help we need throughout the entire process. But really, we’ve been looking forward to this transition for two years! I’m excited to learn all the things we didn’t even know existed within the software. Other products like Conversica have really piqued our interest, too. Overall, I’m very excited for this partnership with Daxko and everything it can bring to our organization.

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