Convergent’s Proven Strategy for YMCA Growth

Convergent is a regular speaker at the North American YMCA Development Organization (NAYDO) Conference on YMCA Philanthropy, speaks at state conferences, and recently exhibited at the YMCA General Assembly in July. Over 4,300 YMCA staffers and volunteers from across the country attended. The conferences revealed emerging challenges facing YMCAs that cannot be solved with a “business as usual” strategy. “YMCA’s make an enormous impact in people’s lives and it’s been our pleasure to help YMCA leaders solve challenges to expand that impact,” said Rick Kiernan, Principal. “Convergent can amplify the good work YMCA’s provide their community by helping them to focus on earning Asking RightsTM and articulating outcomes.” 

The best way to demonstrate the impact of Convergent’s work is through the success of the YMCA of Catawba Valley. 

The YMCA of Catawba Valley: An Award-winning Fundraising Strategy

The YMCA of Catawba Valley had a goal of serving up to 3,000 additional households within their three-county region. To do so, they needed to expand their current facilities and programming. Specifically, they looked to raise $8.6 million to increase childcare capacity, enable those with limited mobility to easily use the facility, and inspire downtown and economic development. Expanding and modernizing their facilities was necessary to do so, but they had to convince the community first.

“This is the largest capital campaign we have seen in our county because of the impact it will have on our community,” said Gerry Knox, Fund Development Director. John Teeter, Community Leader, said, “I’ve never been involved in a capital campaign that could raise this much money in Hickory. Knowing it hadn’t been done before, YMCA leaders reached out to Convergent for help. 

Convergent’s first step was to complete a feasibility study. The study is critically important for determining what the community will support and the level of investment the YMCA, or any other client, can confidently to secure before launching a capital campaign.  With a positive feasibility study complete, Convergent and YMCA leadership were confident in taking the next steps. 

Those next steps included leveraging the YMCA’s  Asking Rights™. Asking Rights are the ability to deliver outcomes that are valuable to investors, a combination of outcomes, credibility, and fundraising skills. The YMCA of Catawba Valley has been doing good work in the community for over 50 years, laying a solid foundation of credibility.

A video, website and marketing materials were created to help tell this story. Lori Alala, Community Leader, discussed the importance of reminding people of their own positive experiences when speaking of why they donated. “There’s an endearment people feel here who grew up going to the YMCA.”

As for outcomes, the YMCA tackled one of the region’s, and nation’s, most pressing needs – childcare. George Moretz’s father was involved in the founding of the YMCA. As a Community Leader, he saw the value in the organization’s ability to collaborate with nonprofits and educational partners.  “They want to expand childcare services in the community and the YMCA is the perfect place to do it.” Gerry Knox, YMCA Fund Development Director, said,  “When there is a need, the YMCA raises their hand and says I’m here for the community.” 

This messaging resonated with people throughout their three-county region, with people signing up to invest in the multi-year campaign. “We raised more money than anyone had raised before,” said Teeter.  “That shows you there is support for the YMCA that not many other groups have.” Dianna Clonginger, HR Director, said, “The money we raise goes towards families and children who otherwise couldn’t afford YMCA  services.” With the capital campaign a success, they have already started to serve more children through their expanded childcare program. 

Wrapping up the $8.6-million campaign is not the end of the journey for the YMCA of Catawba Valley. It’s the beginning of a new chapter for the organization and the community. This makes communication critically important, Convergent recommends that leaders over communicate and keep investors informed about the work they are doing to accomplish their goals. The YMCA of Catawba Valley has done an excellent job of this and posts regular updates on their website.

Their capital campaign and subsequent activities have been so successful that North American YMCA Development Organization (NAYDO) awarded YMCA of Catawba Valley their 2022 Eagle Award for Excellence in Fundraising – one of only two in the country. “We’re thrilled to recognize Darrell, Nat and the YMCA of Catawba Valley for its role in responding to community issues and transforming the lives of adults and children,” Christina Harley, 2022 NAYDO Communications Awards chair, said. “Clearly, everyone is engaged and an advocate for the impact of the Y on local kids and families. The Y’s philanthropic efforts are well planned, organized and executed. It was clear to our judges that Y members and the community have a deep understanding and passion for the Y’s cause, and Y staff and volunteers are motivated to create positive outcomes for years to come.” 


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