Convergent’s Proven Strategy for YMCA Growth

The North American YMCA Development Organization’s (NAYDO) annual conference is one of our favorite events of the year. This year’s conference was held at the Gaylord Rockies outside of Denver and was one of their largest. And from Convergent Principal Rick Kiernan’s perspective, the sessions were some of the best he’s attended.

“YMCAs make an enormous impact in people’s lives, and it’s been our honor to help YMCA leaders solve challenges to expand that impact,” he said. “Convergent can amplify the good work YMCAs provide their community by helping them focus on earning Asking Rights™ and by articulating their 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 region. To do so, they needed to renovate and expand both their current facilities as well as increase programming. They initially planned to raise $8.6 million to increase child care capacity, to enable those with limited mobility to easily use the facility, and to inspire downtown growth 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. 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 the community’s priorities and how much stakeholders are willing to invest in the YMCA’s 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™ – the ability to deliver outcomes that are valuable to investors, which is a combination of outcomes, credibility, and fundraising skills. The YMCA of Catawba Valley has been doing impressive work in the community for over 50 years, laying a solid foundation of credibility.

A website and marketing materials were created to help tell this story. YMCA Board Member Lori Alala 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 most pressing needs – child care. George Moretz’s father was involved in the founding of the YMCA. As a Community Leader and past board member, he saw the value in the organization’s ability to collaborate with nonprofits and educational partners.  “They want to expand child care services in the community, and the YMCA is the perfect place to do it.” Gerry Knox said,  “When there is a need, the YMCA raises their hand and says, ‘I’m here for the community.’”

The result? Mr. Moretz and his wife made a pace-setting investment to create the O. Leonard Moretz Foundation Early Learning Center at the Adrian L. Shuford Jr YMCA in honor of his father.

This leadership pledge set the tone for the capital campaign, and soon others began signing up to invest. “I’ve never been involved with a campaign that could raise that much money in Hickory,” said YMCA Board Member John Teeter. “That shows you there is support for the YMCA that not many other groups have.” 

Dianna Clonginger, who’s been with the YMCA for 43 years, said, “The money we raise goes towards families and children who otherwise couldn’t afford YMCA services.” That’s a big reason why the campaign has been so successful.

The YMCA launched its $8.6-million campaign in Q4 2019. Construction costs soared as the result of the pandemic, so when they reached their goal, they kept going to ensure they could fund the entire project. The pledge total now exceeds $10.5 million.

This 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, which is why 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 – which is awarded to only two YMCAs in the country each year. “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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