AMHERST – It comes down to leadership and market penetration.
Those are the keys to success for a YMCA, especially in a small community, according to Scott Haldane, president and CEO of YMCA Canada. Haldane was in Amherst Monday for a tour of the Cumberland facility. He’s traveling around Nova Scotia visiting facilities.
“Trina Clarke has done an outstanding job as CEO,” said Haldane.
He said the positive, “all for one, one for all” energy of the staff is attributable to leadership. Also receiving praise were the board, which he said understood its role and also the challenges facing staff.
“For a very small Y…the level of sophistication…is really quite impressive.”
The Cumberland YMCA has had a turbulent past. Haldane said Ys across Atlantic Canada – 80 per cent of them – went through a tough period five to eight years ago. But that’s turned around. Ys across the region are making capital investments and increasing membership, according to Haldane.
“There’s been some leadership change,” he said.
Market penetration is key to success in small communities.
“They have 10-per cent of the population…that’s strong, that’s very strong.”
While Ys in bigger centres might aim for one, two or three-per cent of the population enrolled in their organization, according to the CEO, Cumberland YMCA has 1,000 members or so – about a tenth of Amherst’s population.
Haldane said running a YMCA in a small community is a challenge precisely because you need a big number of members relative to the size of the community.
“You can’t have a very high turnover rate,” he said. If the Y replaced half its members every year – not atypical for the fitness industry – it would quickly run out of potential members. The organization needs to stay relevant to families even as those families age and change, he said.
The new childcare wing plays to one of the Y’s core missions. YMCAs are the largest non-profit providers of licenses childcare in Canada, according to Haldane. He said Amherst has been evaluated and measured up well against a national standard (scoring 86 out of 100, which Haldane indicated was a good achievement).
Moving forward and hoping to avoid the rocky times that have previous plagues Cumberland Y and others, the CEO would like to see more collaboration between individual YMCAs and the national federation. He said staff succession at the senior level and board succession are very important.