“That all of them may be one.” – John 17:21
I made an important decision for our association last week. During a discussion with Chief Information Officer Bruce Caudill, I recognized that the go-live date we had established for our new customer relations management software (Salesforce) was no longer realistic. Bruce and his mighty team (Systems Engineer Francisco Rivera, Management Information Systems Director Ron Johnson, and Association Member Experience Director Tiffany Stewart-Harris) have been working intensely since February, taking on a project that even under the best of conditions was ambitious, but under COVID conditions is insane. Nevertheless, the project was on schedule; however, upon closer review, I realized meeting that deadline would be more costly than was necessary. Bruce and his team have been putting in many hours to reach the deadline and it was wearing them down; the human cost was becoming too great, so I stepped in and extended the deadline to February 1. It was the right decision, but it was interesting how I – and the team – reacted.
When I announced my decision, the reaction was one of disbelief. For the past 15 years, we would have never considered pushing out a deadline – it was just not something we thought to do. Yes, we built a readiness effort designed for the November 1 date, but I also knew we would continue to operate under the current COVID conditions and that there was no real urgency in reaching that deadline, at least not at the cost being exacted from our team.
The deeper issue is how we define ourselves through this pandemic. How do we sustain a culture of Good to Great against circumstances that are out of our control? For 15 years, we have been a Y that defined itself by achieving high measurable results, but today those results are not achievable. I am inspired when Association Operations and Member Experience Director Tara Bywater gives us the weekly use report, showing a consistent increase in the number of community center visits. It has been a herculean effort to make that happen, and I would contend it is a demonstration that we are very much a great Y.
I do love that so many staff are aware of how many members have been in their centers, and whether or not it is a record day for them. It is impressive to see staff reaching out to members who have not activated their accounts to get them to come into our centers. The numbers have been slowly inching up, and we are gradually introducing youth programming by adding in-person gymnastics and dance classes next week. In addition, the Morgan Family YMCA will pilot the addition of pickleball, a very popular program for adults throughout our association. Each week, Chief Operating Officer Brian Flattum and his team look for creative ways to attract more members into our centers. The trend is positive, but it is not easy celebrating small incremental achievements, nor the reality that our membership totals are not increasing as quickly as we might like. As I have said throughout this pandemic, our mental toughness is critical to us persevering. We have been faced with an arduous task, and we must remind each other we are in it for the long haul.
Over the past few weeks, our vice presidents and I have been grappling to define our 2021 performance goals, recognizing we will continue to operate in uncertain times. As difficult as it will be to define goals for next year, we know having a strong financial foundation will be of utmost importance. Back in February, Chief Financial Officer Toko Thompson and her finance team (Controller Megan Clawson, Accounts Receivable Specialist Lorraine Young, and Finance Manager John Sankovich) integrated a new finance software into our association. Toko has introduced this software to each of the executive directors so they can view the month-to-month progress of the budget. Toko and her team have been managing the budget for the entire association throughout the pandemic without an accounts payable specialist. We will continue to operate in this manner for the foreseeable future, and though the day-to-day management of the budget will be mostly conducted by our finance team, the executive directors will be working with Toko to achieve fiscal soundness for our association. Staff throughout the association will not have the same degree of management of the budget, but it will remain a vital goal for our Y.
For the past couple of years, we elevated the importance of our programs by separating them into their own critical focus area of our Y. Because we recognize programs will be added slowly throughout the year, we made the decision to incorporate them into member experience as one goal. Member experience will continue to be the primary focus of staff throughout our association as we devote our attention to reengaging more members into our Y. The virtual component will continue to grow in its importance to our Y as a critical component of the member experience, and many staff will be a part of that effort. It will be more and more important for all staff to understand the virtual experience so we can guide members to understanding and using our virtual services. In addition to member experience, we will continue to focus on staff experience as being critical to our overall success. How we show up and support the team will be our defining moment as a Y. Our rally cry is to be and move as one Y; we know we are stronger when we operate as a cohesive team. Finally, it is vital that our fundraising efforts continue to be one of our four goals, inviting members to invest into the cause of the Y through our annual campaign, as well as the efforts to further the importance of rebuilding our infrastructure through new facilities and outdoor projects.
The priority of fiscal soundness may rise up in its importance in 2021, but member and staff experience, as well as inviting people to invest in us, will continue being important goals. We will also intensify our efforts to adopt diversity, equity, and inclusion as a guiding principle into everything we do as an organization. We understand we need to build equity as a foundation into our programs and services in order to remain a vibrant organization.
These past few years, we adopted the philosophy of Chris McChesney and the Franklin Covey Institute, which emphasizes the importance of each employee being able to connect their work to the goals of the organization. It will still be important for us to have an accountability to achieve these goals, as uncertain as the environment will be. These past few weeks, our team has continued to focus on enhancing the member experience by ensuring member safety and delivering additional services to attract more members. In addition, staff have been diligent about staying connected with one another and supporting each other’s efforts. Our efforts have resulted in our Y taking in more money than we spent, a tribute to everyone’s efforts. It is not an easy path forward, but you continue to perform heroically, lifting up our Y. I am so proud to be a part of this team. We are one Y, and it is a great Y.