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Merging YMCAs: Why it makes sense / August 01, 2012
There has been a lot of talk lately about what the YMCA of South Boston/Halifax County and the Mecklenburg County YMCA are doing. As the Chief Executive Officer for both of these organizations, and with the support of both Chief Volunteer Officers and boards, we have been intimately involved in a detailed process looking at consolidating these two YMCAs.

After a 10 month procedure that included due diligence and numerous conversations in and out of the organizations, we can say that consolidating our YMCAs makes sense.

In reaching a decision of this magnitude, we worked with a group of volunteers dedicated to improving and sustaining the work that the Y does.

Always keeping an eye on our commitment to youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility, we assigned a Task Force that answered questions about the impact of this consolidation. Members of the Boards of Directors are long-term residents and respected individuals in both counties.

A former Burlington Industries executive, a retired educator, a local business owner, a bank vice president, Hewlett-Packard employee, two state employees, and members of the YMCA of the USA staff comprise our task force. Gleaning from their experiences led to a process that resulted in a fact-driven opinion. It was determined that a consolidated YMCA will provide enhanced staff resources and operational efficiencies, including: administration, human resources, accounting and payroll, financial development and marketing and communications. Many of these were already being realized through our existing collaboration. Additionally, staff from both Y’s will have the opportunity to collaborate and join forces to provide more of the best services possible:

Increased buying power through making bulk purchases and saving on expenses.

Shared staff, thus increasing efficiency and flexibility.

The ability to negotiate better prices with vendors to make the best use of our resources.

Maximized resources, enabling and aligning the Y to expand and strengthen programs and services.

Increased ability to attract top volunteer leadership.

Increased ability to attract and retain the highest quality staff.

Diversification of the Y’s revenue mix, thus reducing vulnerability to external pressures.

Cost efficiency in operations through eliminating redundancy in association-wide expenses.

An increase in the service area of the YMCA, potentially positioning the organization to receive additional funding.

In looking at the financial performance of both YMCAs, the task force realized neither association has shown a strong history. The YMCA of South Boston/Halifax County has recently gone through a three-year period in which it has replaced numerous facility items that impacted its fiscal statements.

Even with these challenges, all obligations were met. The economic downturn our community faced did impact the YMCA as it has numerous other families and businesses in our communities and throughout America. The improvements made to the infrastructure of the facility have positioned this YMCA to now concentrate on what is needed to enhance its membership and programs.

The Mecklenburg County YMCA has enjoyed a growth in its membership and a corresponding improved financial performance over the past two years.

Sustaining this growth and diversifying its programmatic offerings will determine the viability of this association. A consolidated YMCA positions this association to maintain its existing services and deepen its impact with the new programs that have been implemented during this consolidation.

After School Childcare, Summer Day Camp, Healthy Kids Days, Kids Night Out, Kids Zumba, and Fun Runs are all new initiatives resulting from our collaboration.

Our task force looked at numerous other issues such as governance, financial impact, human resources, capital growth, communications, programs, and donor relations (all financial support can remain at existing Y’s). We consulted three lawyers to determine the legality of this consolidation. We looked at national trends with YMCAs and realized that 32 other YMCAs have gone through this process. Numerous other businesses and hospitals have looked at consolidations as a way at sustaining their operations. This relatively new way of doing business has necessitated these actions as local and state economies continue to be restricted. No longer can we rely on big industry to support non-profit operations.

Decisions like this are never easy. In hindsight, we see where we could have improved in certain areas of the process. We understand that if we only look at finances, we miss the big picture about how we impact those we currently serve and those we aim to impact in the future. We are comfortable with the path forward which will include another vote of both memberships to decide the outcome. We remain committed to serving Halifax and Mecklenburg counties with programs that build a healthy spirit, mind, and body for all.

The bottom line is that this consolidation of YMCAs makes sense for growth, sustainability and to strengthen our communities.

Marcus M. Hargrave, YMCA CEO
Frank Lee, Chief Volunteer Officer, YMCA of South Boston/Halifax County
F. Miller Ruff, Chief Volunteer Officer, Mecklenburg County YMCA

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