YMCA business model pairs branches

Andy Calhoun
Andy Calhoun

Todd Cohen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The boards of the Dowd YMCA on Morehead Street and the Stratford Richardson YMCA on West Boulevard are working together to raise $420,000 this year to support programs in the West Boulevard corridor operated by the Stratford Richardson branch.

And overseeing common job functions at both branches are single employees funded by the Dowd YMCA.

The collaboration is part of a “Y Community” business model that YMCA of Greater Charlotte adopted five years teaming branches that are new or serve communities with fewer resources with branches that are more established or serve wealthier communities.

The business model, which pairs 12 of the Y’s 18 branches, aims to advance the organization’s mission “to serve all, not just some,” says Andy Calhoun, YMCA president and CEO.

“We wanted to have a consistently great Y experience, regardless of the socioeconomics of the community we’re serving,” he says.

The business model also aims to advance the Y’s mission of building community, both in the local geographic areas the branches serve and in Charlotte as a whole, Calhoun says.

Benefits of the initiative, he says, include the sharing of financial resources and jobs, and connecting boards from branches in diverse communities.

Funds raised jointly by the Dowd and Stratford Richardson branches, for example, support programs for a growing senior population and for children and teens at the Stratford Richardson Y.

A sign in the lobby of the Dowd YMCA says, “Just four miles from here, one in six babies is born to an adolescent, compared to 1 in 16 for the city of Charlotte.”

The idea, the Y says, is to motivate members of the Dowd YMCA to provide financial support for the Stratford Richardson YMCA.

That support is even more critical in the wake of cuts in Y funding this year from United Way of Central Carolinas.

United Way funds allocated to the Stratford Richardson YMCA fell over 40 percent from 2008.

That cut will affect the subsidy for nearly 300 young people in the branch’s camp, teen and year-round programs for children, for example, and for 75 seniors in its programs designed to help them maintain good health and prevent isolation.

Job sharing at the two branches also is key to the business model.

Scott Chagnon, community vice president for the two branches, heads a team of individual managers who oversee finance, fundraising, property management, human resources and marketing, respectively, for both branches.

In addition to sharing staff, paired branches coordinate events, all in an effort to give people opportunities to connect and support one another.

Calhoun says the joint fundraising effort also has the goal of connecting the boards and staffs of the paired branches.

The boards and staff of paired branches work together not only to raise fund but also to decide how to spend those funds, he says, and board members typically are dedicated to serving the larger Charlotte community.

“It begins to break down some of the barriers we have that are geographical or socioeconomic or racial,” he says. “It is very important that the Y communities learn how to work together on a basis of trust and mutual respect and understanding.”

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