A survey this spring of Itasca County Family YMCA membership showed that 99% of respondents believe the Y is “a community resource for improving health and well-being.” The survey also revealed that 97% believe “the Y is a resource for nurturing the potential of children,” and 96% believe “the Y is meeting its mission to strengthen the overall community.”

“We’re in the top in the country as far as community impact for YMCAs,” said Itasca County Family YMCA Executive Director Nick Hansen.

Still, with such glowing results, Hansen knows there is room for improvement. “We received more than 800 comments and learned all about our operations and areas to improve.”

The SEER Analytics survey, used specifically for YMCAs, included a Primary Market Analysis which compared data with other facilities of the same size in comparable communities. The main objective of the survey, as Hansen explained, was “to use the data to strengthen our Y and get a better idea of our demographics. With the demographic information, we can understand what it’s going to take to price things to make it obtainable to people.”

A primary market analysis of the local Y’s database of more than 2,000 households was created to show a map of where members live, income levels and drive times to determine what barriers might keep people from joining.

It was found that the largest age group among members is 35-44 and 65 plus. 

“It was surprising to see we’re serving way more people in these age groups than the community demographics,” said Hansen as he explained that the 65 plus age group accounts for 37% of the Y’s membership, compared to the fact that 29% of people in the service area are 65 plus; and those 35-44 account for 20% of membership while this demographic is just 13% of the community. 

“The weakest age group is 55-64, which is surprising,” said Hansen. This group is 14% of membership and 23% of the community demographic. 

“We’re thinking this could be empty-nesters whose kids have left so they think twice about continuing their memberships,” believes Hansen. 

“The SEER Study guided us in the development of new membership categories that are more reflective of the community we service,” said Hansen, referring to changing demographics such as the single adult or empty-nester. 

Starting Sept. 1, the Itasca County Family YMCA will be offering new membership options including: Youth (middle school and high school students); Young Adult (for ages 19-23 who are just beginning a career or pursuing post-secondary education); Two-Adult Household (perfect for empty-nesters and/or senior couples); Single Adult Family (a single adult with children which is common among households in Itasca County); and Senior (not all seniors ages 65 and older have insurance plans that include Silver Sneakers and/or Silver & Fit that cover participation costs at a wellness facility).

“The Y is supportive of all seniors and hopes to get more involved as members,” added Hansen. “We hope even more residents choose to get involved at the Y. Each membership helps make our community stronger.”

In a letter sent out to members on Aug. 1, Hansen and YMCA Board President Jean MacDonell stated, “The Y is dedicated to being an inclusive organization and we are excited to announce new membership categories that will appeal to a broader range of community members. We carefully evaluated our membership rate structure to be sure we can meet the needs of our members, balance our obligations and continue on our mission to help those in need.” 

Areas in need of improvement identified by the SEER study included front desk operations, facility maintenance and member engagement. According to Hansen, the Y plans to find ways to make the front desk operations systems more efficient through technology such as a fob entry system and online registration. The maintenance will be a challenge as the facility is nearly 80,000 square feet and used by 1,200 people each day, but Hansen is exploring ideas to improve. With member engagement, the Y is looking at ways to take it to a higher level with new class formats, youth programs and equipment.

“This is a tremendous community asset and we want to be good stewards of it - so we’re looking for ways to improve,” said Hansen. “We’re looking at systems and procedures and how we can make a lasting impact and bring more value to the community in the longer term.”

For more information about the Itasca County Family YMCA, visit www.ymcaitasca.org or call 218-327-1161. 

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