A Look at Trends in YMCAs, YWCAs, JCCs and Boys & Girls Clubs


hile nonprofit facilities like YMCAs, YWCAs, Jewish Community Centers (JCCs) and Boys & Girls Clubs offer many similar services to health clubs, when it comes to fitness, and to park districts when it comes to youth programs, they differ from these facilities in many more ways—both in terms of funding, and in mission. Respondents from these types of facilities made up 5.1 percent of the total response to the survey this year, with 96.2 percent reporting that they operate on a private, nonprofit basis. (The remainder reported they were public organizations.)

When asked how the economy might be impacting YMCAs, Jessica Wylie, marketing and communications for YMCA of the USA said that while the organization collects statistical information from the nation's 2,686 YMCAs, it has not yet received statistics for 2008. "But, anecdotally, we are learning that YMCAs are seeing an increase in financial assistance," she reported.

YMCAs and similar organizations receive assistance from their communities in many ways, and interestingly, they were the most likely to indicate that they partner with other organizations to reach out to the community with programs and services. Only 2.9 percent of YMCA respondents said they do not form such partnerships. Their most common partners are local schools and other nonprofit organizations. (See Figure 50.)

Usage & Budgets

Last year, 54 percent of YMCA respondents were expecting to see an increase in the number of people using their facility in 2008 over 2007. This year, 63.1 percent reported such an increase. That trend reverses when it comes to 2008 to 2009, when 60 percent last year were anticipating an increase, and just 52.5 percent this year expect one.

That said, respondents from YMCAs were among those most likely to report an increase in usage from 2007 to 2008, as well as from 2009 to 2010, when 63 percent expect an increase. (See Figure 51.)

At the same time, while they are more conservative in their projections than last year, respondents from YMCAs were still the most likely to see increasing revenues in 2008 and to be projecting further increases in 2009 and 2010. While 45.1 percent of all respondents said their revenues had risen from 2007 to 2008, a full 61 percent of YMCAs reported an increase. And although 38.1 percent of all respondents expect an increase in 2009, and 41 percent in 2010, for YMCAs, those numbers jump to 55 percent and 67 percent, respectively. (See Figure 52.)

At the same time, YMCA respondents are anticipating moderate decreases to operating expenditures from fiscal 2008 to fiscal 2010, of 2.7 percent. With the highest operating expenditures of all the facility types represented in the survey, YMCA respondents projected an 8.3 percent drop in operating budgets between 2008 and 2009. Despite the significant drop, the average budget reported this year for fiscal 2009 is still 12.3 percent higher than last year's respondents projected for the same period. Furthermore, the decrease in 2009 is projected to be followed by a 6 percent increase in 2010 to an average budget of $2,808,000.

YMCAs benefit by being able to make the most of philanthropic giving, and despite warnings about decreased giving due to the recession, the YMCA recently reported that 2008 was a good year, with corporations and foundations giving more than $23.8 million to the organization.

"Especially during an economic downturn, this philanthropic support allows us to continue to provide programs and services to ensure that every person and community we touch has the opportunity to thrive," said Neil Nicoll, president and CEO of YMCA of the USA. "We realize that our organization faces continued challenges in the year ahead, but we also recognize that those we serve are facing even greater challenges. Our commitment to helping all YMCA communities build meaningful, secure and healthy futures never wavers."

YMCA of the USA is the national resource office for the nation's YMCAs and secures donor funds to distribute to YMCAs around the country. Today, six in 10 YMCAs serve communities where median family income falls below the national average, and one in five kids in YMCA child care benefits from financial assistance, revealing the power of these organizations.

Building Plans

YMCA respondents were slightly more likely than average to be planning construction projects in the next three years. Two-thirds (66 percent) of YMCAs indicated that they do have plans, with nearly a quarter (23.3 percent) planning all new facilities. About a third (34 percent) were planning additions, and 44.7 percent had renovations in the works. (See Figure 53.)

YMCA respondents also were planning to spend slightly more than average on their construction. They reported an average construction cost of $5,244,000, 8.5 percent higher than the average construction budget of $4,835,000.

When it comes to the features included in their facilities, YMCAs have a lot to offer. More than three-quarters of YMCA respondents said they currently include locker rooms (85.8 percent), fitness centers (84 percent), exercise studios (82.1 percent) and indoor sports courts (76.4 percent). More than two-thirds also indicated they feature an indoor aquatic facility (72.6 percent), classrooms and meeting rooms (69.8 percent) and playgrounds (67 percent).

When it comes to their facility plans, YMCAs are more likely than most respondents to be planning to add more amenities. More than 10 percent of YMCAs are planning to add splash play areas, bleachers and seating, playgrounds, fitness centers and exercise studios in the next three years. Other common additions planned include indoor running tracks, locker rooms, waterparks, climbing walls, indoor aquatic facilities, and indoor sports courts.

Certifying Expertise

Respondents from YMCAs were the most likely to require some of their staff members to earn some type of certification. In fact, 100 percent of YMCA respondents said they require certification. The most common types required include:

  1. CPR/AED/First Aid certification (required by 97.1 percent of YMCA respondents, compared to 84.3 percent of all respondents)
  2. Background check (97.1 percent versus 77 percent)
  3. Lifeguard certification (89.5 percent versus 57.6 percent)
  4. Personal training or fitness certification (72.4 percent versus 26.9 percent)
  5. Aquatic management or pool operations certification (61.9 percent versus 34.4 percent)
  6. Childcare or early childhood education certification (54.3 percent versus 11.4 percent)


YMCAs and other nonprofit recreation and fitness facilities are well-known for cutting-edge programming that reaches out to the community, and this is reflected in the top concerns of these respondents. Unlike other respondents, who were most concerned about equipment and facility maintenance, YMCA respondents reported their top current concerns as:

  1. Marketing and increasing participation (58.8 percent said this is a top concern)
  2. Creating new and innovative programming (47.1 percent)
  3. Youth fitness and wellness (44.1 percent)

All three of these concerns drive the programming offered at these facilities, and surely impact new program plans. The top current programs at YMCA respondents' facilities, currently offered by more than 80 percent of respondents in this category, include:

  1. Holidays and other special events
  2. Day camps and summer camps
  3. Fitness programs
  4. Youth sports teams
  5. Aquatic exercise
  6. Mind-body/balance programs
  7. Swimming
  8. Active older adult programs
  9. Teen programming
  10. Personal training

The top program these facilities are planning to add over the next three years was nutrition and diet counseling. It was followed by educational programs and adult sports teams.

The move to focus on nutrition is reflected on YMCA Healthy Kids Day, when YMCAs across the country invited nearly 800,000 children, parents and community members to celebrate healthy living.

"The YMCA understands that many families in our communities are really struggling to maintain balance in their lives," said Lynne Vaughan, chief innovation officer, YMCA of the USA. "Through YMCA Healthy Kids Day, we give them an opportunity to have fun and be active as a family, as well as provide simple tools they can use all year long to make things a little better and less stressful."

The event emphasizes regular physical activity, nutritious food options and making time to connect as a family. More than 1,800 YMCAs hosted events this year on April 18, offering cooking classes, rock wall climbing, health screening and more.

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