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While I was at the 2019 General Assembly of YMCAs, I had the pleasure of getting insights from several community rec professionals on the future of the industry and keys to success moving forward. One such conversation was with Paul Zeger, the senior director of programs and operations at the Princeton Family YMCA, on the subject of telling the story of your organization.

An organization’s leadership team spends countless hours planning workouts, marketing campaigns and community events, hiring staff members, buying equipment, and making many other decisions that keep the place running properly.

However, he shared that in all the chaos of making sure you execute your community rec center’s vision, it’s easy to neglect sharing that vision — and how you’re working toward it — with the community.

In other words, you might not be telling your story properly. It’s one thing to share how many people attended a free community workout or how much money was raised at a fundraiser, but without the “why,” your ability to affect positive change in the community could be stifled.

“It’s all about storytelling, being able to properly tell your organization’s story,” said Zeger. “You shouldn’t just state facts and data, telling the community how it is, where you were and how you come.”

Storytelling should tap into the heart of your organization’s mission and core values, then show the community through social media, videos, signage and other various methods how your work is creating positive outcomes with people.

This isn’t to undervalue your programs and services — they’re certainly important. However, it’s imperative to remember, in the eyes of any community, what you do is less important if you don’t convey the “why” and “how.”

“It shouldn’t be only in our branch — it should be nationwide,” said Zeger. “We want individuals [in our communities] to understand the work and impact we make as a movement.”

If you’re unsure of whether you’re effectively telling your story already, or want to start telling it, comparing notes with other community rec organizations is very beneficial. You can reach out to facilities in neighboring cities or communities, or connect with like-minded professionals at tradeshows or networking events.

“Getting to learn what other YMCAs are doing that I don’t do, based on the needs they have that we don’t, is very valuable,” said Zeger. “Learning their story about what they’re doing, and the impact they’re making in the community is really cool.”


What methods does your community rec center use to tell its story to the community? Does your story resonate with people in the community? Let us know in the comments!

Bobby Dyer

Bobby is the former editor of Community Rec Magazine.

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