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This month, we spoke with Lindsey Lerit, the membership director at the Merrimack Valley YMCA, about engaging new members during the height of the New Year’s rush.

How does your YMCA effectively engage new members in January and February?

LL: We see a spike with new health seekers at the start of the new year, but we’ve noticed a bit of a shift — folks are looking to get a jump start over the holidays and aren’t waiting until January to kick off their resolutions.

Starting in December, we kick off our weight loss challenge, with personal accountability and wellness checks. This challenge is a great way for members to work out with a buddy in a setting that is conducive to helping them reach their personal goals. Members who may not be interested in a group challenge are given “Engagement Forms” to fill out where they can identify areas of interest.

What role does your staff play in engagement strategies?

LL: All of our staff plays a role in member engagement and it’s based upon their interests and passions, giving them an opportunity to contribute to the planning and execution of tactics or events. Because of this, all staff are involved in the planning process for all our member engagement events. Their ideas are incorporated into everything we do. This not only gives them a voice in the process, but ownership.

Are there any challenges you’ve had to overcome? 

LL: After our Y opened following a long construction and renovation project, we saw a huge bump in membership. Our response was more reactive and we missed opportunities to engage our current and new members. Since then, we have found it is most important to not just listen to our members, but also actively pay attention to them, their behaviors and their needs.

Do you have any tips for keeping “New Year’s resolutioners” engaged? 

LL: Get to know your members and your community so you can better address what they truly need and want. You can hear the words somebody speaks, but if you aren’t paying full attention to tone, body language and facial expressions, you will miss the full message. We strive to give them a home they are proud to belong to. Never stop asking for answers and taking the time to learn as you go.

Bobby Dyer

Bobby is the former editor of Community Rec Magazine.

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