As technology continues to change, how do you keep your older community up to speed and ensure they don’t feel intimidated by coming into your facility, all while meeting the needs of your younger community?
There’s a number of ways to get information to your members. Evaluating how they want to receive information is the first step in considering which technology and software will be best for your facility. The second step is assessing your budget.
“As a nonprofit, our resources and funds are limited, and because technology evolves so quickly and often becomes extremely expensive, remaining up-to-date on current technology trends is difficult,” said Joe Kirkenir, the director of administration at the YMCA of York and York County in York, Pennsylvania.
To combat limited resources and still meet the needs of members, Kirkenir explained they use Constant Contact and Remind to send out electronic communications to all members through email and phone. “[This] is a feature that makes creating a sense of community much easier and allows us to remain connected with our members,” he said.
If resources are not a problem for your facility, it’s important to be diligent when picking which software to use, or you might end up with technology neither you nor your members like. “Be careful with your software – they tend to overpromise and under deliver,” said Keith Dvorchik, the chief executive officer of the Roth Family JCC of Greater Orlando in Maitland, Florida. “Make sure your contract with them addresses how to deal with performance challenges you may consider.”
Dvorchik advised to ensure your software can deal with phones and tablets, as more members are using them rather than desktops or laptops. Additionally important is making sure your staff is well-trained and ready to assist members in any issues they may come across while navigating your technology offerings.
“Get everybody on board with the process early – make sure there is enough training and build in time for learning,” said Dvorchik. “Set expectations low in the beginning so you are able to under promise and over deliver.”
While your facility and staff may be over-delivering, your software may not be, and knowing when to change can be a challenge. “The key is understanding when you aren’t getting what you need and then finding out where to get what you need,” said Dvorchik. “Oftentimes you then find out there is much more available than you even knew about.”
This became true for Robin Rudman, the director of sports and fitness at the Katie & Irwin Kahn JCC in Columbia, South Carolina. Rudman was tasked with the six-month research project of deciding on new cardio equipment for her facility. After being able to demo some equipment and seeing which pieces members preferred, she pivoted from their old fitness provider to Matrix.
Among the new equipment’s technology features was the ability for members to sign into their Facebook or Netflix accounts while working out. “People are more inclined to binge watch a couple episodes of a show and get their run in or they can listen to audiobooks on the machine, that sort of stuff,” explained Rudman.
This change not only brought in new equipment, it also brought in new technology in the form of an app. “Matrix works with a company called Netpulse, which does activity tracking for lots of other fitness equipment makers, and Netpulse and Matrix create apps for their individual clients,” explained Rudman. “They built an app for our JCC in the way we needed, which was great.”
As Dvorchik previously mentioned, no change is easy, and challenges can arise. This is why the selection of your software is so important. Rudman described her experience with Netpulse as fairly easy though. “We had [the app] for about a month, made some tweaks to it that made it a little more user friendly and made more sense, then Netpulse reworked it to what we needed,” she said.
Some of these changes included making the app more navigation-friendly, to appeal to all demographics of their facility, which can be an ongoing challenge with technology. “It’s been a little bit bumpy since our demographic is older, so adaptation has been slower,” said Rudman. “But we would also like to attract some younger folks to us and I think having an app helps that. Regardless of your age, you have to keep an open mind and be ready to learn.”
Another benefit of the app according to Rudman, is no cost to your facility for four years and no cost for members to download. Through push notifications, if enough members are on board, the need for other software and means of contact can be diminished, saving time and money.
One of the neatest aspects and retention tactics Rudman pointed out about the app is the ability to create fitness challenges for her members. “I put a challenge out there and they have to achieve the goal within the time of the challenge — then they get a prize at the end,” she said. “It helps get them engaged in using the app and helps them to open up and see the rest of the benefits and what they can do with it.”
Whether you are currently happy with the technology and software at your facility or thinking about making a change, navigating through all the options and taking your time can provide the best benefits for your members. “Members expect organizations to be able to communicate with them and manage their information, so we shouldn’t be afraid to embrace new technology systems, even if they aren’t what we are used to doing,” said Kirkenir.
Dvorchik echoed this sentiment by elaborating how important and beneficial new technology can be. “New technology adds more features, and it can enhance member experience with the organization,” he said. “It makes communication and membership interactions easier, and tracking memberships easier and more effective.”
The decision to embrace the new or stay in the comfort zone should be a team decision, ensuring all are on board and ready for change. As Dvorchik recommended, “Don’t change just for change’s sake.”