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For this September, the YMCA of South Hampton Roads, the YMCA of the Virginia Peninsulas and the Virginia Zoo in Norfolk are bringing their members an exotic, exciting opportunity.

The three organizations will be participating in their annual Membership Swap all month long. As part of the program, YMCA members can visit the zoo for free and zoo members get access to the combined 34 YMCA locations.

Santiago Prada, the senior executive of membership and wellness at YMCA of the Virginia Peninsulas, said the partnership was ideal due to their close proximity to each other.

“Our geographical footprint has allowed for a great deal of collaboration over the years through various initiatives, and because of this, we are able to share and collaborate with a larger group of organizations and businesses regionally,” said Prada.

History and Benefits of the Swap

The swap with the zoo started a few years ago, and Prada said it was initiated by the YMCA of South Hampton Roads.

“Their vice president of Membership Success, Julie Crowley, invited our association to join in this effort,” said Prada. “During the month of September, annual members of the zoo are able to visit any of our YMCA locations for free, and if they are to join, we waive the join fee for them.”

Membership Swap

Image courtesy of the YMCA of the Virginia Peninsulas

In return, YMCA members are able to visit the zoo for free during the course of the month, and they are eligible to receive discounts in food and merchandise. Prada said his organization has got close to 200 joins already in just the first week of the promotion.

“Both the Zoo and the Y focus on providing recreational experiences for families, so our membership swaps are very popular during this time of the year,” he said. “We’ve also heard from members who are already planning on visiting the Zoo over the coming weeks. It’s brought a lot of energy to our fall membership campaign.”

Future Swaps and Best Practices

The zoo partnership isn’t the only swap that will be used by the two YMCAs moving forward. Prada said in October, they will be partnering with the Air & Space Museum in Hampton, Virginia, and in November they will do a swap with the Children’s Museum in Portsmouth, Virginia.

“It will work similarly, where their members will be able to utilize our combined 34 locations during their respective months, and our members will be able to visit for free,” said Prada. “There are also discounts built in if members decide to join. Overall, it’s a great community partnership for our Ys and a great benefit for the members.”

He added that a membership swap will help expose members to the operations of community partners, and at the same time, showcases to perspective members the Y’s classes, programs and offerings.

However, Prada had a few pieces of advice before an organization considers or begins their own membership swap program.

“It’s important to have clear communication for members, so they understand the promotion and the limitations,” said Prada. “Seasonality plays a role in this as well. Ensure the months that are selected are times where both entities can accommodate the influx of traffic.”


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John Reecer

John Reecer is an assistant editor at Peake Media.

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