Data Helps Nielsen and YMCA “Hop the Gap” in Membership

In any collaboration, identifying the right partners is critical to achieving success. Whether you’re a business looking to enter a new market or an experienced nonprofit that needs to better understand its beneficiaries, the ability to find, understand and connect to the groups that will enable your growth is key to adapting to changing trends and evolving along with the rest of your industry.

For organizations like the YMCA of the Suncoast – James P. Gills Family Branch in New Port Richey, Fla., meeting the needs of their communities and in turn growing their memberships are key tenants of success. However, the team at the Florida YMCA branch knew they needed to better understand the organization’s more than 12,000 members and donor base in order to implement the next phase in its “Hop the Gap” campaign. This strategic initiative comprises a range of programs that aim to help young people overcome challenges—related to hunger, health, learning, water safety and safe spaces—and reach their full potential. But to do so, they needed to find these young potential members.

By better understanding its current membership representation against the local market, the team at the YMCA knew they could identify areas for recruitment. And with more insight into its annual campaign supporters, the organization could identify ways to augment that support during its “Hop the Gap” campaign, as well as throughout the year. Finally, a better understanding of the best opportunities for corporate supporters in the area based on its members’ consumer packaged goods preferences would allow the team at the YMCA to drive greater financial and in-kind support for its range of free and low-cost programs.

Without the expertise to carry out this work on its own, the nonprofit turned to Nielsen to provide assistance through skills-based volunteering under its global corporate social responsibility program, Nielsen Cares. The challenges that the YMCA identified as critical to young people in the communities it serves connected well with a range of Nielsen Cares priority cause areas, like Hunger & Nutrition, Education and Diversity & Inclusion. And Melissa Alexander, work transformation and digitization leader at Nielsen, led the team of four volunteers in leveraging their expertise to help the YMCA team.

“This collaboration with Nielsen Cares will help the YMCA of the Suncoast – James P. Gills Family Branch positively affect more families in our community and help them reach their personal well-being goals,” said Julio Vega, district vice president at the YMCA of the Suncoast.

By using Spectra, a product that enables organizations to identify their most strategic consumer targets for marketing execution, the team of Nielsen volunteers was able to complete a BehaviorScape analysis of YMCA members. This analysis helped them identify distinct member groups and characteristics according to demographic information like family composition and geography.

“This initiative gave us the chance to meet some fantastic people at the Y, make a positive impact on the community and work with Nielsen peers across the company,” said Alexander. “Our people and our capabilities are exceptional, and it’s a privilege to be able to share our skills with our community partners.”

The information provided through this project allowed the YMCA to better understand how its membership correlates with its donor base. One finding from the Nielsen team’s research was that there is no correlation between a member’s tenure and his or her corresponding donation amount. The team also found that one of the member groups that make up 28% of the YMCA’s members, “Active Seniors,” accounts for an average of just 4% of its donations. By contrast, the team found that another membership group, “Fit Families,” makes up 31% of the YMCA’s members and corresponds to roughly 26% of its overall donations. Equipped with these new insights, the team at the YMCA was able to share these findings with their advisory board. They were able to highlight new opportunities and ways to maximize their programs based on active membership groups—all within their ongoing efforts to outline their plans for the next phase of growth.

“As a YMCA, we learned who our current members are and who our potential members could be. This will allow us to focus our energy on reaching potential members in the community,” said Vega. “The Nielsen Cares team gave us a better understanding of who our donors are and where in the community those donations are coming from. This will allow us to raise more funds and reach more families that need us the most.”

To ensure these insights continue to advance the organization’s growth, the YMCA plans to tailor their next campaign accordingly. They also plan to share the membership insights around consumer packaged goods preferences with corporate sponsors. Through this effort, they hope to more strategically identify mutually beneficial ways of collaborating that will ultimately grow the YMCA’s ability to better serve its members and grow its “Hop the Gap” programs.