Deliver Your Mission Online

By | Customer Experience, Industry, Mission Delivery, Online | No Comments

Virtual Facilities are nothing new; in fact, they have been used for years by groups of people in different locations wishing to collaborate on ideas and projects. Typically these are secure online collaborative workspaces designed to enhance the exchange of information among a project team working from different locations. The term Collaboratory was coined as far back as 1989 by William Wulf while he worked for the US National Science Foundation. Wulf’s vision was a “center without walls”; a place in which the nation’s researchers could interact with colleagues, share data, and access information in digital libraries all from geographically dispersed locations.

Since then, rapid advances in computing and communications technologies, such as the internet, social media and mobile (Smart Phone) technology have made near real-time delivery of information quite common. Average people have become adept at sharing such things as music, photographs, schedules, ideas, opinions and messages all in real time over the internet; to many, this has become their preferred medium of communication with third parties. Recognizing this, many progressive organizations have recently deployed Live Chat technology on their websites, allowing the public to interact directly with sales or customer service staff without having to pick up the phone or visit a facility.

This is just one example of ways that a member-based non-profit organization like the YMCA could extend their brand and their mission beyond the physical boundaries of their bricks and mortar facility. Imagine being able to communicate with a virtual Health Coach where you could get exercise and nutritional advice right from the comfort of your own computer. Some people prefer to exercise outdoors, perhaps jogging or cycling; imagine if these weekend warriors had online tools where they could plan their workouts, set goals and objectives and track their progress—all while being held accountable to their fitness program by their personal trainer who resides inside their iPad. Other compelling virtual solutions include an online Health Assessment, Symptom Checker, Health Calculators, Recipes, Online Learning and Positive Coaching Courses. There is certainly no better way to reach out to today’s youth than through this medium. The opportunities are endless but the journey might seem more daunting than the destination.

In a recent survey I asked several of our YMCA customers if they viewed their websites as a critical tool for mission delivery and the answer was a unanimous “Yes!” The next question I asked them was whether they thought their members found their websites to be a useful source of information and the answer was a resounding “No!”—curious disconnect. It seems that although many progressive member-based nonprofit organizations understand the importance of this medium, few have the time or resources to invest in delivering the online tools that drive member engagement and positively impact the community.

The good news is that most of this technology already exists and there is no need to reinvent the wheel. Live Chat again is a good example—there are literally hundreds of different options to choose from—and most of them are easy to deploy and work rather well. Online health and wellness tools are common too, as are learning solutions. The challenge is identifying the best-of-breed providers and integrating their solutions into a useful online offering. For this, finding the right development partner who is focused on mission delivery solutions could be the best answer. While not entirely painless, the dream of a complete and interactive “center without walls” for a member-based nonprofit is not that far off.

James Smith is innovative strategist for Daxko.

Flash Mob Meets Group Exercise

By | Fitness, Industry, Programs | No Comments

There are all kinds of ways to think outside the walls of your facility, but this one has intrigued me for a while now. A few summers back I was in downtown Seattle when a group of about 50 people came running down the street singing “Dancing in the Rain.” I had to know what was happening so I flagged down a straggler and asked. I found out they were part of a fitness/social group that meets in different places and just does active things. Things like running hills, climbing stairs, and dancing in the rain—think flash mob meets group fitness. After they do their workouts, they disperse to a bar or coffee shop to hang out. Very cool!

Last week in New York City I saw a similar thing happening right outside Central Park in the middle of a workday. A group of people just descended on the plaza and started working it. While there were lots of young adults, there were all ages, fitness levels and body types represented.

Apparently, the schedule is set but the location and activities are communicated last minute by Twitter, text, or email. You can pay by the month or just show up and pay by the event. I love this! What a great way to get people moving and to facilitate those all-important relationships we want our members to build with each other.

Lori Swann is director of marketing and membership for Daxko T2 Consulting.

Technology = Accountability, Motivation, and Community

By | Customer Experience, Fitness, Industry | No Comments

For the first time since 1981, I did not put on my Casio Illuminator this week. I have no idea how many times I have gone into Walmart, plopped down 12 bucks, and walked out with a new edition of my old running buddy. It is a watch, stopwatch and alarm. That’s it.

This week I have been wearing my Nike+ Fuelband. Ok, so I bought it because I like Nike products and it is just very cool. But it really has helped me improve my lifestyle activity level—not just time my running or swimming. It monitors three key aspects of physical activity level 24/7 and provides me with feedback on progress towards my goals.

I believe the smart folks at Nike developed this for everyone—not just high-performing athletes. I think this new technology helps people with three things:

• Accountability
• Motivation
• Community

Here is an example of all three: A few nights ago I was getting out of the car to get into my hotel room and go to sleep as quickly as possible. Just before she drove away, my Daxko teammate, Lori Swann, held out her arm to show me her Fuelband flashing “GOAL.” I think I heard the word “wimp” and a victorious laugh as she drove away. Of course I walked around the parking lot until I met my goal for the day, snapped the pic above, and posted it on the Nike online community.

It is not just tech equipment. A free website (www.myfitnesspal.com) has helped me lose 21 pounds (thanks Gordie E.)

Technology can be the bridge between a sedentary lifestyle and a Y facility membership. Stated more strongly: I think what facilities did for YMCAs over the last decade, technology could do over the next decade.

Tom Massey is senior vice president of Daxko T2 Consulting.

Take the Sting out of Soft Costs

By | Facilities, Industry | No Comments

Cost / Sq. Ft. x Building Size = Project Costs, right? Wrong!

I won the ‘key award’ in math at my high school as a senior. Small school, I know, but I gladly took the honors. Numbers were my friend, and they still are; calculus and all. So when I work an equation, and run a summation, I’m usually sure of the result. I bet most of us think the same.. Then come soft costs—those dang expenses germane to every building ever built that fall outside of that equation above. Problem is, though having erected some 10,000 buildings in the U.S., we in the Y continue to get stung by these soft costs in the construction math bee. What gives?

This week the math bee stung another client Y. Fuzzy math and our not having educated our volunteers as well as we can, led to a $1.5M delta between impression and reality. It wasn’t pretty.

I want to take the sting out of the bee, and go back to the days of when math was fun. Let’s all agree to allow standard Y facility budget forms, and the lessons learned over those 10,000 projects, influence are math game on our projects ahead.

The real math: To every dollar budgeted for construction of the building alone, including the cost of site improvements, we have to add a quarter, at least in cost modeling. If that quarter converts to 22 cents as a project is refined, even better. But for starters, before in-filling any cells in the spreadsheet, add the ‘*25’ to the equation. You can thank me in the morning.

Soft costs defined are those including the following (and, yes, it’s a long list): professional fees for architects and engineering (seven cents of that quarter already shot!), bonds and insurance, contingencies, furnishings, fixtures and equipment, fundraising costs, building permits, the temporary membership sales trailer, and the lawyer. The list lengthens with: the soil borings, the renderings that we didn’t negotiate in the architect’s original agreement, travel expenses, and the special events on-site that spread the word about our building more good. That’s NOT the list in total, but this is a blog not a book. You get the drift.

All said, let’s just get ‘em all on a list once, call it the ‘Standard, Typical, Template, By-The-Book Facility Development Project Budget Form for YMCAs’ and embrace it—just like I did with that key award. We’ll never have to get tripped up along the pace of a new Y development again, and thereby take the sting out of the soft cost bee.

Oh, no need to create the form from scratch. We’ve got that covered. As easy as 1-2-3.

Rod Grozier is director of facility development and design for Daxko T2 Consulting.