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|Project Details |
The Situation – Improve Information Distribution and Program Registration
YMCA of the North Shore encompasses eight facilities serving families in six communities in the seacoast region north of Boston, Massachusetts. Its facilities offer sports, fitness, arts/dance and other activities and programs throughout the year for adults and children. In 2003, the organization realized it needed a web site with greater usability for disseminating information and registering members and others in the community for its programs. At that time, the organization had 20,000 members who were looking to obtain information online on YMCA facilities’ pool and gym times as well as register online for YMCA programs.
“We needed to get to the marketplace with a web site that is more polished and dynamic,” states Beth Francis, chief development officer at YMCA of North Shore. “We knew our site would be the best way to get information to our members. Our first objective was to enable the site to communicate to our members, then we wanted to develop the site into a sales tool for recruiting new members.”
The Solution – Built-In Email System and Ease-to-Use Online Program Registration
The YMCA of North Shore engaged Synthenet to undertake its web site overhaul, selecting the company over several competitors. The winning factors were Synthenet’s reputation with its current clients, an understanding of non-profits and a willingness to work with their budget. Synthenet also had the edge because it provides a content management system to its clients with full training and an e-mail messaging component that is built into the web site structure.
“With the content management system, multiple users can update the pages and we can give permission to update certain pages to specific people,” points out Francis. “When you have 100 people with permission to make changes on a site, it’s important to have a content management system that’s easy to use and relevant to the end-user.”
To ensure thoroughness in meeting the YMCA of North Shore’s objectives, Synthenet conducted its “Discovery Session,” the first step in the web site development process. Through the discovery session, Synthenet gathers information on the client’s business requirements, issues and immediate and long-range goals, in order to develop an effective web strategy.
“With the discovery session, we learned what we didn’t know,” states Francis. “The ultimate outcome was stronger because we did this discovery rather than just telling Synthenet what we wanted to do.”
Developed in 2004 and redesigned in early 2009, the YMCA of North Shore’s web site is now more content-driven. The site possesses the e-mail messaging system for sending event reminders and newsletters and program registration is prominently placed on the home page, adding easy access and convenience to visitors’ experience. The home page also has an alert feature for communicating to members immediately whenever there is a cancellation or other important information.
The YMCA of North Shore uses the e-mail messaging system frequently for reaching different target audiences. Newsletters are sent monthly to members, reminders go out for upcoming or registered events and e-mail blasts are set up to welcome new members and remind current members of renewals.
“We love the ease of use of the e-mail component and how our emails match the look of the web site,” comments Francis.
The site also includes an easy to manage photo gallery for posting pictures of members and moments from programs and events.
“With the photo gallery Synthenet developed for our site, we can change photos very easily,” remarks Francis. “Downloading photos is much easier and there is more flexibility in terms of the file types that we can upload.”
The Outcome – Saved Time, Cut Costs and Grew Membership By 20%
Since launching the site, the YMCA of North Shore has grown its membership by 20%. Also, the site’s ease of use and convenience for both staff and members has allowed the YMCA of North Shore to save time and trim costs.
“Having all our information online saves time for us as it provides convenience for members,” explains Francis. “Members don’t need to call us during business hours because they have easy access to all the information they need on our site.”
The YMCA of North Shore has experienced cost savings because it no longer needs to print its program catalog, pay staff to assemble it, and pay for postage to send it. People can now download the catalog directly from the web site. The organization also saves on postage by doing more member communications via e-mail rather than postal mail.
With all the enhancements it was making to its site, the YMCA of North Shore expected there to be a learning curve and a bit of frustration. But, as Francis reports, “Our experience with Synthenet was excellent and positive. The whole team was great at helping us load pages and change content and providing suggestions and insight. They were also good at taking our suggestions and hearing our ideas.
They do a good job communicating, particularly about their server upgrades. They’re also very responsive, especially by email. They’ll always respond that day.”