Data: The #1 Resource That Can Steer Your YMCA to a Stronger ROI

When OPTIMISM isn't good for ROI blog image

We’re back with another post exploring the actionable and measurable ways you can increase your ROI. Keep reading to learn about the The Stockdale Paradox(based on the survival mindset of General James Stockdale’s nearly 8-year Vietnam POW experience) and what this seemingly unrelated, true story can teach you about your YMCA’s ROI.

[Review Part #1 on operational improvements or Part #2 on two key strategies to build and grow participation]

Part 3 blog image

Now for that story.

In his book, Good to Great, Jim Collins tells about interviewing General Stockdale about his time as a POW. The conversation turned to who survived and who didn’t–and why. Stockdale credited his survival to a mindset of never losing faith in the end of the story:  “I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life…”

Jim then asked him who didn’t survive. Of course we wouldn’t be surprised had he listed those who lost hope. That’s a given. However, his answer was “the optimists.” It turns out that optimists had put their hope in an unsubstantiated release date (by Christmas, by Easter, by summer, by next Christmas…and so on). This hope, continually disappointed, couldn’t sustain them. Jim wondered how the failure of optimism jived with Stockdale’s faith in the end of the story.

The difference, Stockdale explained, was the simultaneous mindsets of accepting reality + believing in success, or, as he put it: “We’re not getting out of here by Christmas. Now deal with it.” This mindset allowed him to devise creative action steps and build resilience that ultimately resulted in his survival.

What’s That Got to Do with Data and ROI?

This may seem like an overly serious story for an organization like yours, but leadership mindsets usually translate across industries.

Too many leaders base their view of an organization’s trending success or failure on optimistic or hopeless mindsets derived from a few obvious squeaky wheels or a goal pulled out of the air (i.e. “50% increase in membership in 2017”). But true success, according to the Stockdale Paradox, is borne from a firm grasp on REALITY – what’s actually happening – along with optimism that you have the right insights, tools and strategy to take your organization where you want it to go (i.e. success).

Simple observation and manual tracking may give you a general idea of the state of your YMCA’s health. Audacious goals can be motivating. But too many leaders miss the critical opportunity to peer into the inner workings of their business before setting goals. If something isn’t optimal, if you’re feeling disappointed in an area of your organization, data can lead the way to improvement. [Tweet that!]


Data that isn’t integrated into one system is like spider web of disjointed and twisted information. It’s difficult to pull meaningful insight, and it’s time-consuming to try and manually blend reports. The likelihood for error is too high and you run the risk of making decisions from inaccurate information. It’s a logistical nightmare!

SOLUTION: Optimize your data in a central location.

The answer is in the numbers.

Everything flows better when you simply know how it’s flowing. Real-time, accurate reporting on facility usage will only help you increase utilization. Automated reports will only help you to better track and engage members. Programming can only improve if you know which classes are wait-listed and which are unpopular.

Imagine a world where it’s easy to review revenue reports by program, manage wait lists for full programs and track reservations, deposits, payments and refunds with a few clicks of a button. It’s possible (and easy!) in a centralized system.

REVENUE IMPACT: 2% Annual Increase*

Find out how ACTIVE Net Insights can help you improve revenue.

As you steer your ship, make sure you’re headed in the right direction. Navigate your way to a better ROI with data optimization.


Part 4: Four IT Expenses that Impact TCO and Your YMCA’s ROI

*While these impact numbers are drawn from real ACTIVE Net use cases by a third-party auditor, they are not guarantees. And since the solutions recommended here involve the cost of software, these expected impacts are intended to be factored into a Total Cost of Ownership evaluation for software ROI purposes.


1 The Stockdale Paradox, Jim Collins, Good to Great