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Nonprofits Look for Ways To Compete in a Crowded Marketplace for 2006

Health club chains, circuit training facilities and Sprint's corporate fitness center surround the Jewish Community Center (JCC) of Greater Kansas City campus. Cary Minkoff, the executive director of the Overland Park, KS-based JCC, expects to face even more competition next year.

“For a long time, JCCs and Ys were the only game in town for services for children and adults,” he says. “Now everyone is doing that in the fitness industry. We can no longer treat fitness as an amenity to someone's membership. It's now a core business.”

To compete in what may soon become a saturated market, Minkoff says his JCC is reevaluating its programming, equipment and services to better serve its clientele. The JCC is also trying to set itself apart from the competition by forming partnerships with hospitals and other health care providers. The JCC collaborated with St. Luke's South Hospital to launch a new community-wide health initiative called the Imagine Your Potential program.

“The health care industry is in such a flux that the best way for people to manage their health more cost effectively is by staying healthy,” he says. “If we can create an arena for them to do that, it will be huge. There are things as a nonprofit we can do that will impact the community on a different level. We're looking to be ground breakers in the fields of health management and human performance.”

The JCC built the fitness center and campus 18 years ago in Overland Park, KS. By renovating the facility and purchasing new equipment over the next 12 to 24 months, the JCC plans to pull in new members and eventually become a model JCC for the nation.

“We're going all around the country, and we're going to take the best from the best,” says Dan McDonough, director of the center for human performance for the JCC of Kansas City.

The YMCA of Greater Cincinnati is also trying to deal with increased competition. Several hospital-based fitness clubs, health club chains and small personal training studios operate within a five-mile radius of the Y. The community wellness center, which is located on a nursing home campus, dropped its age requirement and is no longer strictly operating as a 40-and-up facility. With a college across the street, the Y wanted to market its services to the students, says Donnie Kalb, center director.

“The students can work out in a freeweight-type setting or come over here and get lots of personal attention,” he says. “The Baby Boomers also don't want to work out with people their age. Working out with younger people makes them feel younger than they actually are.”

The Y spreads the word about its facility through newspaper and radio advertising as well as direct mail; however, word of mouth is most effective, Kalb says. Minkoff agrees.

“Our best sales force is our members,” he says.

Nonprofit fitness facilities may be facing increased competition from for-profit health clubs, but McDonough says nonprofits have an edge on the competition.

“As a JCC, our mission is not to increase members or revenues,” he says. “We can focus on improving the health of the community and our members.”

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