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Entries in community service (16)


Increase Health Club Member Engagement Through Community Service (and Our New E-book)

Health clubs and health club operators have always been in the business of giving—by providing practical guidance, a safe environment, and inclusive programming options for people of all ages and abilities to be regularly active.   

And now more than ever, clubs are extending their generosity beyond their four walls by focusing on identifying the needs of the larger community and then creating programs to address these needs.  

Responses to these targeted program offerings have been tremendous. Community members that take part in club outreach initiatives see results ranging from a renewed motivation to be physically active to a significant increase in quality of life. Most importantly, any and all of these outcomes have left participants feeling happier, healthier, and better prepared to take on any new challenges that lie ahead. 

That’s why we’ve compiled a new e-book, “Increasing Engagement Through Community Service: Examples from IHRSA Clubs.” 

This member-only publication highlights case studies from five IHRSA members with impactful community service programs: 

  • Gainesville Health & Fitness
  • GIVE Fitness
  • Franco's Athletic Club
  • Gold's Gym Dutchess County
  • Club Fit 

The e-book’s community outreach case studies are meant to inspire you to offer a community service program of your own, provide ideas on new outreach programs, and encourage you to share this information with others who are interested in expanding the health and fitness industry’s reach beyond health club walls. 

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Club Fit Uses Storytelling to Engage Cancer Survivors and First Responders

Storytelling has always had the power to personally connect people through shared experiences. 

And, fortuitously, clubs provide the perfect place for people to gather and share their stories—about where they are in their fitness journey and where they hope this journey will lead them. 

Club Fit, with two locations in Briarcliff and Jefferson Valley, NY, harnessed the power of storytelling to encourage community members to acknowledge why it is important to keep active and how they can use this positive mentality to achieve their fitness goals.         

“We’re here and have a presence in the community and so people want to bring us their stories,” says Ellen Koelsch, vice president of Club Fit. “When people tell us their stories and offer unique programming ideas, we respond by saying ‘That would be great. Would you like to do this with us?’” 

Fighting Cancer with Fitness 

Cancer is a disease that directly or indirectly impacts all of us. 

The National Cancer Institute estimates that by the end of 2016, cancer will have taken the lives of 595,690 U.S. citizens. And, over the course of the next two decades, the number of new cancer cases worldwide is expected to hit a staggering 22 million. 

Taking note of the need to address rising cancer incidence and mortality rates, Club Fit decided to start a program that would help cancer patients regain their strength and conviction. And, the decision to start this program was officially solidified after attending the IHRSA International Convention & Trade Show and hearing Julie Main speak about her personal battle with cancer and the importance of overcoming the disease’s limitations with physical activity.   

A “Think Fit for Kids” fundraising event to raise money for brain tumor resarch.

Since that time, Club Fit’s cancer wellness program has employed strength training, cardio, and yoga techniques to help participants feel healthier and more confident. The program is conducted by certified instructors who create personalized fitness routines for participants of all ages and abilities. The program is free for all members and non-members are invited to participate in a 90-day free trial. 

Over the years, the program has seen continued success thanks to its strong partnerships with local doctors and hospitals who refer patients to the club.   

“Participants must have medical clearances from their doctors to be involved,” says Koelsch, “and they are required to meet with trainers ahead of time so that they know exactly what to expect at the start of the program.” 

Continue reading "Club Fit Uses Storytelling to Engage Cancer Survivors and First Responders."

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4 Ways Health Clubs Benefit from Offering Community Programs

Health clubs are in the business of serving people. And what better way is there to serve people than to get involved in opportunities that will make a lasting impact outside the four walls of your health club? 

Community programs act as a way to engage all people to participate in physical activity, regardless of factors such as age or ability. With the right resources, staff members, and organizational support it is possible for clubs to play a larger role in helping local residents be more active. 

In fact, what clubs are willing to actively give to the local community is often returned in the form of business prosperity. 

Here are four reasons health clubs could benefit from offering community programming: 

1. Shows that Your Club is Involved in the Community 

“Our ideas for programming come from simply answering a need,” says Noah Hastay, operations manager at Gainesville Health & Fitness, “with our vision of becoming one of the best companies for the world, we are striving to help those inside and outside of our four walls.” 

Asking local community members what they want out of a health club’s program offerings is a proven way to demonstrate a club’s ability to listen to member suggestions and personally address them as best as possible. 

 2. Differentiates Health Club from Competitors 

 “The initial decision to offer these programs was easy because our clubs have always supported this idea,” says Kim Kenyon, managing partner at Gold’s Gym Dutchess County, “and we wanted to create a way to differentiate ourselves from our competitors—providing these services gave us opportunities to do both.” 

In today’s ever-expanding market, most clubs offer some variation of yoga classes, personal training sessions, and group-X programs. However, programming specifically tailored to address a certain need—whether it is helping cancer patients regain their strength or sponsoring a road race to raise charitable funds for ALS—generates unique interest and makes any facility stand out in a sea of similarity.   

Continue reading "4 Reasons Health Clubs Should Consider Offering Community Programming."

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GIVE Fitness Stresses Purpose Over Profit

Purpose fuels profit. By definition, the two work together to achieve remarkable results. 

From its inception, this is something that GIVE Fitness realized and incorporated into its business model to better serve its members and be more accessible to residents in the local community. By promoting best practices for individual health and wellness and finding the value in reaching out to and assisting a larger network of people, GIVE has used its passion to solidify its brand as one that is both generous and prosperous. 

GIVE Fitness was started as part of Working to Give, LLC (WTG), a for-profit corporation launched in 2005 as the result of a college MBA project conducted by Matt Holguin and two of his MBA colleagues at Azusa Pacific University. WTG is the parent company that oversees a number of smaller business operations in food, retail, and fitness, and what makes WTG so compelling is the requirement that all smaller business operations under WTG ownership must be willing to use 50% of their profits to give back to the community.  

A Business Model Unlike Most 

In the business world where profit often trumps purpose, GIVE does the opposite and encourages other businesses to follow its lead by prioritizing the needs of the people they service over the financial gains they attain. However, even as GIVE’s business model proves to be both effective and powerful, there are many that continue to question whether this strategy is too good to be true. 

“Our biggest challenge has been maintaining transparency. Many people think this is a marketing ploy, so battling the skepticism and being consistent in our messaging has been extremely important. This is not just a monetary thing. It is a daily practice for us to be part of our community,” says Josh Donovan, president and co-founder of GIVE Fitness and COO of the fitness division for Working to Give. 

Continue reading "GIVE Fitness Stresses Purpose Over Profit."

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How Franco’s Athletic Club Became Mandeville’s ‘Community Place’

Picture the year 1986. Jane Fonda was on the move. Jazzercise classes were in-style. And, who could forget the tight, shiny, neon workout clothing—the ultimate indicator of a person’s fitness fashion expertise. 

But, even with all of the glitz and glamour of ‘80s fitness trends, there were still many health club programming opportunities that had not been identified yet. 

In particular, Ron and Sandy Franco, co-owners of Franco’s Athletic Club in Mandeville, LA, noticed that health clubs in this decade were primarily interested in attracting more adult members by offering unique programming to meet the needs of this target market. Structured programming options—especially those offered within a health club setting—were seldom used as a way to engage the whole family in regular physical activity. Taking note of this gap in coverage, Sandy and Ron decided that they would make it their mission to create a culture of physical activity for all generations.

“Kids were rarely part of clubs in the 80s,” says Sandy Franco, “so we wanted to build a club centered around families and the community that could offer something for everyone.” 

Franco’s; the Place Where Community Members Come and Gather 

With this new goal in mind, the Francos started by getting involved with children to show them the importance of being physically active from a young age. Sandy and her husband began by targeting both kids and parents by being involved with local school systems. 

The Francos contacted a number of schools, offering to support physical education programs by offering fun fitness rallies for kids. The club hosted a fun run that challenged all local schools to participate, where the school with the largest attendance would be given a trophy, a monetary reward to be used for purchasing new PE equipment, and the opportunity to host a fitness rally with Franco's and Mountain Dew. 

Over 2,000 kids and parents showed up for the program’s debut, confirming its success. 

“We thought we could be the community place; a place where community members could gather and come together. Health clubs are positioned to help, so we knew that there had to be a way we could be involved,” says Franco. 

Continue reading "How Franco's Athletic Club Became Mandeville's 'Community Place.'

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At Gold’s Gym Dutchess County, Member Results and Community Giving Go Hand-in-Hand

Kim Austin Kenyon found her inspiration to help others from a young age. As a kid, she watched her father, Bill Austin, strive to better the lives of others through physical fitness and daily exercise in his role as the owner of two Gold’s Gym facilities in New York. And in these moments, Kenyon realized she wanted to pursue the same calling and she became drawn to the philanthropic nature of the industry.

Today, Kenyon follows in her father’s footsteps as the managing partner of Gold’s Gym Dutchess County, where she and her colleagues currently serve over 11,000 members in Fishkill and Poughkeepsie, NY. In her daily work, she seizes similar opportunities to offer meaningful programs that help local community members lead healthier lifestyles.

“These program offerings make us who we are,” says Kenyon. “We want to give our members the results they are looking for while also giving back to the community. The initial decision to offer these programs was easy because our clubs have always supported this idea and we wanted to create a way to differentiate ourselves from our competitors—providing these services gave us opportunities to do both.”                         

Gold’s Gym and ‘BetterU’ Work to Prevent Heart Disease

The American Heart Association (AHA) estimates that 370,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year. And, the AHA also attributes heart disease as the number one killer of women, in particular—taking more lives than every type of cancer combined.

Almost six years ago, Gold’s Gym Dutchess County was approached by the American Heart Association about an opportunity to sponsor a program that would address rising rates of heart disease by countering them with healthy behaviors, like regular physical activity and wholesome dietary choices. Gold’s Gym gladly accepted this offer and joined forces with the AHA to sponsor the BetterU program—a free AHA program that encourages 12 women to make small changes to individual fitness and nutrition habits to improve cardiovascular health.

Continue reading about Gold's Gym Dutchess County's community programs.

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CBI: The ‘Halo Effect’ of Community Service

Community service is a popular way for businesses to show their appreciation to customers and enhance their reputation in the community. As an added bonus, charitable initiatives tend to create a "halo effect" and give members and potential members a more positive perception of the business.

Two IHRSA clubs with thriving community service programs were featured in the December issue of Club Business International

Newtown Athletic Club’s Financial Assistance Program

Community service is a constant, ongoing effort at Newton Athletic Club (NAC) in Newton, PA, in part because it appeals to members.

“They love belonging to a club that’s seen as caring and generous,” said Linda Mitchell, director of public relations and community partners for NAC. “That’s how they want to be, too. It helps them relate to you on an emotional level, which will serve you handsomely for the life of your business.”

NAC supports the community via charitable donations and volunteerism, but it’s also developed a financial assistance program for deserving individuals that, it believes, is one of a kind.

The 20-year-old program is predicated on the belief that everyone in the community should have an equal opportunity to become healthy and physically fit. Interested applicants are asked to fill out a form that reflects their ability to pay for a club membership; it’s then reviewed by NAC’s Financial Assistance Review Committee, which consists of the club’s owners, and its general manager, general counsel, and director of charitable giving.

Over the years, the program has given thousands of Newtown-area residents the chance to exercise in a safe, supportive environment—despite financial difficulties.

Franco’s Athletic Club’s Inclusive Programming

Ron and Sandy Franco, the owners of Franco’s Athletic Club (FAC), in Mandeville, LA, have developed a number of programs that have been specifically designed to be inclusive, making club services available and accessible to groups that, otherwise, wouldn’t be able to take advantage of them.

The club provides exercise classes for special needs children and individuals with disabilities to show that it’s possible for them to take part in regular physical activity, and to encourage them to do so. It also offers employment opportunities to local residents with limited mobility.

The gesture not only demonstrates FAC’s commitment to helping those in need but, thanks to the halo effect, also helps sell memberships. The club’s charitable efforts create a positive public impression, making belonging more appealing.

“We invest in our community, because giving back to others has helped us to grow our facility, our membership, and our value,” Sandy Franco told CBI.


Calling for President’s Council Community Leadership Award Nominations

IHRSA is proud of our many member clubs that put in the extra time, effort, and funding in order to make their communities a better place—and we want to make sure your initiatives don’t go unnoticed. Because of this, we have been awarding our own Excellence In Community Service Award since 2009. 

While our 2015 awards have been handed out, there’s another high-profile opportunity to recognize those in the U.S. who give back—the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition (PCFSN) Community Leadership Award.

The PCFSN Community Leadership Award is an annual award given out to up to 50 individuals who improve the lives of others within their community by providing or enhancing opportunities to engage in sports, physical activities, fitness, or nutrition-related programs. In this case, "community" may refer to a state, organization, sports league or team, business, city, or community-based group.

Visit the PCFSN Community Leadership Award page to nominate someone from your club who is making a difference in your community. The nomination process is simple—it requires some basic information and a brief explanation of the significance of the nominee's accomplishments and how their efforts have improved the lives of others.

Nominations must be received by February 1. Don’t miss this opportunity to have your club recognized for its community spirit! 


Free E-book: IHRSA Clubs Give Back for the Good of the Community 

IHRSA’s new free e-book, IHRSA Clubs Give Back for the Good of the Community, is now available for download.

As a health club, giving back can be beneficial for your business in a number of different ways. Being involved in the local community can make your members feel reassured about being part of an organization that has such a genuine interest in the health and wellbeing of its members and local residents.

Not only that, but branding your club according to this mission will create a statement that defines your business as one that is dedicated to sharing its heart and efforts in the community. And residents will begin to take notice of this, spreading your message and mission through word of mouth.

Promoting these types of offerings also assures your staff members that they are doing inspiring and charitable work each and every day when they walk through the doors of your facility. And this combined support from community members, club members, and staff members will benefit your business for years to come.

This e-book features: 

  • Five case studies detailing how top IHRSA member clubs have integrated giving back into their business models.
  • Best practices, business benefits, and business challenges.
  • Advice for clubs looking to start or build upon the community outreach programs that they offer.
  • Helpful resources and additional information on community outreach opportunities.  

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Newtown Cares for the Quest and the Community

“Recently, I’ve stumbled across a new business paradigm…Its hallmark is institutionalized compassion, a kind of corporate social conscience, a full embrace of the web of obligations that connects us all.”

Augie Nieto, cofounder and former President and CEO of Life Fitness, could not have been more correct – “doing good” not only contributes to the life and success of any business, but it also builds a strong sense of unity among members of the local community.  

After Nieto was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in 2005, he created Augie’s Quest, an initiative designed to “do better” by funding research and drug development aimed at ending Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Newtown Athletic Club (NAC) in Pennsylvania has been a strong supporter of Augie’s Quest for several years now and has built a strong connection with the program. The club has used Augie’s message and service mentality to establish club programming to raise funds and awareness for ALS - some of which include Zumbathons hosted by celebrity instructors and broader fitness events that allow participants to choose from a variety of workout options.

In 2014, Newtown had a more personal encounter with ALS when the club discovered that one of their own members was diagnosed with the disease. And at that moment, 31-year old Matt Bellina, became the local face of the campaign to support Augie’s Quest.  To raise charitable funds, NAC designed a system to drive online donations from members through their electronic monthly funds transfer. A strong email and social media marketing campaign – with content tailored around both Matt and Augie – generated a significant amount of donations. With support from sponsors and club staff members, Newtown was able to create a variety of activities, fitness competitions, and silent auctions all designed to benefit this worthy cause. As a result, the club raised a total of $180,000 or 10% of the $1.8 billion raised at Augie’s Quest during IHRSA 2015.

And Newtown’s reputation as a business that cares about the community has only grown stronger. Through its charitable efforts, Newtown has created a brand that will continue to elicit long-term support and success.  

“Having a strong community outreach component and charitable vision will define you as a business with a heart that is essential to your community,” says Linda Mitchell, Newtown’s Director of Public Relations and Community Partners, “All of our businesses are made up of people with generous hearts, but that is hard to see unless you make a consistent outreach effort.  It is worth it for the health of your business and it is the right thing to do.”

Newtown suggests that other health clubs looking to pursue involvement in these types of initiatives should work on establishing an effective brand, since creating a brand for fundraising is essential in order to promote and raise awareness for the notable work that any club is doing.

Mitchell reiterates, “Members love to belong to a club that is seen to be caring and generous.  It is how they want to be, too and they will relate to you at an emotional level that will serve you well for the life of your business. “