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Case Study

How a YMCA Gained 173 Recurring Donors in One Week

Creating a robust and effective fundraising strategy is essential for any nonprofit organization. 

One such innovative approach is being demonstrated by the YMCA of Bucks and Hunterdon Counties, which encompasses six branch facilities, seven pre-K child care centers and over a dozen after-school program sites in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. 

The Y’s Cause Membership Program, an initiative launched over two years ago, is an outstanding example of how nonprofits can mobilize their communities and generate sustainable funding for essential community services beyond their primary missions.

I had the opportunity to interview Meg Tedesco, Associate Director of Development at the YMCA, to learn more about their wonderful program. 

The Cause Membership Program

What is it?

The Cause Membership program is a philanthropic, non-facility membership that invites community members to support the YMCA’s broader social impact programs through a small, recurring monthly donation of $10 or more. 

This program aims to create a community of supporters who are united in their desire to support their neighbors in need and contribute to the YMCA’s various philanthropic initiatives.

Who initiated It?

YMCA of Bucks and Hunterdon Counties launched the Cause membership program in 2022, after months of social isolation brought on by the pandemic. Cause Membership addressed the rising need for community connection and provided continuous support for neighbors in need. 

When was it launched?

The program was launched on Valentine’s Day in 2022. Since its inception, it has garnered considerable interest and support from the community, facilitating the expansion of numerous  Pathway programs and community initiatives across the region.

Cause members support the Y’s Pathway programs, which have helped over 15,000 individuals in Bucks and Hunterdon Counties – from wellness programs for veterans and cancer survivors, to free memberships for 7th graders, and character and confidence building programs for teens.

Pathway program participants receive free facility memberships for 2-6 months, depending on the program, and learn about exercise, nutrition, and mindfulness. Graduates leave the program with supportive relationships and tools to continue their wellness journeys.

Purpose and inspiration behind the program

The fundamental goal of the Cause Membership Program is to provide sustaining support for the Y’s Pathway programs and other mission-based initiatives that go beyond the typical “gym and swim” offerings. Strategically, it was leveraged as a donor acquisition strategy, a way build a pipeline of prospects for the organization. 

Benefits of being a Cause Member

Cause members enjoy a plethora of benefits connecting them to the good work in our community, including::

  • Monthly inspiring impact emails with video testimonials from community members who have benefited from the Y’s Pathway and Financial Assistance programs.
  • Volunteer Opportunities: Access to unique volunteer opportunities that allow members to give back to the community directly.
  • Flexible Giving Options: Members have the flexibility to contribute more than the base $10 a month and have the option or make a one-time annual payment of $120.
  • Access to Online Wellness Platform: Members receive access to Y Wellness 24/7, the YMCA’s online wellness platform.

Identifying potential Cause Members

Targeted email campaigns

The YMCA used targeted email campaigns to engage potential donors. Emails were sent to various groups within the community, informing them about the Cause Membership Program and encouraging them to participate.

Word of mouth by staff and board members

Tapping into the power of personal connections, the YMCA’s staff, board members and graduates of the Y’s Pathway programs played a crucial role in spreading the word and recruiting new Cause members. 

They empowered their staff, especially those who have direct interactions with members, to talk about the program. Posters, print materials, and business-card sized “Cause Cards” with QR codes were strategically placed within the facilities to ensure maximum reach.

Standard offering during new member sign-ups

To further integrate the program into their operations, the YMCA included the Cause Membership Program as part of the standard offering when new members signed up for a facility membership. 

This seamless integration ensured that every new member was aware of, and had the option to join, the Cause movement.

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Challenges with initial setup and solutions

Cumbersome process in membership database

Initially, the process of enrolling members through the YMCA’s membership database was cumbersome. Creating records for non-members required comprehensive details, which deterred many from completing the sign-up process.

Switching to a 4aGoodCause donation page

To streamline enrollments, the YMCA transitioned to using a 4aGoodCause-powered donation page. This change made the sign-up process significantly easier, requiring minimal information from new members and offering customizable donation options.

YMCA Cause Membership donation page

Cause Week and Giving Tuesday Campaign

Regional branch competition

In November 2023, when many nonprofits were celebrating Giving Tuesday, the Y launched the first annual “Cause Week” campaign. Components of the campaign included regional branch competitions and incentives for both staff and Cause members to inspire others to join the Cause movement. The ambitious goal was for each branch to recruit 50 new Cause Members within a week.


Incentives such as branded hoodies were offered for member-get-member referrals. These exclusive items motivated staff and existing members to actively participate in recruiting new members.


The initiative was a massive success, enrolling 173 new members during the Cause Week campaign.

Many of these new Cause members had never donated to the Y before and have proven to be the Y’s best advocates and cheerleaders, spreading the word about Cause and the tremendous impact that the Y’s programs have in the community.

This $10/month program serves as a first step towards identifying and cultivating relationships with prospective major donors.

Current membership numbers and breakdown

The program now boasts around 245 total members, with approximately half contributing monthly and the rest making an annual payment. Some members have even opted to give more than $10 a month, especially those aiming to leverage corporate matching programs.

Stewardship and engagement strategies

Monthly email updates

To keep members engaged and informed, the YMCA sends out monthly emails. These updates guide members to the Cause Member Portal, which consolidates all relevant information and posts new testimonial videos from program participants who have benefitted from the Y’s free Pathway and Financial Assistance programs.

Cause Member portal

The portal includes:

  • Impact stories and testimonials: Highlighting the positive changes made possible through member contributions.
  • Volunteer opportunities and events: Providing information on exclusive opportunities for members to get involved in meaningful ways.
  • Fitness resources: Connecting members to Y Wellness 24/7.

This targeted communication strategy reinforces the sense of community among Cause Members, making them feel valued and integral to the YMCA’s mission.

Impact stories from the YMCA Cause Membership portal

Advice for other YMCAs

Assessing community interest

Understanding the needs and potential of your community and donor base is vital. Identify niche groups that would be most interested in supporting your cause.

Having proper communication channels

Establish clear and consistent communication channels to keep members and potential members engaged. Monthly emails and a dedicated portal can help maintain regular contact.

Systematic stewardship plan

Implement a systematic stewardship plan that ensures every member feels valued and informed about their impact. Regular updates, testimonials, and exclusive opportunities can help in maintaining member engagement.

Potential for future upgrades and increases

Encourage gradual increases in monthly donations. By demonstrating the tangible impact of their contributions, you can inspire members to give more over time.

Growth Plans and Goals

The YMCA of Bucks and Hunterdon Counties aims to continue growing its Cause Membership Program. They have set a target of reaching at least 350 members by the end of the year. They plan to conduct annual Cause Week campaigns and encourage existing members to increase their monthly contributions.

Their strategy includes:

  • Quarterly “CauseWay campaigns” to raise awareness about the Y’s free Pathway programs and ways that our in-branch members can support them through Cause Membership.
  • Annual Cause Week campaigns: Celebrate our Cause members, inspire staff and volunteers to serve as Cause Ambassadors with incentives to recruit new Cause members.
  • Incremental increases: Encouraging existing members to increase their monthly contributions with simple clicks on their donor accounts.

The transition to 4aGoodCause has made it easier for members to manage their donations, leading to greater satisfaction and retention.

Enhance your fundraising

YMCA of Bucks and Hunterdon Counties’ Cause Membership Program is a shining example of how nonprofits can effectively engage their communities to support broader social initiatives. 

By creating a simple and affordable giving option, they have managed to build a strong community of supporters who are actively involved in making a difference. 

Other nonprofits can learn from this case study by emphasizing the need for streamlined processes, regular engagement, and creating a sense of exclusivity and community among their supporters. 

By implementing these strategies, nonprofits can enhance their fundraising efforts and make a more significant impact in their respective communities.

Ronald Pruitt

Ronald Pruitt

Ronald is the President and Founder of 4aGoodCause, the fundraising CRM that makes recurring, monthly giving a breeze for small nonprofits.

For over 25 years, Ronald has had the joy of doing what he loves, building online solutions that make a difference in the world. He’s helped raise millions of dollars online for small nonprofits across the country. Connect with Ronald on LinkedIn.

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