YMCA-JCC merger receives national recognitionWritten by Julie Ryan | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Five years after their merger, YMCA & Jewish Community Center (JCC) of Greater Toledo received The Collaboration Prize, an award created by the Lodestar Foundation to inspire nonprofit organizations to work together.
The YMCA & JCC competed against 643 nonprofit collaborations nationwide and tied for first with the Dallas Museum of Nature and Science. After splitting the reward, it received $125,000.
“The degree of integration that the two organizations were able to achieve, and the cost savings, and all the benefits of living together, and what they’re doing, is a wonderful model of the sector,” said Lois Savage, president of the Lodestar Foundation.
Savage said the merger remained flexible and accomplished a lot through joint programs and administrative consolidations.
“The other really huge thing about this as a model is that they were each dealing with an affiliate,” Savage said. “They were able to get this accomplished even with some objections from their affiliates.”
YMCA & JCC President Robert Alexander said he was surprised to win The Collaboration Prize and hopes it will bring joy to the community.
“It adds more mortar for the foundation of what we have built in Toledo,” said Paul Schlatter, YMCA & JCC chairman.
Savage said the prize was created as a way to research nonprofit collaborations — an area she said has been researched little.
“We thought if we offered a substantial prize that we would hear from people so we designed a nomination form so people would tell us about their collaborations,” Savage said. “The prize was really a means to an end.”
The collaboration between the YMCA and JCC in Toledo began in 1999 when they signed an affiliation agreement, allowing their members to use both facilities and programs, said Joel Beren, past president of United Jewish Council, the parent organization of JCC.
In 2003, Beren said, the YMCA began looking for a physical presence in Sylvania, where the JCC had a 44-acre campus. The project for a new YMCA building in Northwest Toledo would have required an estimated $5 million to $8 million capital campaign.
Beren said he and Schlatter began discussing options.
“We asked, ‘Is there anyway to put the Y and the J together and discourage the use of public funds to build another center?’ ”
Beren said he and past YMCA president Larry Lev worked together and on Feb. 1, 2004, signed a merger between JCC and YMCA — the first merger of the two nonprofits.
Alexander said everything was combined: staff, marketing and buildings.
“One of the first steps was to allow our members reciprocity so they could use each others branches,” Alexander said. “One of the second things we did was put up a couple hundred thousand dollars to improve facilities and show the benefits of the merge.”
Alexander said they faced the challenge of winning over donors, faith leaders, insurance companies, head organizations, trustees and professional staff.
“A merger is not unique,” Alexander said. “But merging two faith-based nonprofits with different religious backgrounds is unique.”
In the end, Alexander said, the merger proved a success.
“We were very fortunate that we had faith leaders on both sides that trust each other,” said Abby Suckow, United Jewish Council of Greater Toledo chief executive officer.
Schlatter said the JCC and YMCA are nonprofit “silos” — large and national.
“This is nothing but the tip of the iceberg for our organizations nationally,” Schlatter said. “These silos need to be brought down, especially in this economy.”
Alexander said nonprofits need to learn to work together. Instead of having double the staff and facilities, it is better to merge and work together while serving the community.
The JCC moved to the Sylvania campus in 1970 with the vision that all Jewish congregations would be represented there, Beren said. Two years ago, a second congregation moved to the campus, which now represents two of three Toledo-area congregations.
Alexander said while merging, the YMCA and JCC worked to preserve sacred Jewish symbols, create a kosher campus and celebrate major Jewish holidays.
“It’s the diversity of it that is so special,” Alexander said.
Schlatter said Christian employees are learning about Jewish holidays and understanding more of their historical background in light of Judaism.
Visit www.ymcatoledo.org for more information.