A small taskforce of YMCA executives was established to support the development process for this partnership resource center. The taskforce helps ensure universal relevance of the tools and information contained on this site. Members include:

  • Jeff Andresen, YMCA of Greater Williamson County – Round Rock, TX
  • Danny Carroll, Peninsula Metropolitan YMCA – Newport News, VA
  • Dan Dummermuth, YMCA of the Middle Tennessee – Nashville, TN
  • Seth Goldman, YMCA of the USA – Chicago, IL
  • Doug Kohl, Akron Area YMCA – Akron, OH
  • Sandy Morander, YMCA of Greater San Antonio – San Antonio, TX
  • Dane Woll, YMCA of Southern Arizona – Tucson, AZ


It’s ironic that as we sit here in the 21st century, some of us as YMCA professionals have the audacity to claim that partnering is our generation’s innovative contribution to advancing the YMCA movement.

If one thinks back to the time of the industrial revolution, the YMCA’s approach to addressing social ills was to gather young men together. Whether it was for Bible study or community betterment, the belief was that people aligned in a common purpose can achieve more. Isn’t the act of bringing people together and capitalizing on the benefits of a collective the cornerstone of any partnership?

Are we audacious? Or is this generation of YMCA leadership truly innovative in our continual quest to maximize mission impact? Perhaps our enthusiasm for the greater good can be misinterpreted as audacity. Perhaps it is enthusiasm, (rather than audacity), that compels us to be inclusive in our approach to addressing community needs. There is something in the DNA of good YMCA professionals that drives us to look for better ways to find solutions and often the better way involves others. There is a very fine line between enthusiasm and audacity. Regardless of how it shows up, it represents motivation. Most likely, the evangelical driving force that inspired our peers of old reflects the same fervent inspiration that motivates many of us to seek nontraditional solutions to further our mission.

Historically, the YMCA’s “partnering wheelhouse” was program-service focused. The managerial skills required for this level of collaboration are now commonplace and a hallmark expectation of all YMCA professionals. Today’s partnership models include a wide range of nontraditional components such as capital asset ownership arrangements, multi-layered financing, legal requirements regarding the use of public funds and a multitude of long-term agreements. The skills required for this level of partnership are far more complex and ultimately have long-lasting implications for future generations of the YMCA leadership who inherit these agreements. That being said, why would today’s YMCA professional be enthusiastic about pursuing these complex relationships? It is because when successful, the efficiencies and mission impact for all partners are significant. There are leaders in the movement today who are pioneering and perfecting the intricacies of municipal partnerships. Identifying trends and best practices in the process will benefit other YMCA leaders who are seeking guidance as they explore municipal partnerships. For this reason, in September of 2012, the CEOs from the Mid-Major Group of the YMCA decided to commission a study that would:

  1. Demonstrate how YMCA work is strengthened through municipal partnerships
  2. Utilize an objective survey tool to gather specific information on partnerships resulting in:
    • Significant, jointly-funded programs, facilities and/or other community assets
    • YMCA as either sole operator or part of a joint operating agreement
  3. Identify universal components of successful municipal partnerships
  4. Use the findings to identify meaningful tools needed to help YMCAs confidently identify and establish sustainable municipal partnerships.

The preliminary findings of this study were presented to the Mid-Majors group in September 2013. Ideally, this report will provide a beneficial tool for those YMCA leaders who are embarking on municipal partnerships.


In summary, have we answered the question of whether or not the contribution of today’s YMCA professionals should be credited as pioneers in partnership? For that, the answer is no. However, the complexity of today’s partnerships— which include intricate capital asset arrangements, layered financing and multi-agency, long-term agreements—requires a new type of YMCA pioneer in order to be successful.

Today’s pioneers are not dissimilar to our forefathers. The enthusiasm that Captain Thomas Sullivan shared about the good work being done in London by George Williams was replicated in Boston, the first YMCA in America. Likewise, today’s partnering pioneers have a contagious enthusiasm for expanding the mission of the YMCA which is cultivated through peer-to-peer modeling. As mentioned in our preface, there is a fine line between enthusiasm and audacity. So, in light of this research, is this generation of YMCA leaders audacious or innovative? They may be a little bit of both. There is a very select group of pioneers that are developing cutting-edge partnerships which are not only complex, but also based on sound principles that require all partners to participate and accept accountability for long-term solutions for community betterment. By its nature, this phenomenon has the potential to breed audacity. So be it. Our conclusion is that this group is demonstrating innovation fueled by motivation in the context of a modern-day America.

The YMCA mission has been advanced this way for years. Regardless of the era, every community wants more. In communities where solving social issues is considered a global responsibility and the YMCA is progressive, you will find YMCA leadership at the table with other civic leaders finding ways to do more together for less. Our national tagline, “The Y…so much more” is a perfect reflection of this timeless philosophy of social responsibility beyond our gyms and pools. Time has allowed YMCA professionals to master the skills necessary for collaborative program delivery. Time will also be necessary for YMCAs and municipalities to collaborate effectively when it comes to meeting needs within today’s complex social and economic environment. Ideally, this study will be a useful tool in our ongoing quest to positively impact youth development, healthy living and social responsibility.


Telephone Survey
“Influencing Social Change: Getting a Seat at the Table”

Bryson, J. M., Crosby, B. C., & Middleton Stone, M. (2006). The design and implementation of cross-sector collaborations: Propositions from the literature. Public Administration Review, Special Issue (66, Issue Supp s1): 44–55. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-6210.2006.00665.x or http://www.hhh.umn.edu/people/jmbryson/pdf/cross_sector_collaborations.pdf

London, Scott. (1995). Collaboration and Community. A Report Prepared for the Pew Partnership for Civic Change. Retrieved from www.scottlondon.com/reports/ppcc.html.

Whitaker, G. P., & Drennan, J. C. (2007). County and municipal government in North Carolina, Article 11, Local government and nonprofit organizations. UNC – Chapel Hill School of Government. Retrieved from http://www.sogpubs.unc.edu/cmg/cmg11.pdf