Connecting with community and processing payments may feel like two very different functions within an organization. But for YMCA of the Foothills CEO Vince Iuculano and Director of Operations Adam Franko, payment processing and decline recovery aren’t so unrelated to transforming community. With over 40 years of combined experience managing YMCAs, Adam Franko and Vince Iuculano know what goes into effectively engaging a community. Continue reading to learn how YMCA of the Foothills used payment processing and full-service billing to make more time to connect with their community and thrive during a challenging year.
How did your organization process payments and resolve declines before implementing Gains payments solutions and full-service billing?
Vince Iuculano: When I returned to this branch in 2018, we had a ton of outstanding 30-, 60-, 90-, 180-day statements. Especially on the program side, specifically with childcare, it was a challenge. Membership also had some substantial issues. Our membership operation at that time was about $6.5 million dollars. So, there were a lot of payments being processed and a lot of declines.
At first, to solve this we did what we’d always done. We organized staff to drive the 180- day statements down to the 90 days, and then from the 90 to 60, and then try to get everything under 30 days. We were using so many resources, plus so much time and energy. In addition, some of our staff isn’t skilled at picking up the phone. These conversations can be tough. Even if it’s in-person, chasing members down for a $30 aquatics payment is never easy.
The first step toward successfully resolving these outstanding payments was bringing in Adam. Adam helped us realize we were wasting a lot of time and energy. We thought there must be a better solution out there. Probably a year and a half ago we heard about Gains payment solutions and full-service billing.
Adam Franko: When I came on board, the tasks were very staff intensive. Sorting through all those declines, the follow-ups, the second follow-up and often the third, and sending out letters and emails—all of that stuff is very time intensive. We heard about Gains payment solutions and full-service billing around the time the pandemic hit. The reaction for most people at the start of the pandemic was to let all outstanding payments go. We didn’t have staff to help anymore, so it seemed like an easy solution. But my thinking was, “every dollar counts right now.”
Gains has been incredibly helpful. I don't have to think about these declines anymore. I know the Gains team is taking care of it. I just check the report every now and then to see how things are going.
I don't have to think about these declines anymore. I know the Gains team is taking care of it." Adam Franko, Director of Operations at the YMCA of the Foothills
That’s great! Sounds like you’ve found some much needed efficiency around recovering declines in particular.
VI: When we first looked at Gains, it wasn't a knee-jerk, “yes!” for us. We had to dig in and assess the options. When we looked at the time staff was spending on these tasks, and the money we’re spending on that staff, the big picture became clear.
There's so much time and effort saved with Gains, that benefit is felt far more than just numbers. Yes, we’ve recovered more than $15,000, but there is value in not having to stick a staff member in an office somewhere where they are stuck to the phone for eight hours a day when they could be greeting members or walking the facility and having those one-on-one connections. The value of Gains is not just the money that's collected, but staff time and training and all the resources that go into the work that the Gains team can perform for our organization.
What other changes have you seen in your operations since adopting Gains payment solutions and full-service billing?
AF: We can focus on the member experience in new ways now. We want to provide an impactful member experience to all our members. It’s hard to do that if staff are sitting at a desk only making phone calls. That doesn’t provide an impactful experience.
We are able to have a person who is dedicated just for checking people in and making sure guests feel welcome. We have a team that is in the membership office, dedicated to signing people up for memberships and program registrations. We also found space for someone to help members in the facility. They get up every 15 or 20 minutes, do a walkthrough, help pick up weights, greet members, and make sure everything is good in the facility. Gains has allowed us to focus more on the member experience.
There’s some apprehension from other Ys, JCCs, and other nonprofit organizations about the Gains team speaking to their members. What has your experience been with that?
VI: For other associations kicking around the idea of using Gains, I would encourage them to give up that little bit of control. Sometimes you've got to step back and be OK with pushing off some of that control when it's warranted. With all the research we did, we found Gains to be completely warranted as a part of our operations. We felt the Gains team could do it better than us. It also spoke to the culture and member experience we were trying to create in getting staff off phones and out of offices. The Gains team is compassionate. These are folks who understand the payments side of the industry and are going to use their skillset to help us.
"The Gains team is compassionate. These are folks who understand the payments side of the industry and are going to use their skillset to help us." Vince Iuculano, CEO at the YMCA of the Foothills
AF: I don’t want to train staff on something I’m not an expert at. These conversations can be embarrassing for members. There’s a science behind explaining everything to a member and not having them feel offended or uncomfortable. For me, it’s nice working with a company that is professionally trained on these issues. They've gone through this. They know how to talk to members. They know how to explain situations to the people on the phone. I haven't had any bad feedback from members since we started over a year ago.
We started the conversation mentioning the purpose of the Y to connect with community. How do you see payments playing into that purpose?
VI: We inherited some bad systems around payments. Things like monthly billing for preschool and camps and not having any hold policies for membership. In adopting Gains, we made some operational changes that really changed the game for us. We found freedom to use money and resources in new ways and do more for the mission. Doing more outward-facing, community-based programming. We found greater ability to meet community.
There's a wonderful thing about being really efficient at what we do and being really good operators. It allows the flexibility and the freedom to start to dream about community outreach and do all of the softer touch points that the Y loves to do. I know where my heart is, I know where Adam's heart is, I know the heart of the Y; it's about serving the community. It’s about having the flexibility financially and staff-wise to meet our members where they are within the facility and create pathways outside in the community where we can touch lives.
By being more efficient, by being prudent, by outsourcing our payment decline recovery, we benefit our YMCA in ways that helps us push assets into different areas. That boils down to investing in passion projects that we love because they serve community better.