Weathering the Storm

Written by John-Mark Beaver

As I sit in my office typing out this blog article, it is a rainy and grey day in Oklahoma City. It reminds me of the mood that cast itself over our city, state and nation a year ago during the month of March when the coronavirus pandemic became a very real and present storm; one we had no idea how to weather.

That same stormy gale that enveloped our nation engulfed the YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City. As a member of the Board of Directors, I’ve witnessed our Association take on many a stranded sailor (to keep the metaphor going here). Whether it be an individual child brought into our afterschool programming or an entire community in danger of losing its local Y, the last decade has seen our YMCA continue to do more and more for central Oklahoma.

Yet a year ago, with our organization stretched as thin as it had ever been (or so we thought), our membership numbers declined, and we were forced to shut down facilities and pause critical programming due to a raging and unpredictable pandemic. It was only a couple of months into “COVID times” when we needed to sit down and work through what our fundraising goals would be for the 2021 Annual Campaign. Think about that for a second: in the most unpredictable time of our generation, we needed to predict how an unknown virus would affect our ability to secure donations. What a time for me to have volunteered to be the Campaign Chair!

However, in the process of working with our philanthropy department staff, it hit me: we are going to be asked to do even more for our community because of this pandemic, and our fundraising goals will need to be more aggressive than ever before!

That said, we had to redefine “aggressive” and knew that even though the numbers were telling us to expect a dip in charitable giving, growing what we raised in 2020 was the only mindset to have. We knew we had a case for support unlike any year in our history. After adding it all up, the 2021 YMCA Annual Campaign goal would total $1,388,000.

As predicted, the needs of our community only grew. The pandemic allowed the YMCA to play a part in things like distance learning when schools shut down in the spring and did not reopen in the fall. We served a record number of meals through our feeding sites because so many kids were without school-sourced food. While summer camp participation was dramatically down, the families who still needed care also needed more scholarship assistance than pre-COVID days. I’ll reiterate: the resources went down, but the needs went up!

When Annual Campaign season rolled back around in the late fall, our Board of Directors and Branch Councils jumped into action. We had record highs in YMCA staff member giving, Board/Council member giving and we were set up well to start our public fundraising efforts in January. The hard work of our volunteers and staff in sharing the Y’s impact story was successful, yet never more challenging in the tough economic environment we still find ourselves in.

I’m very happy to report that the results have been positive: as of Monday, March 22, 2021 the Annual Campaign has raised $1,247,000. We are so thankful for the support of our donors and campaign volunteers. Central Oklahomans continue to be amazingly generous.

But we aren’t done yet! While the formal phases of the Campaign have concluded, every dollar counts in a year when resources are this scarce. I encourage you to visit our donation webpage to learn more and help us continue to serve our community through a donation any time of the year.

While the past year has certainly been fraught with cloudy skies and stormy weather (both literally and figuratively), our YMCA continues to be a beacon of hope for so many kids, families and seniors in Greater Oklahoma City. On behalf of the Campaign Committee, I want to offer a sincere and heartfelt thank you to those who have supported us. Because of your generous financial support, we have been able serve our community much like the sunshine that peeks through the clouds.

John-Mark Beaver is the 2021 Annual Campaign Chair.