In New York City, it’s common for schools to raise funds by holding yearly auctions. In the months leading up to an auction, parents stump all around town, trying to win donations from local businesses so auction attendees will have a wide variety of items on which to bid. Common donations include free piano lessons, handmade jewelry, restaurant gift certificates — and month-long gym memberships.
Now you see what all that was leading to. Full disclosure: I did not belong to a gym until a couple years ago, when I bid on a month-long membership during an auction for my son’s school. For $35, I had full access to the facility: pool (including family swim times), cardio court, all classes, trainers, massages, steam room, sauna. After a month of indulging in these pleasures, I was hooked: There was no way I could any longer imagine my life without them. I bought an annual membership and I haven’t looked back since.
Schools could represent an untapped source of new business for your facility. Not all schools hold auctions, of course, but there are other ways to give to a school community and grow your business as a result. Many schools sell raffle tickets; could you donate a month’s membership as a raffle prize? As with auctions, raffles can be doubly rewarding because they spread your name not just to the adults in a given school community, but also to friends, relatives, and professional associates of those adults. Could you open your doors for special kid-oriented free activities once a month, or once a quarter, and ask the local school to hand out flyers? Could you offer a discount to all parents, faculty, and other staff members of a certain school, or sponsor the school’s field day, or donate water bottles, your logo prominently displayed, to the football team?
It’s a natural alliance – gyms and schools. Children are the original physical fitness experts, after all. Parents are always looking for ways to run them around, and maybe you have a facility that allows for that. Even if not, the parents themselves need a way to run around — they need to blow off the stress of parenthood, among other stressors, and maybe they also need to lose the ten or fifteen pounds they put on since having kids. If you start trying to reach new members through schools, you will gain a bunch, without a doubt. And if you can attract them first with a clear incentive — that $35 month-long membership I won felt like such a boon — then all the better; you’ll probably hold on to them for a good long time.