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Open Y: Helping YMCAs Collaborate and Share Around the World

Guest blogger Ricardo Osuna is the Director of Marketing Communications at FFW, an Acquia partner. Ricardo leads FFW’s brand strategy, content marketing, website management and internal communications. He is passionate about exploring the ways that we as people communicate, and using that knowledge to collaboratively build and create with others - in business, in art, in technology, and in life.

The YMCA is one of the most well-known nonprofit organizations on the globe. For over 160 years, the YMCA has been strengthening communities through facilitating youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility. As each Y is focused on their own neighborhood, they are also each responsible for maintaining their own digital spaces and tools at their own expense.

In 2016, several YMCA teams recognized the opportunities that could exist if the YMCAs began to collaborate as an online community, instead of developing their websites and apps independently of each other. A group of marketing, technology, and digital experts from the YMCA and several partners, including FFW and Acquia, worked together to establish the Open Y initiative.

What Is Open Y?

The Open Y platform is a content management system built on Drupal 8. As an open source solution, Open Y allows YMCAs and digital partners can contribute a digital tool or improvements—extending functionality for all users.

Open Y brings together a community of YMCAs and digital partners to provide a common digital vision. It’s a platform that offers more than just a specific Drupal distribution for YMCAs: it’s a set of tools that allows each YMCA to share their digital solutions with each other and collaborate together to improve the digital presence of partner YMCAs.

The Open Y Collaboration Drives Innovation and Impact

The Open Y initiative runs on Drupal 8, which was selected for several reasons:

  1. Many YMCAs were already using Drupal
  2. The YMCA wanted to use a new software that would have a long lifespan
  3. Drupal 8 is open source

Choosing an open source software in particular was an important reflection of the values of the project, which is founded entirely on the philosophy of collaboration. The ultimate goal is for each participating association to share their digital initiatives and improve on others’ work. When everyone can share tools and branding and collaborate on innovative work, everyone wins.

Providing an Open Source Digital Platform for Marketing and ecommerce

The digital world changes rapidly, and users have high expectations of recognizable brands. To meet and exceed the needs of all its users—both community members and YMCA administrators alike— FFW built the core Open Y platform around a few core principles:

  • Mobile-friendly brand templating and content
  • Content scheduling for marketing and promotion
  • Content management tools for multimedia, webforms, social media, and more
  • YMCA-specific features such as location finder, alerts, brand-compliance, and other custom features
  • 3rd party integrations, such as MindBody Personal Training Management, Personify Member Management, Netpulse’s mobile application, and GroupEx Pro online scheduling
  • SEO tools to help websites succeed in search

However, as with any open source effort, the Open Y is a work in progress with expansions in its future. Some of the many planned improvements to the project include multilingual and translation functionality, content personalization, a landing page wizard, and expanded integrations with other systems used by YMCAs, such as Daxko and Active Networks.

Fostering a Community of YMCAs and Digital Partners

Building and improving Open Y is something with which FFW and Acquia are proud to be involved. It’s currently supported by a core group of four YMCAs: the YMCA of Greater Twin Cities, the Red wing Family YMCA, the YMCA of Greater Seattle, and the YMCA of Greater Houston. Over a dozen other YMCAs have committed to using Open Y in the future, and many more are exploring the tool for use in their own digital projects. A growing list of Open Y participants and evaluators is available here.

Learn More about Open Y

To learn more about the Open Y project, including the future of the platform and the many benefits of getting involved with the project, join us for a webinar on November 30 at 1pm Eastern.

For more direct information, OpenYMCA.org is the home of Open Y and has some great information on the initiative and how to get involved. And for those who are curious about the practical applications of the Open Y, there’s a case study on the many improvements Open Y brought to the YMCA of Greater Twin Cities available on FFWagency.com.

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