HPNC seeks to grow early childhood membership

By KYLER SUMTER
Intern

The Hyde Park Neighborhood Club (HPNC), 5840 S. Kenwood Ave., held its annual community meeting Wednesday night, May 17.

Financial statements and reports for fiscal year (FY) 2016 as well as steps the HPNC can take to grow its membership going forward were discussed during the meeting.

Approximately 11 board members gathered and began by reflecting on the positive outcomes of FY 2016.

Last year the HPNC saw an increase in grant funding and donor contributions.

They received a total of $132,000 in grant support, receiving grants from the University of Chicago, The Department of Family and Social Services Athletics and The Department of Family and Social Services Mentoring. In terms of community support they saw an overall 95 percent increase in total contributions.

This new revenue allowed them to establish a scholarship fund, expand programming, conduct building renovations, and more.

The club also started to focus more on building partnerships with other organizations to offer new services and classes to the students that participate in its after school and summer camp programs.

“We are consistently talking to non-profits who may be interested in utilizing our space and part of that negotiation always has to do with not only what space do we have that they might need but what is it that they can bring to the table for us and the kids that we’re serving,” said HPNC Executive Director Sarah Diwan.

HPNC Board President Eileen Holzhauer also discussed the importance of planned giving as opposed to sporadic giving and how some donors who donated in the past are beginning to donate less and less.

“Our elder donors right now were involved in the club during a period where there was very active community engagement,” Holzhauer said. “I think we’re going to have to work awfully hard to make sure that we build that center.”

Looking forward to how to increase membership in the HPNC’s early childhood program in the future, the club teamed up with consultants from the Booth Alumni Nonprofit Consultants group to discuss the next steps they should take.

The consultants collected qualitative and quantitative data for six months through surveys, interviews, and research. Through studies done on the large geographic area the HPNC draws children from the consultants found that the HPNC could add 500 new kids to its numbers in three years.

Strategic Planning Consultant Leah Pittacora said, “We have information that says on any given day you’re about 40 percent of capacity at the Tot Lot and that gave us this idea of going towards doubling to 500, you’ve got about 442 children in the program if you get about 500 more you’re going to bump yourself up to 85-90 percent capacity on any given day.”

The model the consultants created aims to add 75 students by 2018, 150 more by 2019 and 275 more by 2020. The end result would be a revenue build-up of $265,000.

In order to increase membership the consultants suggest a more strategic marketing plan and building a larger web presence. They believe the HPNC should focus more on partnerships with the University of Chicago and local businesses as well as community outreach through participating in community events.

For their research the consultants compared the HPNC with other leading early childhood programs and found that the HPNC’s Tot Lot program, which includes programs for infants, toddlers, and parents, was unique. Recruiting students through the Tot Lot program but retaining those students with other programs and classes could be the key to growth. One suggestion offered was to extend Tot Lot hours to Sundays so that when children start aging out of the program and heading to preschool on weekdays, the HPNC can continue to form relationships with these students.

Among the other suggestions to increase revenue were introducing more Play N’ Learn classes, doing more special events in the summer, and introducing three-class passes for $21 and introducing summer passes at reduced prices.

The consultants estimate that achieving these recruitment and financial goals will require a $30,000 investment over the next three years.

hpherald@hpherald.com