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2007 – 2009


With a 150-year legacy of building strong kids, strong families, and strong communities, and with branches located on some of the most pristine sites in the world, it appeared that the YMCA of San Francisco had everything going for it. Yet, this organization lacked a compelling vision and risked loosing their long-term lease agreements at two prime sites, the Presidio in San Francisco and Point Bonita in Marin, if they didn’t come up with one before the deadline. The Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA), part of the National Park Service (NPS) wasn’t convinced that the YMCA was an appropriate tenant for its prime land.


MKThink Strategy was brought on to develop a Future Development Plan for the Presidio YMCA and a Plan for a Plan for the Point Bonita YMCA.

For the Presidio, MKThink Strategy had a two-pronged approach: constituent and partner outreach coupled with internal consensus building and scenario testing. The YMCA’s multiple stakeholders seemed to demand that the organization be “all things for all people”, but limited resources demanded a streamlined approach for the YMCA itself complemented by ancillary services provided through relationships with local partner organizations.

Internally, the board had been in a stalemate for over a year; it wasn’t until MKThink Strategy presented clear user and facility data analysis and definitive findings that the board was finally able to come to an agreement on the Presidio YMCA’s core mission and identity. Once that was in place, the strategic plan a 5-10 implementation and phasing approach quickly followed. This framework focused on the incredible location in the Presidio as the YMCA’s foundational asset and built programs around getting children and families outside and into the Presidio rather than emphasizing the fitness rooms, weight rooms, pools, and gyms that can be found in any Y across the country. This vision was something the GGNRA felt good supporting.

Point Bonita is one of the YMCA of San Francisco’s retreat spaces. Facing the loss of a lease, struggling to stay financially solvent, and operating far below capacity, Point Bonita needed an identity refresh, too. Point Bonita thought of itself as a more affordable retreat center in competition with the elite operation at Fort Baker and the Marin Headlands Center.

With MKThink Strategy’s market assessment and scenario training, the organization’s leadership team was able to see that Point Bonita did indeed have a unique niche to fill in the market place – a place for kids, youth, and their families to stay and play in the beautiful Marin Headlands. Bringing the focus back to the YMCA’s core mission helped Point Bonita stop renting out spaces to clients who didn’t fall in their target market and also cease throwing resources at stop gap renovations and other measures. Having a defined priority to serve one constituent group well, complementing rather than competing with the other offerings in the area, Point Bonita YMCA was easily able to secure another long term lease with the GGNRA. They were also able to use the available funds to make their existing facilities family friendly and make site improvements to ensure safety.


With the clear guidance of MKThink Strategy, the YMCA of San Francisco was able to develop compelling visions for two incredible Bay Area sites, renew their emphasis on providing great places and programs for children and families, focus resource allocation on efforts to support their vision, and secure long-term leases with the GGNRA at the Presidio and in the Marin Headlands. Why run on a treadmill when you can be outside with your kids and a view of the Golden Gate Bridge