The Challenge Center, San Diego, CA.
The Challenge Center provides services focused on improving the health, function, and quality of life of people with disabilities at its fitness center in San Diego County. Founded in 1987 by Bill Bodry who personally realized the need for this type of facility after sustaining a spinal cord injury, the Center offers adapted fitness training, aquatic fitness, circuit training, physical therapy treatment, and functional electric stimulation. A sliding fee scale allows anyone in the community to access these services. Fundraising efforts, grants, and corporate gifts contribute to most of the operating costs. The Center has been through a couple of difficult periods relying heavily on this type of funding and has re-evaluated its needs in order to maintain a sustainable, financially viable initiative.
DECIDE WHETHER THE INITIATIVE NEEDS TO BE SUSTAINED.
Physical activity is vital to the health, function, and level of independence of people with disabilities. However, research shows that people with disabilities are less likely to engage in physical activity compared to those without a disability. According to the 2002 National Health Interview Survey, only 22% of adults with a disability engaged in moderate physical activity compared to 34% of people without a disability.Similarly, only 14% of adults with disabilities engaged in vigorous physical activity compared to 25% of those without a disability.
It was determined that the Challenge Center should be sustained because of the health needs of people with disabilities and the unique nature of this facility. By providing access to fitness and health promotion programs, the Center meets a need often ignored by community fitness programs and not provided by the medical community. The initiative needs to be in place until mainstream fitness centers can provide accessible options with trained staff, and health insurance provides for long-term preventative therapy needs of people with disabilities.
Reasons for sustaining the initiative continue to grow in a changing health care environment. Many people with acute illness or injury are experiencing shorter hospital stays and less access to therapy that would increase strength, independence, health, and quality of life. Insurance coverage limits, a lack of insurance, and the cost of services also greatly reduce the number of people with disabilities who have access to needed therapy and continued health promotion. The Center is the only facility in the area that fills this need of providing affordable options to people with disabilities. It is also the only facility in the area that provides an accessible environment for people with disabilities to exercise. The Center’s vision is to provide the tools and support for people with disabilities to pursue lifelong fitness.
It is likely that sufficient support in the community can sustain the initiative, though the reality is that community support is likely to ebb and flow.
CLARIFY GOALS AND CONTEXT FOR SUSTAINING THE EFFORT.
The Challenge Center’s mission is to provide skilled physical therapy, specialized fitness and wellness programs to rehabilitate, raise the level of independence, and improve the quality of life for people with disabilities. The mission remains the same, but the staff has re-evaluated the ability of the initiative to remain viable and expand to other areas. Extra efforts have been made to only involve staff, primarily physical therapists, with extensive training in service provision. The quality of services and staff contributes greatly to the initiative’s sustainability.
A 501c3 organization, the Center has three full-time staff and a board of directors. Better use of the board of directors is one way that goals can be clarified to increase sustainability. The board plans to be more pro-active in fundraising efforts and involve more community businesses with stronger community ties. The Center also will shift staff responsibilities to reflect need for greater community visibility. The executive director’s responsibilities will shift from the founder, Bill Bodry, to a physical therapist staff member. This shift enables Bodry to focus his efforts on advocacy, program expansion, and fundraising instead of day-to-day operations.
Largely funded by grants, corporate gifts, and fee for service, the Center uses a sliding fee scale to maintain the Center’s mission to provide services regardless of ability to pay so other funding is required. Strategies for innovative funding options have been explored to create a more sustainable model with a long-term goal of a 50/50 split with half of revenue from community funding and half from fee for service.
DESCRIBE THE POTENTIAL MARKET/AUDIENCE AND HOW THEY WILL BE REACHED.
The people with disabilities in San Diego County, the primary market, will continue to be a target audience with increased efforts to reach the greater community, especially community businesses.
CREATE A BUSINESS PLAN TO ANTICIPATE WHAT RESOURCES WILL BE NECESSARY TO SUSTAIN THE INITIATIVE.
A business plan was developed to meet budget goals and sustain the initiative. It involves expanding community visibility to improve fundraising, increasing use of the facility and services, and expanding to increase services available for children with disabilities. These services will supplement what the school system offers and will bring additional fee for service revenue.
GENERATE AN ANNUAL BUDGET.
Operating expenses total $400,000 per year. Currently $100,000 is generated from fee for service and $300,000 from grants, gifts, and a fundraising dinner, which generates about $70,000. Facility costs total about $30,000 per year. Other major expenses include insurance, salaries, and fringe.
SET SPECIFIC GOALS FOR GENERATING FINANCIAL RESOURCES AND SUSTAINING PROGRAMS AND PRACTICES. THEN CHOOSE SPECIFIC STRATEGIES AND TACTICS TO ACCOMPLISH THOSE GOALS.
- Increase community visibility and advocacy. Through the help of a public relations firm, the Center is using media to gain visibility and reach new participants. Radio interviews and print ads in local newspapers have been particularly successful. Meetings with local clubs, health providers, and community business are also gaining visibility for the facility to gain participants. This exposure also serves to raise awareness for fundraising efforts. Bringing in more participants will bring the facility to full capacity and increase income.
- Explore other sources of income. The Center will research real estate donations and other forms of giving to establish an endowment. The possibility of third party reimbursement also will be explored, which has not been provided in the past because of the paperwork and administrative issues. New legislation in California may ease these issues and make reimbursement a possibility.
- Expand focus area of the initiative to include children with disabilities. The school systems typically are not addressing the health promotion needs of these children. The Center has an opportunity to meet this need that will provide another billable service.
- Expand services. Services such as durable medical equipment evaluation may be implemented in the future to provide additional income.
- Reach out to local health professionals to encourage involvement in the Center services and activities. A local doctor is considering locating his practice adjacent to the Center. This kind of involvement contributes to the validity of the Center’s services and brings additional exposure in the medical community.
- Keep the Center’s gymnasium, a community facility, open to all persons with or without disabilities. This non-segregated approach is one more potential source of income.
OUTLINE AN ACTION PLAN FOR IMPLEMENTING THE SPECIFIC TACTICS CHOSEN TO MEET GOALS FOR ANTICIPATED FINANCIAL NEEDS AND SUSTAINING PROGRAMS AND PRACTICES
Other strategies and ideas are being generated on a continuing basis as the Center staff and board of directors make contacts in the community. These contacts are vital to this initiative because of the fresh ideas and new people who learn about the Center’s services.