When he arrived in Calgary from his hometown of Winnipeg in 2002 to take on the role of executive director at the Calgary Jewish Community Centre (JCC), Jeff Booke knew he had a lot of work ahead of him. The JCC was struggling financially and the building itself was in desperate need of attention. “The wallpaper was even peeling,” Booke laments.
Part of the problem was the JCC wasn’t bringing in hordes of customers at the time. So, Booke, likely the youngest executive director of any Jewish community centre in North America, made it his mission to increase membership, fundraising and program revenue at the centre.
“When I started, there was no clear strategy,” he recalls. “I began by writing a marketing plan.”
That plan had a specific target in mind. It focused on families, fitness and health, cultural programs, education and social activities. The end goal, Booke says, was to make recreation more accessible for all southwest Calgarians, both young and old.
Booke negotiated high-profile partnerships with the Calgary Health Region, the Calgary Home School Association and Heavens Fitness to lease out time at the facility and run group exercise programs.
He also initiated and developed procedures that grew grant revenue from zero to $500,000 in less than five years, upped the revenue from the JCC’s annual Sports Dinner from $50,000 to $215,000 and improved member satisfaction at the JCC, which resulted in an increase in membership retention by more than 10 percent.
Despite these accomplishments, Booke, who manages 85 full-and part-time employees, says he couldn’t have done it without the support of a strong team. “The success of the centre is not mine alone,” Booke says. “It is shared with the staff members, stakeholders, board of directors and community.”
According to Booke, the JCC may be run within a business context, but it has a social head and heart, a description that suits him quite well, too. He volunteers up to 25 hours every month with organizations such as the United Way, Autism Calgary and the Alberta Senior Housing Apartment Complex.
“Calgary has given me and my family so much,” he says. “I want to contribute to it being a better city."
Why he’s the top: He saw the potential in a struggling recreational and cultural centre and turned it into one of the best fitness and community facilities in Calgary.
The key to his success: Knowing when to manage people and when to be a leader. “Managing is rolling up your sleeves to do the hard work,” Booke says. “Leading is a visionary thing; it’s trying to determine where you want to go and how you’re going to get there.”