An initiative by Best Fitness, Nashua, NH, to better the health of the city of Erie, PA, attracted more than 350 community members to the fitness facility last month. The program, known as OctoberBest, offered a free 30-day membership for nonmembers in the community.

“We wanted to get everybody involved in some type of fitness and get them to see the power of fitness,” says Best Fitness CEO Dave Dos Santos. “What better way to do that than to give everybody a free membership in the city of Erie to get them started on the right path of getting healthy, and for them to see that we are really interested in getting people healthy and it’s not about just buying a membership.”

In addition to the initiative, a portion of the proceeds from every new membership—totaling more than $1,500—was donated to the Children’s Miracle Network at Saint Vincent Health Center, a local non-profit organization and hospital in Erie. With 10 facilities and more than 65,000 members, Best Fitness conducts similar fundraising efforts in the communities of its other facilities, including raising more than $45,000 for breast cancer awareness.

“Anything the community is trying to rally around, whether it’s breast cancer, the Miracle Foundation or staying healthy, we want each community to know that Best Fitness supports them,” Dos Santos says.

Though nearly 80 percent of people who received a free month’s membership joined the facility, Eric Taylor, membership manager, says the initiative was not a membership drive or a promotion to get people in the door.

“We just wanted to create healthy communities and healthy lives,” Taylor says. “We’re not really about price or promotion. We are focused on getting the customer what they want. Every customer has a goal, whether it’s to gain size or lose weight, but 85 percent of people who walk into our fitness center don’t have an action plan. We give them that action plan, the education and the tools to succeed.”

Having seen a 100 percent increase in memberships gained compared to October 2011, Taylor says that he hopes the initiative sets the tone for the entire industry to conduct a promotion that is not about price but about helping people achieve their goals.