Pay-What-You-Can at CrossFit Toronto

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Recently, CrossFit Toronto began a Pay-What-You-Can option. John Vivian, the owner of the gym located in Canada, shares below how they came to offer this option for members:

Box Pro: What is your pricing breakdown? How did you come to these current numbers?

John Vivian: We have four regular membership options that range from 99 to $219 per month. Specifically:

  • $99/month for one class/week
  • $149/month for two classes/week
  • $189/month for three classes/week
  • $219 for unlimited

These numbers evolved over the years based on a few different pricing strategies we’ve tried. Most fundamentally, our pricing comes from wanting to provide options for different budgets.

BP: What is your Pay-What-You-Can option? When did it start and why did you start it?

JV: Since starting CrossFit Toronto, we’ve recognized that formal CrossFit coaching is too expensive for many people to afford. It’s a fact that lower-income earners also tend to be at greater risk for preventable health issues.

So from our perspective, there is an obvious disconnect between need and access to quality training and facilities.

We decided we would try to fix that.

Our Pay-What-You-Can option allows people in need to access CrossFit Toronto, paying only what they can afford.

BP: What is the benefit of a Pay-What-You-Can option? What does it do for your business?

JV: As we just started the program, we’re not entirely sure how it will affect our business or how large an impact it might have.

That said, it has given Machiko Emoto and I a sense of being able to give back.

Our member are all behind the initiative as well, with some even offering to contribute funds to open the door to more people. From that perspective, the program has generated a sense of goodwill among our members.

BP: What does the application for the Pay-What-You-Can option look like? Who do you consider and why?

JV: The application process is pretty informal and straightforward:

  • Get in touch with us.
  • Meet with us.
  • Start training with us.

The intention is to focus on people below the LICO (Low Income Cut-Off) threshold, although we are open to considering other situations.

This seemed like an obvious starting point, as households below the LICO threshold spend considerably more (at least 20%) of their income on basic necessities than the average. There is not usually much left in the budget for a gym membership let alone a CrossFit gym.

At this point, we’re not planning on asking for proof of eligibility; we’re going with the honor system, assuming people are generally nice and won’t try to take advantage of our goodwill.

BP: What have you learned in having this as an option at your gym?

JV: As it’s still in its infancy, there’s not much that we’ve learned yet. We’ve only had a few inquiries, so our primary focus is finding relevant partner organizations to help share this opportunity with the people they work with.

What we can suggest is to be transparent with your members and make sure they’re on board.

Before launching, we let all of our members know what we were planning and gave them a chance to raise concerns and give feedback. We’ve got an amazing group of people at CrossFit Toronto, so we received nothing but positive, supportive feedback. That was the go-ahead we needed to make this real.

BP: Any other advice when it comes to a Pay-What-You-Can option?

JV: Offering a Pay-What-You-Can option for us is an altruistic endeavor; we’re not expecting this to have a major impact on our bottom line. So, our advice is to come at it with the right attitude and intent: helping others.

Heather Hartmann
Heather is the editor for Box Pro Magazine. Contact her at