Adventure Mickey for Donor Retention postI'm just finishing up another family trip to Walt Disney World. Every time I'm here, I study the culture, habits, and design of the parks and resorts. I'm fascinated by their attention to detail, their ability to create brand new merchandising opportunities, and their ability to engage guests of all levels. I've written about lessons on giving donors a behind the scenes experience and three things Disney can teach you about fundraising celebrations. Today, I'll share some tips gleaned from the Disney Institute book Be Our Guest: Perfecting the Art of Customer Service. (I picked it up in Disney's Hollywood Studios and I'm writing this post at the Saratoga Springs Resort!)

4 Lessons from Walt Disney World that can transform your fundraising

The Disney experience is often summed up in the word, "magic." In Be Our Guest, Theodore Kinni says that a good magic show is one thing to guests and another to the magician. To the guests watching the show onstage, it's an amazing experience of seeing the impossible happen. For the magician backstage, the show is a detailed process of well coordinated events and perfectly timed details.

Here are four backstage things to monitor to help donors feel a "magical" experience with your nonprofit:

  1. Make the giving experience ridiculously easy

    Disney makes it really easy to spend money. Whether it's upgrading from a theme park ticket to a "park hopper" or trading pins or getting bling for the new "Magic Bands," the opportunities to give money are smooth and relatively easy. Is giving to your nonprofit that easy? Test it out for yourself and identify the sticking points that make giving hard. I'm not suggesting you add lots of upsells or merchandise. Just that you make it "ridiculously easy" for donors to give you money. (Yesterday, I shared a detailed Disney inspired review of your online giving process to my Fundraising Kick coaching email subscribers. Ask the subscriber in your nonprofit to share that 6 question checklist with you.)

  2. Make the donor feel special

    One of the keys to Walt Disney World's high return customer rate, is the concerted effort to make the guests feel honored. Whether it's a character stopping by a table for a picture, or the Mayor and his wife stopping to chat on Main Street, cast members are generally very good about making you feel special when you're here. One of the reasons they can be so consistently good at this is that they are constantly studying their guests. They call it "guestology." They study both demographics and psychographics. For you, the demographics are facts about your donors: how old they are, where they are from, how much money they give. The psychographics involve what they want and need. What do your donors tend to want from giving? What kind of feeling do they need to have to keep coming back? Knowing these will help you tailor your communications to them. You'll likely communicate differently to a retired Baby Boomer than to a starting-their-career Millenial. But studying this also helps you see who you're missing. Perhaps you can make a small tweak in your communications to reach out to an entirely new group of donor prospects!

  3. Listen to your cast members

    One thing that's impressed me on this trip to Walt Disney World is the number of cast members walking through the parks. They're in polos and khakis, not costumes, so they look managerial. They appear to be observing how guests are interacting with the rides, the shops, and each other. There are also cast members throughout the parks taking quick surveys to monitor guest satisfaction. Are you asking your staff for their feedback about improving donor experience? Whether it's a formal survey of donors or gleaning your staff's observations, especially front-line staff like those answering the phones, you can glean some amazing nuggets to help donors have a better experience. And best of all, the nuggets are often inexpensive and easy. In Be Our Guest, Kinni tells a story of cast members constantly seeing guests not remembering where they parked after a long day in the park. They could remember what time they got to the park, just not where they left the car. The cast members were able to come up with a simple system of tram operators noting what section they were taking guests from at different times of the day. These notes were compiled and made it much easier for guests to find their cars. Ask your staff what questions or complaints are they're regularly getting from donors. Then ask them how they might suggest fixing it. You'll often be delighted with the ideas.

  4. Make sure your standards are backed by processes

    It's amazing to watch the lifeguards here. They have a system of checking zones created by swinging their hands from various points on the pool. They do this every time they "bump" or take over a portion of a pool from another lifeguard. This helps them see the pool and the swimmers in a fresh light. This attention to detail also makes the swimmers feel secure and taken care of. Systems like this abound at Walt Disney World. What about in your nonprofit? Take for instance donor communications. Just think about how a typo can create a glitch in the donor experience. A donor may think, "If they don't pay attention here, do they lack attention to my money too?" Do you have branding standards that are backed up by systems? Is there one person or a system of people that need to proof the communication before it goes out? Or do you personally have a system of scanning your communications before sending them to make sure they represent you and your nonprofit? Systems can seem confining and tedious. Especially when you're learning the systems. But they become second hand and improve the quality of your donors' experience.

Keep them coming back

We all would love our donors to keep coming back, to give year after year. Following these four ideas will help you develop a deeper, more personal, more "magical" relationship with them. Adding value to their lives while also stabilizing your nonprofit's funding!

What about you? What would you add? Tell us in the comments!

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