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The #1 Lesson Nonprofits Can Learn from Disney

We all know there are companies out there that excel at customer service, meeting customer expectations, and every once in a while going above and beyond (as we like to call it in fundraising – the “surprise and delight” moment). And more often than not, Disney tops that list of companies that continually pushes the envelope in terms of creating a culture of gratitude, engagement, and service. No matter your opinion of Disney (people seem to love it or hate it), there is a reason they deserve to be recognized as a leader.

Because they walk the walk…

About a month ago, my 7-year old daughter was diagnosed with Celiac disease, an autoimmune disease that affects her ability to digest gluten and damages her intestines. Needless to say it’s been a long month of education, diet changes, household changes, and general stress. This last weekend we had plans for three days of Halloween and fall fun at Disney World. My daughter was understandably concerned about what she was going to eat and if her usual faves were now off limits. I tried to reassure her (as I had done extensive research on the topic) that Disney was well-prepared for special tummies like hers, would have unique menus for her, and would help us find yummy options - even though I was wary myself. She looked at me and with all the innocence of a seven year old, said, “Wow, Mom. They must really care about people to do all that.”

I stopped dead. I nodded and agreed while my mind the very root of it, this type of service and attention to personal needs equates to CARE. How do we show our donors and our guests on our campuses or at our organizations that we truly CARE about them? How do we show that their comfort, needs, and experience are vitally important to us and that they truly matter to us?

Disney was walking the walk of surprise and delight and showing my daughter that she mattered. As a customer, good service is mildly important to me. But as a parent with a child who has health concerns, the care shown by Disney team members was paramount to me. At every restaurant we were met with separate menus tailored to her needs, specially prepared plates, table side visits from the chef, and complete understanding and care.

This goes beyond menus. It drives at creating a culture of customer service and training, enabling, and expecting your team members to do everything in their power to meet and exceed your customers/donors expectations. The Ritz-Carlton gives a daily monetary allotment to their staff members to utilize in order to “right or delight” any guest as necessary.

Is your staff empowered to be donor heroes? Are you educating your staff to identify needs as they arise and then act on them to ensure a good customer or donor interaction?

I also visited the front desk of the hotel because the (same) kiddo lost her character autograph book in Magic Kingdom and was a hysterical mess. They reassured me they had “connections” and would take care of it for me. Lo and behold, when returning to our room late that night, she was met with a brand new book, filled with autographs, on the middle of her bed with a balloon and Minnie Mouse glitter.

On more than one occasion, they went above and beyond, exceeded my expectations, and made my child incredibly happy…in return, they earned themselves a lifelong, loyal customer.

How have you walked the Disney walk lately? How do you create a culture of service at your organization? Share your best donor moments (big or small) below!

This post was written by DRG Group member, Sarah Sims. Sarah is a consultant, speaker, and the Executive Director of Donor Relations at the University of Florida. 


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