What Can Disney World Teach Us About Donor Engagement?

Last spring my family and I were fortunate enough to spend a few days at the “Happiest Place on Earth.” That’s right—we went to Disney World (along with thousands of other people).

I can report a few things based on our time spent with Mickey and friends:

  1. Spring break is perhaps not the best time to go to Disney World: In fact, upon returning from our trip and doing some research, I learned that spring break is considered one of the worst times to visit Disney World, right behind Christmas and New Year’s. (Oh well—live and learn, I guess.)
  2. Even so, Disney World kept its promise.

So how was Disney able to keep my kids and 50,000+ other guests happy during the third busiest time of the year at the park?

They listen and engage.

Tom Boyles, former senior vice president, global customer managed relationships at Disney Parks and Resorts has said that “…understanding what is relevant to a guest can only be achieved if you listen to these guests.” Under Tom’s direction, Disney set a new goal in 2010 “to be relevant to every guest, every day, every time they interacted with our brand. We wanted to stay the most trusted provider in the space.”

As a result, Disney developed new tools to engage guests and help them make the most of their vacation. Our family took advantage of these tools to plan each day of our trip—avoiding long lines and pre-booking appointments with Elsa and Buzz Lightyear. And whether it was while waiting in line, eating at the Be Our Guest Restaurant or shopping at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, the Disney Staff ensured that we were always engaged in the magic of the moment.

This all got me thinking…

How can we better listen and engage with donors to make their giving experience the best it can be?

  • Understand all you can about your supporters—go beyond basic information and constantly be listening to learn more about them. Understanding how donors think is just as important.
  • Offer ways for your supporters to express their feelings about your organization, including how they’d best like to be involved. Offering opportunities for donors to express themselves cements the relationship and alerts you to areas you can improve in.

Like the Disney World staff, you must listen to and engage with your supporters to build trust and lasting relationships so that, like my kids and Disney World, they come back time and time again.

If you aren’t already doing this, one thing to consider is surveying your donors. This is a simple way to connect with donors and take the “guessing” out of what they want from you. You can learn why donors connect with your organization, as well as who is ready to talk about leaving a planned gift. Here at Stelter, we’re helping planned giving fundraisers like you deliver surveys to really engage donors—check it out.

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