During the recent  How to Build a Fundraising Culture webinar hosted by the Peer to Peer Professional Forum, I was able to share my favorite example of a successful corporate culture, Starbucks. During the webinar, I outlined several ways that Starbucks has succeeded, and continues to succeed, in creating a culture built upon connection.

It’s just a moment in time—just one hand reaching over the  counter to present a cup to another outstretched hand. But it’s a connection. We make sure everything we do honors that connection—from our commitment to the highest quality coffee in the world, to the way we engage with our customers and communities to do business responsibly.Starbucks

In this post, I will begin outlining the key ingredients you need and questions you should be asking to create the same culture of connectivity at your next fundraising event. Since the list of ingredients is extensive, I’ve split my post into two parts.

Here are the first five to get you started:

1. Brand Consistency:

No matter where you go when you visit a Starbucks, you know what you are going to experience when you get there.  Their brand is built around creating an experience that is uniquely Starbucks.

Your nonprofit’s brand is one of your most valuable assets and its consistency is crucial to your event standing out in an overcrowded space. A brand is more than your name or logo, it is your reputation and it will drive both acquisition and revenue. What defines your brand? Why do people come back year after year? How is your event perceived in the local community or on a national level?

2. The Experience:

Starbucks is more than just a place to buy coffee; it is a coffee house, a place that inspires conversation and a sense of community. Starbucks is home.

For many organizations, their events unite people who are passionate about their cause. Do your participants feel like they are at home when they attend your events? Do you encourage them to stay and celebrate after they have finished their run, walk or ride?  How are you facilitating a conversation with and between your fundraisers?

3. Customer Service:

From the moment you walk in the door, you are exposed to Starbucks’ superb customer service. And after a few visits, you’re a member of the family.

Similarly, when your participants first learn about your event, the interactions they have with your organization will define how much they raise, whether or not they will return for the next event, and what they will tell others about your organization. So, you must as yourself: How well do you know your participants? Do you welcome them with open arms and thank them as they leave? Have your staff and volunteers received customer service training? Most importantly, do you have staff and volunteers dedicated to customer service?

4. Language:

A regular Starbucks customer places an order using the “official”  Starbucks verbiage: Tall, Grande, Venti, and a variety of other terms that create the 87,000 different drink combinations.

Many fundraising events also have special names for things like top fundraisers or elements of the event, but how many of your participants actually know what they mean? Do you use a language that is different than every other event? Is your language consistent with your brand?

5. Mission:

Starbucks’ mission is to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time.

Your mission is the foundation  for why participants are fundraising on your behalf and it should be the cultural epicenter of your event.  Do your participants know what your mission is? How is your mission integrated into your event?

Ultimately, when you buy a beverage at Starbucks, you are simply making  a transaction. What differentiates Starbucks from any other coffee store is that it doesn’t feel like a transaction. When you create a fundraising culture at your event, fundraising and donating shouldn’t feel like a transaction either.

Stay tuned! Part two will explore Gamification, localization, marketing (think red cups), and the difference between internal and external cultures.  

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nancy Palo is a senior consultant on Blackbaud’s strategic services team with an emphasis on peer-to-peer fundraising. She brings more than 10 years experience in the event fundraising space enjoys helping nonprofits implement solutions to increase revenue through innovative online fundraising strategies. Prior to joining Blackbaud in April 2012, Nancy worked at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society in California and New York where see oversaw the Society’s peer to peer fundraising campaigns, raising more than $30 million during her eight years with the organization. She studied communications and business at the University of San Diego and works remotely from her home office in her 400 square foot apartment in New York City. Connect with Nancy on Twitter at @fundraising101.

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