Disney’s Secret Sauce – 3 Learnings You Can Take Back To Your Arts Organization Today

This past march my husband and I took our two little boys (2 & 4) to Disney® for the first time. It was a special trip for us  as we first met doing consulting work for Disney and had not been back since. We like to joke that the magic “pixy dust” brought us together and the rest is Disney history or so the story goes…

During our visit this spring, I was reminded about my time working with the mouse at Team Disney to help improve the visitor experience. I appreciated seeing all the additional innovations that have continued, and it also reminded me how much of this applies directly to the Arts and Cultural space.

So, I thought it would be fun to share 3 strategies and tactics you can learn from Disney and apply at your organization.

1. Focus on the Guest Experience in Every Decision

For anyone who has stayed on property at Disney, you have probably experienced the passionate focus on guest experience. There is no request too demanding or outrageous that a guest can make. This is something that is core to the Disney culture but also something that you can take back to your organization today. Going the extra mile for your visitors and truly treating them as guests will create a broader sense of loyalty that will pay itself back 10-fold in terms of positive word of mouth, additional visitation and a greater level of engagement with your organization. This should be a core value of any arts and culture organization.

2. Retain Top Talent and Minimize Employee Turnover

When I worked at Disney, I was always amazed at how many cast members (employees) had been with Disney for over 10 years – many of them for their entire careers! I remember working with one gentlemen specifically who used to be part of the parks clean-up and sweeping team who was now working for Team Disney as an expert for one of the resort technology booking systems. This level of tenure and commitment is not because Disney’s compensation is above average; this is because Disney truly cares about its people and offers them the opportunity to grow and move around the organization, learning new skills.

Most importantly, they create a sense of family and an overall happy place to work where coming to the office every day is fun and motivating. In the non-profit space and specifically for arts & culture organizations, you have the benefit of having a mission focused on helping the community and making the world a better place. Many of you also have a great venue that allows others in the community and staff to experience this motivation daily. It’s critical that you take advantage of this unique angle, and make people feel proud about working with your organization. This sense of purpose will result in happier staff who grow with the organization.  So at your next possible opportunity, host a fun staff employee appreciation event or give everyone a few extra free passes so they can share their experience with others, and be proud of where they work.

3. Expand the Experience with Innovation & Technology

One of the coolest things I saw while visiting Disney this past March was how far they had come with the implementation of several technology innovations that I had the privilege of laying the foundation for. They have done a great job recognizing the changing customer demographic and the increased reliance on mobile-anytime connectivity and convenience. The ability to extend the experience from the initial online purchase to customized notifications also reminded me of how similar arts and cultural organizations’ problems can be.  And that’s why Blackbaud has worked hard to provide arts and cultural-specific solutions.

I encourage each of you to act today and take some of these ideas and tactics back to your organization. And above all, remember to focus on the guest experience, treat employees like family, and leverage technology to extend your reach and improve your success.