Better First Impressions: Hotel Lessons for Nonprofits

Photo by Shiny Things

There was interesting article in the Wall Street Journal last week about how hotels are trying harder to make a good first impression on guests. The first fifteen minutes are critical as snap judgements often drive satisfaction and future stays.

Yep, first impressions are lasting impressions. Hotels are focused on two key areas we should all be giving more attention to: humanizing interactions and increasing curb appeal.

Here’s how your nonprofit can earn its own 5-star rating.

1. Spruce up your waiting area.

My mother used to say that our house wasn’t fancy, but it was clean. I bet the waiting area of your nonprofit isn’t fancy either. But is it clean? As a consultant that visits a lot of nonprofits, I’ve seen my share of untidy, disorganized waiting areas. Even if you’re pressed for space and have to store things in your waiting area, there’s no reason for a mess. My mom would agree.

2. Know your donors names.

This seems like common sense, right? But I can’t tell you the number of fundraising appeals I get from organizations I support that address me as “Joseph Waters.” Anyone who’s paid attention for five seconds knows I always go by Joe. Is it too much to ask that emails and snail mail be addressed to me, and not my father?

3. Make things easy.

If a supporter wants to make a donation, is it easy and does it have as few steps as possible? What if they want to sign up for your newsletter? If they want to bid on an auction item, is it turnkey, or is it like filling out a mortgage application? You should always be looking for ways to make things easier and faster.

4. Treat people like they’re special.

I know I love it when my favorite hotel upgrades my room because I’m celebrating a birthday or anniversary. Why not recognize the special moments your supporters are celebrating? I set Google Alerts for my cause marketing business partners so I can keep track of stock spikes, promotions, expansions, and mergers. Then I’ll send a quick email or mention it at our next meeting. People appreciate that I take notice of the things that most people never see or forget to mention. Your partners and donors will appreciate it too!

I realize that nonprofits aren’t The Ritz-Carlton, nor do your supporters expect squares of chocolate on their pillows each night. But white glove service just isn’t for the hotel industry. That’s why nonprofits shouldn’t be afraid to get their hands dirty greeting their supporters in style.