Great stories not only entertain us but can provide some pretty good lessons.
Some of those lessons are great life lessons about finding answers inside yourself, being authentic, and fulfilling your life’s purpose.
Ever since I was little, I have loved Disney movies. As an adult, I giggle at the more advanced humor in some movies.
I love that each movie has a moral and lots of life lessons in addition to great songs and lots of giggles.
For those of us in fundraising, Disney movies hold many teachings to inspire and educate us.
Here are my top 12 fundraising lessons from Disney from some of my favorite Disney movies and characters.
1. I’ve Got a Dream
Every nonprofit starts with a dream – a Founder sets out to solve a problem, fills out the paperwork, and a nonprofit is born. The dream guides the direction of the fledgling organization as it grows and the dream can change over time to accommodate new goals for the organization. A clear dream can prevent mission creep and keep everyone focused. I always say if you’re going to dream, dream big. The bigger the dream, the bigger the difference the nonprofit can make. If your nonprofit leaders don’t have a dream or aren’t reaching for the same dream, you’ll have problems.
2. How far I’ll go
Let’s face it – with your skills, you could get a job that pays you more than you’re making working in nonprofit. But it’s not a job, is it? It’s your calling.You are here in this role at this time for a purpose. Part of your role is to shake up the status quo. You know the saying – if you do what you’ve always done, you get what you always got.
Like Moana, your job is to yearn for more and go after it. You’ll need tools, support, and a plan to get there. If you stay committed to your calling, there’s no telling how far you’ll go.
3. You’ve got a friend in me
– Toy Story
Surround yourself with people who care about your dream and the difference your nonprofit is trying to make. You need a good Board, great volunteers, and dedicated staff. You can go this road alone, but it will take longer and be more of a struggle than if you have help. You might also get yourself a mentor or coach for “when the road is rough ahead.”
4. Poor Unfortunate Souls
– The Little Mermaid
Who will your nonprofit help? Get clear about who you’ll serve and how you’ll help them. How are your services different from other nonprofits who have a similar mission? It’s hard to get support for duplicate services so find a way to make yours unique. Clear, measurable outcomes are super handy for explaining to donors and funders what your nonprofit does that is worthy of their support.
5. Stand out
– A Goofy Movie
You want people to notice your nonprofit right? Then you need to stand out. Get good at telling your story, then get out there and tell it – speaking gigs, stories in the news, and everywhere else you can think of. Awareness is critical for new, young, and small nonprofits. People have to know you’re there before they can support you.
6. Whistle While You Work
– Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
In new, young, or small nonprofits, there’s so much to do that it’s easy to work all the time. Be sure to find the parts of your work that you really enjoy and stay in that zone as much as you can. Delegate, automate, and delete the rest, especially the stuff that you’re not good at. If everything is on your shoulders and you don’t have help, you run the risk of burnout, and that won’t help anyone.
7. Friend Like Me
Having a big, loyal donor base is almost like having a genie in a bottle. Donors will help you make magical things happen in your organization. The key is to think of them and treat them as friends, not checkbooks. Stay in touch, show that you care about them, and build a relationship like Aladdin has with Genie at the end of the movie. When you do, you’ll have a magic that never fails.
8. Be Our Guest
– Beauty and the Beast
People are CRITICAL to the success of your nonprofit– so make them feel like a welcome guest ALWAYS. Pay attention to the little things, like how you answer the phone, the message on your voice mail, and whether there’s toilet paper in the restrooms in your office. Impressions and subsequent relationships are built on little details. You may not need to have the plates sing and dance, but focus on welcoming guests, volunteers, and donors so they have a great experience with you.
9. Let it Go
Many of us have unspoken rules in our heads that we live by. There’s a set of rules for how we behave and things that are ok to do or say. In nonprofit fundraising, we have a similar set of rules. Be careful about following those “rules”. After all, rules are made to be broken. Don’t do things how you’re “supposed” to. Do them in a way that works for you and your nonprofit, and helps you reach your goals. Avoid the ‘cookie cutter’ approach. What works for other organizations may not work for yours. And anyway, you need to play to your personal strengths and your organization’s strengths so you can leverage opportunities.
10. Hakuna Matata
– Lion King
When you’re running a new, young, or small nonprofit, there are a lot of things to worry about. Just put the right things in place and it will all work out. You can’t use all your time and energy worrying – it will wear you out. Don’t worry about the new tax law or the competition or any of 100 other things screaming through your head right now. Focus on getting in front of the right people at the right time with the right message, and you’ll be fine. It’s our problem-free philosophy.
11. Dig a Little Deeper
– Princess and the Frog
Being a nonprofit Founder or Director is like having a built-in personal development program. Your buttons will get pushed. People will rub you the wrong way. Have support in place ready to help you. You’ve been given this role and you have what it takes to get the job done. Just dig a little deeper to find out who you are (and who you can become).
12. Go the Distance
Running a nonprofit isn’t easy. Fundraising isn’t easy. Managing people isn’t easy. Don’t give up. Things WILL be hard sometimes. When they are, remember your WHY – why did you say “yes” to this role and why does your nonprofit’s work matter? Stick with it and go the distance. When you do, you’ll reach your goal and be greeted like the hero you are.
So, there’s our 12 fundraising lessons from Disney. Which one is YOUR favorite?
Want to see the videos for these cute Disney songs? Catch the playlist at at this link.
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