Starbucks has built an international reputation for making a fine cup of coffee. But, did you know that you can learn at least five valuable lessons from a Starbucks barista?
I’m not talking about learning how to make a great espresso or cappuccino. While a Starbucks barista could certainly help you with that, I’m talking about five lessons every nonprofit development professional can learn to be a more effective fundraiser.
The lessons don’t come from just any barista, though. I’m talking about Nicole who fixes beverages at the Starbucks in the Nashville International Airport.
Let me tell you my story, and share with you what I learned from Nicole:
Lesson 1: Never say, “It’s not my job.”
I was just passing through Nashville on my way to a speaking engagement for the Association of Fundraising Professionals St. Louis Regional Chapter. I had to make a connecting flight. I passed a Starbucks on the way to my gate. There was a line, but I had plenty of time. So, I queued up for my trenta-iced-unsweetened-green-tea.
I patiently waited to place my order with the cashier, the normal procedure. But, I was startled by the voice of the barista. She called over to me, before I had even made my way to the cashier, to ask for my order. I was surprised. It actually took me a moment to understand what she was doing. Then, I gave her my order.
By the time I made it up to the cashier and paid for my drink, instead of the usual wait, Nicole had it ready for me. I was stunned with how quickly the line moved and how quickly I was served. Because this experience was so vastly different than any other Starbucks experience I have ever had, and because I had some time to kill before my flight, I stood and just watched the operation. I wanted to understand what was so special about this Starbucks. That’s when I realized that the difference was Nicole.
She could have simply waited until the cashiers gave her drink orders to fill. After all, it was not her job to take orders. But, Nicole saw a line of passengers trying to rush off for their flights. She knew they needed to get in and get out as quickly as possible. And, because she was able to assist, she did even though it wasn’t her job.
In our own organizations, it’s easy to fall back on our job descriptions. It’s easy to think, “It’s not my job. Let someone else take care of it.” But, when everyone in our organizations goes the extra distance for those receiving service or those donating money, we show that we care.
My wife was recently treated at Lankenau Medical Center. It’s a large facility. When walking down the hall, if you even look confused, a member of the staff will stop and offer assistance. Even doctors will do this. This is just one small example of the caring culture at Lankenau.
At most other hospitals I’ve visited, this has not been the case. I guess folks at those other hospitals think it’s not their job to help lost visitors, that’s what the information desk is for. Anyway, can you guess which hospital has a warm place in my heart for this and so many other reasons?
If you and your colleagues refuse to say, “It’s not my job,” you’ll help take a step toward creating or enhancing your own culture of caring. When you do that, you’ll be building relationships that make fundraising much easier.
Lesson 2: Be customer/donor centered.
Nicole was definitely customer focused. She knew we were all concerned about making our flights. So, she did what she could to keep us moving along. And, she anticipated our needs.
One of my pet peeves with Starbucks is that after I get my beverage, I always have to hunt for where they have the straws and napkins. Then, I have to figure out which straw goes with my beverage size. It wastes time, and it makes me feel stupid as I stumble around trying to find these items.
However, Nicole knows this straw-hunt ritual is a time waster. So, understanding my needs, she made sure to have the correct straw right there next to my iced-tea.
Part of being customer or donor focused involves putting yourself in the head of the other person. It involves understanding their wants, their needs. And, it involves doing what you can to accommodate those wants and needs.
If you and your colleagues become more customer and donor centered throughout your entire organization, you’ll have much happier customers and donors who are more willing to support your organization with more generous gifts.
Lesson 3: Be competent.
Nicole was able to be extra helpful because she was extra talented. She’s an exceptionally competent barista. Not only can she put together fine beverages, she does so quickly and with ease. I’ve been at many Starbucks where it actually takes two people to make one drink, slowly. I’m serious. But, Nicole does her job quickly and effortlessly.
The better trained you are, the more effective you will be. Read about fundraising and philanthropy. Join a professional association such as the Association of Fundraising Professionals or the Partnership for Philanthropic Planning. Get a master’s degree in philanthropy or nonprofit management. I don’t care how long you’ve been in fundraising; there’s something you can still learn.
Experience is perhaps the greatest teacher of all. The more experience you accumulate, the more effective you’ll be. And, the more helpful you’ll be able to be for your colleagues and your donors.
Lesson 4: Be cheerful.
I’ve been to other businesses where I’ve actually heard the employees complaining about the crowds. That’s right. These individuals were actually complaining about the fact that too many people wanted to give them money. By contrast, Nicole was actually cheerful despite how busy the store was. Her attitude might have been contagious because the rest of the staff was also fairly pleasant, if not quite as upbeat.
Despite the rush of activity, Nicole seemed genuinely happy to help people to quickly get what they wanted so they could be on their way with a bit less stress. She even took a moment to chat with me. She was surprised that I noticed her and what and how she was doing things. When I told her I was impressed, she just shrugged it off and said she was doing what came naturally. She smiled again and went off to make another happy customer.
These days, air travel is stressful. Waiting in line is stressful. But, Nicole and her colleagues helped alleviate some of the stress of travelers at Nashville International Airport. Instead of adding to our stress by reflecting our own anxiety back at us, they were cheerful which made us a bit more relaxed and happy.
If you’re cheerful, you will likely infect the people around you with cheerfulness. You’ll likely feel better about your work. You’ll probably do a better job. And, you’ll have more cheerful donors.
Imagine having a donor call you on the phone. You can treat the call as an interruption, and you can have an annoyed tone in your voice. Or, you can welcome the break from what you’re doing, and you can have a cheerful tone to your voice. Which is more likely to get a positive response from your donor?
Lesson 5: Being customer/donor centered just might get you noticed and might advance your career.
In case you’re wondering, I did contact Nicole’s boss, the Director of Operations. We swapped emails. I raved about Nicole.
If you’re ever passing through the Nashville International Airport, I don’t know that you’ll find Nicole. The Director of Operations indicated that he was already aware of her fine work. I hope by now that he has followed my advice and has promoted her. She’s a perfect person to have training other employees throughout the Starbucks Empire.
If you’re customer/donor centered, people are likely to take notice. They’re also likely to be impressed with your fundraising results. That just might help your career. It certainly won’t hurt it.
That’s what Michael Rosen says… What do you say?