Disney is doing something cool with their latest park promotion. This year, they are rewarding people who donate a day of service to one of several charities with a free pass to one of their theme parks. While some have criticized this as a marketing ploy, I feel that it’s a good thing and that we can all learn from it.

First, let’s address the criticism. The big complaint is it’s a marketing ploy to lure people in with a free pass. After all, if you don’t live near the parks, it means you need to travel there and then potentially stay at one of their hotels. And if you’re making the trip, you’ll probably want to stay for more than just one day and visit their other parks (the pass is good for a single park, not all four in Orlando or both in Anaheim). Plus you’ll probably want to buy some food and/or souvenirs. And also, the free pass is only good through December of this year.

While these complaints are valid to some extent, Disney did something interesting and actually addressed them. I frequently visit their Orlando, Florida resort which has four separate parks so when I travel there (from the northeast), I like to spend at least week there so I can see everything. A single day pass does very little for me because the way their ticket media works, it costs less than $20 for me to buy another day’s access to all four theme parks. This is the case for most people that travel to Disney.

But Disney is smart because they offer three alternatives. The first is that they give you the option to exchange it for special Fastpasses (passes that allow you to bypass lines at popular attractions). This is of great value to most people that visit their parks because you’re not spending the whole day waiting in lines. The second option is a special set of collectable trading pins — again, another great option for hardcore Disney fans. But the last suggestion they offer is my favorite – that you can donate your free pass to a charity or non-profit.

I think this program will encourage a good amount of people to donate their time. I wonder if Disney will release the actual numbers of passes they give out with program because it would be interesting to see. But I can see people on a budget (especially those within driving distance of the parks) taking part in this program as they could treat their kids to a Disney experience for very little cost.

It also raises awareness of service opportunities. I believe a number of people (and even entire families) will try out community service and learn how rewarding it is. A sincere “thank you” from someone you’ve helped or the satisfaction in knowing something you did will help someone in need is an incredible gift — it just feels very good. So I applaud Disney for this program and I hope other businesses will find creative ways like this to do well by doing good.

Success in Giving: A Lesson from Disney

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