One Thing Starbucks Can Teach the Nonprofit World

Did you notice one of the changes at Starbucks recently? It’s really kind of subtle. Free wi-fi. In the past, you’d go to Starbucks and you either had to have an AT&T account, or you had to have a Starbucks card to use their wireless.

Frankly, it was a bit of a pain. Essentially, one way or another, you had to pay for their service. It wasn’t easy.

Other restaurants and coffee shops took advantage. They advertised boldly: Free Wi-Fi.  It was easy to go their stores and flick on a switch and get connected. Sometimes, I’d find myself in the afternoon between appointments but needing to plop down for a few minutes. I’d pick a Panera or some other store that advertised free wi-fi. And by the way, while I was there, I would buy a drink or a snack.

So Starbucks wised up, and gave in and made their wi-fi free as well. Their home page now says get connected, and stay awhile. (You’ll probably buy a cup of coffee while you are there too!)

What’s the principle? If you want to sell coffee, give your customers a reason to come in besides the coffee, and make it free. If you are running a ministry, and want people to use your service, find a way to attract them that’s at their core, and make it free.

Analyze your customers. Ask yourself, “what do they want; what do they need?” Find a way to cater to that need that is attractive, and pretty soon , you’ll find yourself “selling more coffee…”

William High is the President/General Counsel of the Servant Christian Community Foundation ( Servant’s mission is to inspire, teach and facilitate revolutionary biblical generosity. He may be reached at


2 Responses to “One Thing Starbucks Can Teach the Nonprofit World”

  1. Howard Says:

    Great thought…….. PLUS…… now, Starbucks has people like you promoting them too……. free advertising…….. especially “word of mouth” from “friend to friend” is the best !!! I’ll do a starbucks now……. I’ve been staying away 🙂


  2. Cathy Says:

    We can learn A LOT from Starbucks. THey also donate FREE coffee to our soldiers abroad. (Great way to make momma happy).

    Mercy &Truth Medical Missions (nonprofit) offers FREE INTERNET BROWSING at the birth center. FAMILIES can SKYPE or VIdeo cast their birthing experiences globally! IT is becoming a “hot spot” for Missionaries to have their babies….and keep their “home away from home” involved!

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