How Your Studio Can Create a Culture of Giving Back and Encourage Deeper Connections

Giving back feels good. It gives us a sense of purpose. But when giving back becomes engrained in your fitness studio mission, selfless acts of volunteering and fundraising can significantly alter the DNA of your business and deepen retention-building relationships with your clients. 

Jessica Mishu of Blue Ridge Yoga in Knoxville, TN, can attest to that.

As a world traveler and founder of Blue Ridge Yoga, Jessica and her staff have created and instilled a culture of giving back to their local community since opening in 2015. Raising over $135,000 (and counting), her yoga studio has become synonymous with contributing to the local community and thinking outside the box to organize and execute unique, sold-out events where clients want to pay to attend—and feel confident spending to give back. So how do Jessica and team capture their student and potential client attention, create a positive network effect and rank as the #1 yoga studio in Knoxville for six consecutive years?   

Inherently giving back has health benefits, just like a fitness and wellness practice. Giving can stimulate the brain’s mesolimbic pathway, or reward center, releasing endorphins, boosting self-esteem, and combating feelings of depression—which increased by 25% during the COVID-19 pandemic! Your clients are craving deeper connections, and if they continually book at your studio, they care about their well-being and your brand. Making giving back accessible at your studio will not only foster a culture of care but will capture the desire for positive change by empowering your students to do something good for the community (and themselves!) Like booking a sound bath yoga flow for the local homeless shelter.

“If you founded a studio, you want to give back,” says Jessica. “Giving back will create a better brand, bring people to your studio, and ultimately prevent you from burning out.” 

As Jessica has built Blue Ridge Yoga into a well-respected, donation-generating, top yoga studio in the Knoxville area, she now has a full calendar (and a full list of charities) waiting to work with her). Here are her top six lessons, learnings, and tactics to help your studio establish a giving-back baseline and encourage participation to benefit your local community. 

Create consistency (and dedicate time to get started)

When you start planning a calendar of events and classes that give back, think of events that won’t overextend yourself or your staff and take away from important studio tasks. And don’t be afraid to test and start small (that’s what Jessica and Blue Ridge did over the years!). Every fundraising opportunity doesn’t have to be a big ticket item, like a gala with $300 ticket prices. It could be a $30 deep stretch donation-based class where all contributions benefit the local charity of your choice.

Consider “smarter” efforts for optimal fundraising results

It’s great to do classes and events raising money for a good cause, but what about tapping into consumer buying trends that benefit the community and word-of-mouth marketing for your brand? For Jessica, resources like Custom Ink Fundraising are the perfect feel-good answer for her studio’s giving-back efforts and brand awareness. Multiple times a year, Blue Ridge Yoga will sell seasonal-specific clothing items with unique designs that always say their studio name. But they don’t overorder and have excess inventory. With Custom Ink, for example, Jessica can choose her Knoxville charity and sell the latest Blue Ridge clothing design by sharing a link with her students. That way, clients know exactly what proceeds from their purchase go to the selected cause—and they can choose their exact size and rock their studio gear around town. 

Establish a goal and make sure your charity partners match your mission

According to Jessica, when creating a studio strategy around giving back to the community, it’s important to determine what you hope to achieve and partner with community organizations that share the same values as you and your studio. From helping to promote your event/ effort to aligning with your studio community (and goals!), you want to ensure your charity partner is on the same page as you. Sometimes not all foundations and nonprofits are the right fit for your studio, and it’s okay to say “no thank you” and contribute in different ways (like donating a class pack to their silent auction.

Promote, promote, promote!  

Anywhere people can find you is where you should share your event,” said Caitlyn Phelps, Blue Ridge Yoga Studio Manager.” While this effort might take a little more time, getting your fundraising event word out is worth it. And once you write the copy, you can copy and paste it across multiple channels. Walla app announcements, studio website, Facebook events, Instagram, local event outlets/calendars, Google, marketing emails, in-studio, and in-class callouts; by spreading the word across different verticals and methods, you’ll ensure better attendance and contribution—and instigate outside conversations about the power of giving back at your studio.

Giving back can be a creative outlet for your staff and help avoid burnout

Empowering your staff to contribute to fundraising events at your studio can encourage positivity and enable your team to feel like they are contributing to a greater cause. Make your team part of the process, too. See what local charities are close to their hearts and if they have community connections and ideas for types of events that amplify donating. Consider unique location suggestions like yoga at a historic mansion, barre at the local theater, or boot camp at the zoo. By engaging your staff and making them part of the process, you are offering an outlet to tap into a different part of their brain, stretch their creative legs, and feel good about helping your studio have a positive impact.

Share the excitement and let your clients know they are a powerful force for change!

Talk about an awesome retention tool! When your studio, staff, and instructors are excited about giving back, the feeling is infectious—and your clients will see and feel this powerful emotion. They will be more likely to want to participate, tell their friends, and share your mission within your community, helping to raise brand awareness and bring in new leads! By giving back, you’re allowing your clients and students to engage without making a major effort. 

However you decide to give back at your studio and whatever you plan, sharing the mission of making a difference with your clients and community is a significant step in the right direction, big or small. 

To learn more about how Blue Ridge Yoga has instigated social change in their community through yoga, listen to our webinar with Jessica and Caitlyn, led by our co-founder Laura Munkholm!