I’ve attended a lot of fundraising conferences during my seventeen years in the field. There have been many occasions where disagreements break out between fundraisers on how we should handle some of the intricacies of the job. But I’ve found that nothing gets fundraisers riled up more than the subject of who should pay for lunch.
Some folks insist that we can’t accept anything from our donors. Some insist that paying for lunch is a form of stewardship (or stewivation as I prefer). Some actually avoid lunch meetings because they just don’t want to deal with it. Well, the case can be made for both sides, so I’m here to tell you that:
- It’s okay if you buy a donor lunch (or dinner, or coffee, or drinks, etc.);
- It’s okay if a donor buys you lunch (just be sure to be incredibly thankful and not to expect it);
- But it’s not okay if you go dutch.
Sometimes when this conversation comes up a fellow fundraiser will offer that we should “just go dutch” during these situations. I really hate this solution. Going dutch (splitting the check) turns the end of the meeting into a business transaction. There is no goodwill exchanged. It becomes a nuisance and often times it leaves the other party thinking, “why didn’t I just cover it?” or “why didn’t they take care of it?” Picking up the tab is an opportunity to create goodwill and show interest at a relatively low cost. Many times I will offer to pay and then be told that “I’m not allowed to do so,” but it’s the gesture that counts (and is appreciated).
So create your own rules for how you’re going to handle this situation, just make sure going dutch isn’t your solution.