Tuna or Caviar?

One new lesson I recently learned is that the food at your events needs to be at the “level” of your donors. What I mean is if you want “wealthy people” at your events your food needs to be high-caliber and gourmet. Peanut butter and jelly slices or Costco platters just will not do.

If your donors and board members attend your events with great food and a beautiful set-up they will be eager to show you off and give to you as well. Your donors will turn into advocates by inviting their friends and associates. If your donors are going to invite their friends then you better not have cheese cubes and deli meat slices.

This simple little trick can put your organization in the same league as your local hospitals, universities, or United Way. You do not need to have a huge budget or a lot of food present; you just need to present yourself well. And if your guests see you as a major player they will start acting (and giving) like major players themselves. This will also set the stage for you to keep and attract high-level community members to your organization.

What kind of food are you serving your donors? Do you usually have food at your events? Have you ever used this strategy before? Leave a comment and let us know.


3 Responses to Tuna or Caviar?

  1. Rob Leiss says:

    As the manager of a Costco, I have to take exception to your characterization of Costco platters as somehow inadequate. Perhaps you haven’t been by our store lately! I mean, have you tried our all-natural beef tamales? They’re handmade, with pride and the freshest ingredients, by “la Familia Nuevo” (the Nuevo Family). Everyone I know who’s tried them says they are “muy” (very) good. And I defy you to find another place where you can get 40 HANDMADE tamales for $89.99. That’s REAL “small change!”

    Rob Leiss
    Manager, Costco

  2. Janice Chan says:

    Certainly, but it depends on the event as well. We have food at pretty much all of our events, although part of the whole food level matching donor level is often a function of venue. If we’re holding our annual gala at a nice hotel, hopefully the food would be on par as well. If we’re having a corporate softball tournament where companies pay an entry fee for their teams, even if these are the same companies who sponsor our annual gala, it makes little sense to have an elegant, sit-down dinner after the tournament. Not that we don’t want everyone at our events to have a great experience, but part of that is that every piece is appropriate/suited to the event and audience. But certainly food, venue, and type of event would be quite different between a small group of high net-worth donors who have been invited and a group of general donors who bought tickets after seeing an event posted on our website. And as you mentioned, it helps for word of mouth as well for donors to say, hey, this organization is a class act and not some tiny organization that might go under next year. Nothing against small nonprofits, but being seen as a bigger player (like hospitals, universities, the United Way) definitely helps lend some credibility. It’s like when you go for a job interview: the workplace may be business casual, but you always want to make a great impression and go with the suit for the interview.

  3. Carol Carter says:

    I am now a retired Develoment Director who worked for the Foundation that provided support to the Maricopa Community Colleges in metro Phoenix, Arizona. I chuckled at this article because it is so true. The volunteers that supported the MCCD Foundation were business and civic leaders who meet quarterly. All except the annual meeting was held at one of 10 MCCD colleges where budgets mean serving on paper plates and plastic cups to hold the stuff from deli platters and Costco specials. We finally graduated from that thinking due to the diligent efforts of our then Executive Director. We moved to a gourmet caterer who bought china service and silverware to serve the wonder aspics, coated strawberries and finger foods fit for royalty. We did not order much, but what was available was special and elegant, befitting the positions held by our volunteers. The annual meeting was held at the local country club (using the membership of a foundation member as a contribution). The annual meeting was an elegant affair, with upscale dining, in an upscale environment conducive to good will and continued generosity.

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