The headline caught my eye.

“This is the secret ingredient that America’s most popular restaurants share.”

Being a bit of a foody, I had to read it.

Then I realized how the simple truth in this article, written by Tom Sietsema in the Washington Post, applies to the work you do in major gifts.

Stay with me for the logic.

You would think that food quality and ambiance are the key factors that drive customer satisfaction in a restaurant. They play a big role, but look at what Tom says:

Good cooking helps, although memorable food was missing from the place that pulls in the most money. The link shared by all: hospitality of the warmest order. I relish the signature dish at Joe’s Stone Crab in Miami Beach — but not any more than I treasure the suits that cheerfully gossiped as they led me to my table or the servers who wise-cracked through dinner. Anywhere else, telling a restaurant you’ll be two hours late for your reservation would be grounds for dismissal — but at Gibson’s Bar and Steakhouse in Chicago, I was welcomed like a most favored patron when I rolled in from a delayed flight. Catch my drift? Diners prize passion and sincerity as much as whatever’s on the menu.

Passion and sincerity.

I was on a flight last Thursday from Philadelphia to Asheville. It’s the same routine. Long lines, people cutting in, the guy that doesn’t know how to load his stuff in the overhead bin, the small seats and stale air, the lack of food – you get it. Dull. Boring.

But the captain and the flight attendant had passion and sincerity and their words – yes, they both talked to us, unlike their usual near-silence – their words, behavior and actions before, during and after the flight made it a good experience. I was treated as a human being, not an economic unit. I actually enjoyed it. And I told them I did.

The good restaurant’s product is food + the experience.

The good airline’s product is transportation + the experience.

Take a look at what you do.

Your product is what the donor can do through your organization (that matches their passions and interests and the needs your organization is addressing).

You may have that down to a science, but if the donor’s experience with you is perfunctory, transactional, businesslike and to-the-point, then (much like the restaurant) the donor will consume the “food” but not feel very good about it as she does it.

When you interact with your donor, you need to deliver your product + the experience.

Think about what it means to deliver a five-star “donor experience” to your caseload donor. It’s more than talking about the program or project you know they would enjoy funding. It’s letting them know how you feel about it and what a difference their giving will make. Communicating your pain and grief about the problem that needs fixing, along with your excitement about the solution. It’s about feelings and possibility. It could very well be about humor and relationship.

For sure, it is human. And warm – and real – and spontaneous.

The next time you go out to eat, notice how you are treated. Then set a strong intention to treat your donor in a whole new way.


This post originally appeared on the Passionate Giving Blog on July 23, 2018.