Will Lunch Conversations & Bespoke Experiences Replace Fundraising Galas

A post by Jason Lewis who writes The Butterfly Effect on substack suggests taking a donor to lunch is going to be a much better investment of time and resources when it comes to doing a better job fundraising than taking a webinar on the topic.

If you really want to understand why giving is down, instead of signing up for a webinar promising an in-depth analysis by a panel of fundraising wizards, how about taking a lapsed donor out to lunch? If doing that is all but impossible because you’re too afraid to pick up the phone, you’re overwhelmed with the amount of data you’d have to sift through to identify that donor, or your boss has you panicked about tablecloths and wine for the fall gala, anything you’re going to hear in that webinar isn’t going to help.

What Lewis essentially says is that like arts and culture audiences, donors are less interested in taking a passive role with their giving and want to be more interactively engaged. An increasing number of people don’t view themselves as socialites who attend big galas and would instead like to have a closer view and relationship with the causes they are being asked to support.

The effect is an irrevocable shift from a broadcast model in which a relative few control the message to a democratized model where the message is co-created. Shirky’s insights about what it means to live in the twenty-first century is why we encourage our clients not to see themselves as master technicians attempting to manipulate and control their donor’s experience and, instead, engage their donors in ways that allow them to play active roles in creating meaningful experiences for themselves.


Our donors want to play an active role in determining what their giving experiences are; and they, more so than anyone else, are best qualified to explain to us what those experiences might look like. Arguably, the lunch table is one of the best places for having these kinds of conversations.

Based on the plug at the bottom of the post, it appears Jason Lewis is a member of a company that promotes responsive fundraising which presumably advocates for this sort of approach as part of their consulting practice.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker (artshacker.com) website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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