How Waitressing Made Me a Better Fundraiser

Before I began fundraising in nonprofits, I worked as a server in restaurants.  I learned the ins and outs of the business environment, figured out how to make good tips, and enjoyed interacting with all kinds of people.

Most importantly, I discovered a critical principle in managing relationships and clients’ brand experience.

In restaurants, patrons don’t get the difference between the front-of-the-house and the back-of-the-house.  It’s all the same to them. So, as a server, you never blame the cook.  You take responsibility for the patron’s entire experience with the business.

The same is true for nonprofits. Donors, volunteers, and clients don’t care about how your departments are divided or who’s in charge of what.  They view your nonprofit as a total organization, not a compilation of different components.

So, you’ve got to take responsibility for your donor’s full experience! Apologize – even if it’s not your fault.  Do it – even if it’s not in your job description. 

What do you think?  Does my perspective resonate with your experience?  Please leave a comment!

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  1. I completely agree Jessica. After being a waitress for many years in my youth it gave me the skills to deal with so many different personalities and how to adjust to many circumstances. It also made me understand long hours, commitment and gave me a thick skin. All those great skills we need as a fundraiser!

    • Thanks, Jacqueline, for your comment. You are right – dealing with all kinds of people – a needed skill for servers and fundraisers!

  2. Great post, Jessica! No matter what field you are in, you can at times be the face of your company or organization. Not only is it good for your employer, but it’s also good for your own personal brand too!

    • Great point! We are always representing ourselves, others we are associated with, and organizations that we serve, too. It’s all about that brand experience… Thanks for reading!

  3. I completely agree with you about this one, Jessica. As usual, you are spot on! Earlier this month I blogged about how fundraising should be viewed as a team sport by non-profit organizations ( and think it complements your points.

    • Love your blog post, Dan! Thanks for sharing it with our blog readers.



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