I’ve spent years working with nonprofits right here in Birmingham, AL, and let me tell you, connecting with our donors is one giant slice of the pie that we just can’t afford to miss. I’m not just talking about the typical Zoom meet-ups or those email threads that seem to go on forever. Sure, they’re important, but they don’t always hit that sweet spot.
What I mean is building those genuine, heart-to-heart connections with our donors that last for years to come. Yes, donors are busy. But one thing they will always have time for is lunch! A quick half hour to an hour over a meal can do wonders for building those relationships, and let’s face it, lunch is way easier to squeeze into the schedule than dinner.
As a Birmingham local, I’ve had the pleasure of learning my way around our local eateries, and there are some real gems out there. I’ve compiled a list of my top 5 here — each spot perfectly suited to a particular type of donor.
For the Millennial Donor: El Barrio
El Barrio is in downtown Birmingham, and it’s hopping with energy that your millennial donors will adore. They offer a fresh new spin on Mexican food that has quickly become a favorite among locals. Not to mention, they have some of the best margaritas in town. Trust me, a Friday lunch here will be one that your millennial donors will remember.
2211 2nd Ave N, Birmingham, AL 35203 // elbarriobirmingham.com
For the Foodie Donor: ZaZa
Zaza is located in the heart of downtown Birmingham and has some of the best brunch/lunch options in town. Their take on Italian cuisine has the city lining up every weekend. If your donor is a foodie, this is the place to take them! They will love the quaint atmosphere and great food options. The homemade pastas are a must-try!
207A 20th St N, Birmingham, AL 35203 // zazabham.com
For the Fast-Paced Donor: Brick and Tin
If you’re short on time, Brick and Tin in Mountain Brook Village is the perfect pit stop. They offer a quick, delicious menu that consists of salads, soups, and sandwiches. The atmosphere is perfect for a quick lunch to engage with your donor to talk about your needs and plans for the organization. Here’s the cherry on top – this food is excellent for an elevated take-out! Do you have a quick, onsite meeting and lunch is on the agenda? Gather everyone’s orders ahead of time and send someone to grab the food.
2901 Cahaba Rd, Mountain Brook, AL 35223 // brickandtin.com
For the VIP Donor: Galley and Garden
To make a great impression on your high-level donors, Galley and Garden is a great local spot. They offer private rooms to reserve with private wait staff to serve you and your guests. This upscale restaurant offers American and French foods with a seasonal selection. It is located in a beautiful historical home with a gorgeous outdoor seating area. The quiet, intimate atmosphere is perfect for having a lunch meeting with your board and VIP donors.
2220 Highland Ave, Birmingham, AL 35205 // galleyandgarden.com
For the Out-of-Town Donors: Saw’s BBQ
When you need to give visiting donors a taste of local southern cuisine, Saw’s BBQ is the place. Saw’s BBQ has multiple locations throughout the Birmingham area. Each location has a unique menu featuring southern classic foods. This award winning BBQ spot is perfect to take a donor that is visiting the city. It will give them the opportunity to experience Alabama BBQ at its best! This award-winning BBQ is the real deal, and with a full stomach, they will be willing to write those checks!
Saw’s Juke Joint: 1115 Dunston Ave, Birmingham, AL 35213 // Saw’s Soul Kitchen: 215 41st St S, Birmingham, AL 35222 // Saw’s BBQ Southside: 1154 11th Ave S, Birmingham, AL 35205 // Saw’s BBQ Homewood: 1008 Oxmoor Rd, Homewood, AL 35209 // Saw’s BBQ Hoover: 3780 Riverchase Village, Hoover, AL 35244 // sawsbbq.com
In the end, the most important thing is to build a good relationship with your donors. Consider setting up a regular lunch date every quarter. This not only shows your donor that they’re important to you, but also gives you a chance to catch up in a relaxed setting. I encourage you to try one of these spots and see the difference it makes.
– April Salazar
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