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"The day is coming when a single carrot, freshly observed, will set off a revolution."
-Paul Cezanne, artist

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Giving 101: Restaurants Serving Slices of the Philanthropy Pie

The latest restaurant trend isn’t family-style dining or cocktail pairings with every course. It’s actually something aimed at helping you be more philanthropic. Restaurants have seized the opportunity to push their favorite charities to diners at the end of a good meal.

I recently spent an evening at Lucques in Los Angeles, and when our bill came, it included a donation card for chef Suzanne Goin's favorite charity, Alex's Lemonade Stand. It was almost like being at a benefit. If we chose to make a donation, there was a blank line to fill in the amount that would be added to our bill. When our server noticed me reading the material, he gave me an additional postcard with more details. Clearly, the staff was prepared. None of this was pushy, however. It was just an option. A way for you to punctuate your evening, if you're interested.


Eat Less, Give More

A new NGO, Go Halfsies, has been brewing up partnerships with restaurants in Austin, Texas and New York City for its pilot launch.

In the organization’s own words, Go Halfsies is “a social initiative offering restaurant-goers a choice that provides a healthier meal portion, reduces food waste, and supports the fight against hunger."

Going “halfsies” makes philanthropy straightforward for even the most passive donor. We all must eat. We all dine in restaurants (some more frequently than others), and in general, Americans are a generous bunch.

As a potential donor myself, I dug through the website and read its materials to learn more about the Halfsies model. I'm sharing my critical thoughts with you to give you an example of how to evaluate a potential giving opportunity.

The Unpredictable Donor

Some donors want to know the name of the child their gift sponsors in a little village in Senegal. Others are content to fund general operating support (like keeping the lights on), but most donors fall somewhere in between.

This doesn’t mean that diners won’t give. Some will give without questioning the process, while others will do more research and consider it for next time. But what about the people in the middle? Those are the donors you want to reach. They’ll be in the moment, out to dinner with friends or family, and potentially in a generous mood.

More and more people believe that eating less is better for them and the environment, but often eating out is something of an indulgence. Will patrons want to forgo a portion of their meal? If they’re having multiple courses, participating might be easy. If they’re only ordering entrees, they might hesitate.

As it stands, the donor is required to do some research in order to find out where donations go. If a donor were so inclined, they’d need to pull up the Go Halfsies website when they return home and read about the organizations that are being funded. This is only if the donor gets that far. Some might not give simply on the basis that they don’t know which organizations will receive their donation.

To help connect the donor to the nonprofit organizations receiving funding, I would love to see an NGOs name printed on the receipt of diners who choose to participate in this program, or perhaps literature on the table or at the bottom of each menu. It will also drive home the restaurant's commitment to giving back, without being offensive to patrons.

These variables are not unique to Go Halfsies. Every nonprofit organization struggles to pinpoint its donor demographic, anticipate their needs, and provide meaningful ways to give back.

Great Potential

What Halfsies is doing right is capitalizing on something we all have to do anyway: eat! Promoting healthier portion sizes is a long-term trend, which can pay off for this young organization.

Its website is sparse, as the program has not launched yet, but Go Halfsies provides a simple overview of what it aims to accomplish.

Overall, I’m excited to see this giving model integrated into America’s restaurants and how much funding is raised from these partnerships.
If Halfsies comes to your city, would you consider participating?

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