My charity asked me to treat a donor to a lunch. My charity recommends a modest, but respectable restaurant that befits its pre-tax budget of $100/guest for lunch, unless the donor specifies one. My charity assumes that guests know to limit their order, as the charity's paying.

My bill was $80. But the donor's was $500, mainly because of 1 expensive bottle of wine. To avoid upsetting him and looking stingy, I said nothing and never revealed the budget.

My charity learned from experience that they can't take donors to cheaper restaurants, which had made some donors feel belittled.

  • 5
    What's wrong with taking them to a cheaper place? There's a broad range of places where you can't rack up a $700 lunch bill without needing to go to a chain restaurant. As written this doesn't seem like a question about an interpersonal skill so much as it is about choosing an appropriate place for lunch. I'm voting to close this as off topic.
    – sphennings
    Jun 13, 2018 at 19:41
  • 4
    So is your actual goal to somehow communicate to the donor that you can't afford extravagant meals? Otherwise this seems to be asking for non-IPS solutions (like the obvious one already stated of "go to a cheaper restaurant").
    – Em C
    Jun 13, 2018 at 19:47
  • 3
    Can you edit your question title to be in agreement with the question in the body? Right now the obvious answer to the question title is to simply not say you have a budged. While the obvious answer to the question in the body is to go somewhere cheaper. Neither of these seem to be the answer you are looking for. Perhaps you should clarify your question further.
    – sphennings
    Jun 13, 2018 at 19:49
  • 3
    What sphennings said - and it might be useful to include info like how these invitations are extended, so we know when/how you might be able to communicate such information to the donor.
    – Em C
    Jun 13, 2018 at 19:57
  • 2
    What's wrong with making it explicit that there's a limit on what they can spend? Or vetoing any particularly expensive purchases like the expensive bottle of wine when it happens?
    – sphennings
    Jun 13, 2018 at 20:10

1 Answer 1


The whole framing of this question is wrong. It isn't clear what location you are in, but in my city I don't think you could find a $500 meal.

First - The limit depends on the donor. If the donor just gave $10 million to the charity than a $500 lunch should be fine. If the donor just gave a $100 then the lunch is a loser.

Second - How was the invitation extended? The invitation should set the expectations. Perhaps you could offer choice between several restaurants with a specific meal at each. Or perhaps a single restaurant with 3 choices. A price range is another option. I entertained a lot many years ago and a large unexpected lunch bill would have had my boss blow his stack. I typically ordered first to set a unspoken price range on the meal. Something mid-range.

Third - It is unclear who you are in this charity and why you are doing the entertaining. Is this just a "thank you" lunch, or were you to to discuss some specific ideas about the charity?

Fourth - I'd be inclined to indicate on the invitation that alcoholic drinks were not included, especially if you and the donor would be driving to the restaurant. Drunk driving is a significant problem in the US. You don't want charity in a legal mess where the donor got drunk and had a serious accident after the meal. (This may not make the overall meal cheaper. My experience was that we either ate or drank about $100 each.)

So all in all the charity's policy for such meals needs to be more carefully thought out. But all in all I can't imagine that a serious donor, that is who believes in some cause, wants to see all the donated money spent on entertainment.

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