Losing Our Lunch: The Decline of Noontime Fellowship

According to the Wall Street Journal's current series, The End of Lunch, in the last year Americans made 433 million fewer visits to restaurants over lunch than last year. They cite busier schedules, costlier restaurants, cheaper grocery stores. Most of us can relate. The three-martini lunch is over, WFJ says. Most of us cannot relate to a three-martini lunch, however.

When I speak about goal setting, I often talk about "off the grid" goals, the kind that don't show up in performance reviews or on spreadsheets. The kind of goals that build us up as people with heart and soul, which does, of course, lead to us being more successful, more in tune, just, well, better.

And one of those softer goals is always, "Eat Lunch More." Build a lunch bunch, if you will, a circle of people who understand the difficulties of social profit work in general, fundraising in particular if that's your gig, so that you have individuals who've walked the walk to go to when the sky is falling. To me, building a circle that we can count on to understand the challenges and the rewards of this work is paramount. Networks are good, great even, and build an infrastructure that allows us to get stuff done, bring in important partners, move our work ahead. But a circle, that surround us, includes us, makes us a stronger, that's a necessity.

That often means scheduling in time for lunch. And as someone who has notoriously skipped lunch or eaten at my desk, I know of what I speak.

"Never eat lunch alone" has been the mantra for successful professional networking for years, but I would contend that we should also apply it to professional friendships. Taking real time for lunch shouldn't just be acceptable when we can prove the time has some significant upside for our organization. It's equally valuable when we're building stronger connections with people who have different points of view, different experiences, different backgrounds, but understand the work we do. We get stronger, surer, wiser, and braver when we talk to others who are walking our path, whether they're at the height of mind-blowing success (are there those people in our sector?) or struggling with their own nonprofit demons.

Be selfish about lunch. Who would you most like to talk to about your work? Who might lift you up out of a slump? Who do you know that might need encouragement and affirmation? (Side note: in my experience, affirmation is one of the things nonprofit folks need MOST!) Who can you trust to give you an honest opinion about your board's latest idea for a "can't fail" fundraiser? With whom would you like to build such a relationship of trust?

Make the call. I can assure you, unless the person you'd most like to talk to is Bono, the person on the other end of the line would like to have a meaningful lunch, too. We can let the three-martini lunch go, people, but we need to eat lunch more.

Common People United