The summer after my senior year in high school, I worked as a car hop. This was the 1980s, not the 1950s, and the owner of the ice cream shop was nervous about litigation. So, we didn’t wear roller skates.

We wore cute sneakers, and sky-blue satin shorts with navy piping, and yellow scoop neck tees with a little rainbow near the right shoulder and the company name. We also wore yellow balloons tied to our aprons, which bobbed merrily above our heads as we navigated the parking lot, holding ice cream. I’m happy to say that no known photos exist from that time.

But I thought of how that job prepared me to become a good fundraiser when I read this Wall Street Journal article on reading the table. The skills I learned as I served carload after carload of customers are the same ones I use when working with individual and group donors.

Here are a few parallels I found between restaurant work and fundraising – can you think of more?

If you’re grumpy, you typically get better service at a restaurant. If you are a donor that’s hard to satisfy, the person in charge of your philanthropic relationship will make an extra effort to get you what you need to remain engaged.

If you ask a lot of questions about the menu, it may mean you want some guidance on what to order from your server. If you are a donor and ask a lot of questions about the programs and services you’re considering supporting, the fundraiser you are working with needs to figure out how to educate you without turning you off.

Finally, if nobody at the table seems to be in charge, the waiter needs to spend more time and energy figuring out how best to serve the table. Similarly, if a group of donors – say, corporate decision-makers or a reunion committee – can’t get consensus on their philanthropic goals, the fundraiser has their work cut out for them.

If you’re a fundraiser, what tools do you use to “read the table”?