Book Review: Begging for Change

Begging for Change by Robert Egger with Howard Yoon

Robert Egger is not only the direcor and founder of the DC Central Kitchen, he’s the poor bastard who took on the thankless task of rehabilitating the DC United Way after the disgraceful actions of its senior manager in 2002. His book is a quick read, but possibly a bitter pill for some non-profit bureaucrats.

He quite clearly believes in not only getting his hands dirty, but also attacking all the causes of hunger he sees in his community. To that end the DC Central Kitchen provides more than just food. They have addictions counselors, alliances with housing groups, a training program for food service skills that includes literacy and life skills.

It is not enough, he claims, to treat only the symptoms. We must, as a community and as a nation, attack the causes of homelessness, poverty and hunger. To him, this means paying parents a working wage, reaching out with new programs that treat clients with dignity, and changing the society at its roots.

He also calls for non-profits to stop fighting against each other.

“We are a house divided. Hunger isn’t about food, homelessness isn’t about housing, and poverty isn’t about money. The issues are interconnected, yet we in the non-profit sector thing and act otherwise. Until we create a dialog to share ideas and devise a unified, sector-wide strategy, we’ll continue to be ineffective, and our clients will stay disenfranchised.”

I think he has a point. Almost every day, I receive a sheaf of fundraising requests from non-profits big and small. I really shouldn’t feel that giving money to an organization was a mistake. And yet, every time I throw another funding request into the recycling, I do.

There are a few charities I regularly support. There are a few charities, I whole-heartedly believe are good, even if I can’t afford to send them money. What do these charities have in common? They all do something that directly affects the people they help.

ModestNeeds.org pays for bills directly for individual emergency support. Doctors without Borders provides actual healthcare. There are direct benefits from their actions. This is why people give to them.

“If you chase money, you’ll be on an endless loop. If you chase results, the money will come.”

Actual results lead to positive word of mouth which leads to community support and donations.

In other words, try something, change something, look around you and solve a problem, and the world will beat a path to your door.

Oh yeah! And read the book. It’s got ideas that need to spread.

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