Begging for Change: The Dollars and Sense of Making Nonprofits Responsive, Efficient, and Rewarding
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This book is about a man who volunteers to help serve food to the homeless one night, only to become dismayed at the ineffectiveness of the process. It transforms his life and he transforms the industry. He reboots the organization, questioning initial assumptions and developing new ways of defining and achieving its mission. He founds DC Central Kitchens and turns it into a highly successful 12-week job-training program that not only feeds a lot of people but equips former homeless transients and drug addicts with culinary and life skills to gain employment in the restaurant business.
So far, so good. At this point, we’ve looked at the role of the individual and the role of a transformed, improved nonprofit in working together to solve the big challenges. Their work is done - the nonprofit, with the generous support of caring individuals, has provided a program to get a former homeless transient (FHT) out of a terrible way of life. The FHT now has better life skills and initiative, and heads out into the work sector to get a job - only to find it doesn’t pay a living wage. That’s right, all this “charity” is taking place in the context of a world in which for profit institutions put profit ahead of people on the one side, and then donate a little on the other side to look good. About this, Egger says:
I’d like to urge any CEO or director of a company who wants to help a person in need to start with your own people - your employees. Make sure they’re taken care of and then work your way out in concentric circles, your neighborhood, your community, your city and state. Don’t donate your time to the inner city if your own employees aren’t making a living wage. Spend more time figuring out how to pay them better and provide more benefits, rather than constructing a golden parachute for your fellow exectives. (p. 165)
Eggers points out that CEO’s don’t want to lose market share to their competitors, and are beholden to shareholders, and we see the bigger problem.
Note also that Robert Egger is the founder of CForward,
CForward is a nonpartisan, 501c4 advocacy organization that champions the economic role of the nonprofit sector and supports candidates who include the sector in their plans to strengthen the economy.
From the Amazon review:
You are a good person. You are one of the 84 million Americans who volunteer with a charity. You are part of a national donor pool that contributes nearly $200 billion to good causes every year. But you wonder: Why don’t your efforts seem to make a difference?
Enlightening and provocative, engaging and moving, this book is essential reading for nonprofit managers, corporate leaders, and, most of all, any citizen who has ever cared enough to give of themselves to a worthy cause.
What does this have to do with the Fusion Energy League?
The book strikes a great balance between immediate needs (such as food) and the larger system in which food scarcity becomes an issue. Egger keeps stepping back and asking revealing questions about cause and effect. He turns over many assumptions and keeps shifting the focus until you finally see the whole. The result is a set of ideas that are practical and eye opening, and a way of seeing that applies to any philanthropic venture.
The book has had an impact on The Fusion Energy League. We are a nonprofit organization working on the “system” side of the problem and developing a holistic approach to the energy challenge. We are working to accelerate the transition to a great quality of life for ten billion (10,000,000,000) people with zero (0) carbon footprint, in perpetuity (∞). How to go about doing this is a major challenge. This book stands within reach for when we need inspiration, practical insights into organization building, and perspective on how to keep a balance between immediate needs and our systemic strategy.