The man renowned for turning a Washington, D.C., food kitchen into a job training and social services center told Buffalo area non-profit agencies Wednesday evening that they need to relate better to the public and one another if they want to find success.
Several-dozen people turned out in Rich Renaissance Atrium to hear Robert Egger, founder and president of the D.C. Central Kitchen. Directors of the Food Bank of Western New York and Friends of the Night People sponsored his visit to share their enthusiasm for the ideas about non-profits put forth in his newly published book, "Begging For Change."
Citing the work of Mohandas Gandhi, Cesar Chavez and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., noted that "none of them succeeded because they went to government, businesses or academia. They succeeded because they went to regular people."
Non-profit agencies, he said, "go to corporations and foundations, but 80 percent of the money comes from regular people. And the majority of them don't know how we work. We're afraid to talk to the public."
Acknowledging that the Buffalo area has one of highest charitable giving rates in the nation, Egger warned that non-profits cannot assume that people will continue to give "to their grandfather's charities." He suggested that non-profits get more attention by becoming more transparent -- letting the public know what they do and how they do it.
"The Washington Post has four people dedicated to writing about restaurants," he said, "and three people dedicated to writing about movies, but they don't have one person dedicated to covering the non-profit sector. Non-profits employ 25,000 people in D.C. They're as big an employer as the restaurant industry."
Egger said non-profits should reach out especially to baby boomers, who are approaching retirement age, and young people who are looking for ways to make the world a better place.
"Oct. 16, 2015 -- that's the day that the majority of the baby boomers are going to wake up, go into the bathroom, look in the mirror and say, 'I'm old!' They're going to look in the mirror and say, 'I want to leave something behind,' " he said.
"If we wait for that day, shame on us," he added. "We should pull on them to join us and say let us together make it a community that we all dreamed of when we were young."