Most of us can still name that one teacher. The one who made us care about reading; think science was fascinating; discover that George Washington was actually a mapmaker. If you’re like me, you find yourself surprised that education can transport you to a different time and, occasionally, a different place; sometimes quite literally.
We’re lucky enough to have one such professor include DC Central Kitchen as a part of his homework. Every year, as part of his first-year seminar on the literature of homelessness, Gettysburg College professor Chris Fee brings students to DC Central Kitchen where they learn how to make a difference… and a mean berry cobbler.
As part of a four-day service project, Dr. Fee’s students create meals for those in need using “surplus” food. Food that area restaurants, hotels and farms can’t sell or use but is perfectly healthy and tasty. It’s the same concept that fuels our Campus Kitchens Project, which combines student volunteers with campus kitchens during their off hours to provide needed food in 20 states nation-wide.
Almost nine years ago, Dr. Fee’s service project so impressed Gettysburg students, they went home intent on launching a Campus Kitchen. Today, their kitchen serves more than 700 meals each month to children, seniors and families working their way out of poverty. The Campus Kitchen at Gettysburg College was recently awarded the 2012 Secretary’s Award for Excellence in Nutrition for Older Pennsylvanians through the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Department of Aging.
I get to see that same spark in volunteers at DC Central Kitchen every day. There’s incredible power in doing something great or small for someone else. It reminds us that individuals can create change and together we can make a difference in the hearts and minds of the community. Not only do you learn about the assigned subject, you learn a little about yourself in the process.
Mike Curtin is the Chief Executive Officer for DC Central Kitchen and The Campus Kitchens Project.
If raising money for good organizations and great causes was easy, more people would do it. And we’d have more good organizations taking on great causes. But fundraising for nonprofits is challenging, even for those of us that have built careers around it. Some of these challenges are readily apparent – the ongoing recession is hardly breaking news, and no one has ever run into a nonprofit leader who has said “Put away your checkbook, we’re already flush with cash.” Other barriers are more complex. Who should an organization ask for money? How should that ‘ask’ be made? And how do you make that donor feel like more than a dollar sign with legs, so they become a partner, a true investor in your operation? These answers are never easy to find and they vary for each organization – but they are out there!
At DC Central Kitchen, we’re getting closer to these solutions every day. And our progress is fueled by one simple principle: being earnest. Fundraising is the nonprofit sector’s version of sales and marketing. But when a for-profit corporation sells you an item in exchange for your money, you get something – sneakers, a hamburger, or a vacuum cleaner. A gift to a nonprofit, however, is just that: a gift. You don’t get anything tangible in exchange for your hard-earned dollars. What you do get is a feeling, a sense. A sense that you’ve done something that will make a difference for someone else, make a lasting change in your community, or even buy you a small sliver of redemption. For that ‘sense’ to feel real, you can’t feel like you’ve been hustled by a slick, smooth-talking salesman. You have to believe that the fundraiser you just talked to meant what they said about the organization’s mission, programs, and results. You have to believe that they believe.
A lot of people ask me what my secret to success is. And I’ll admit, I have something of a secret weapon. At the end of so many conversations, potential donors to DC Central Kitchen have said “I can tell, based on your voice, how excited you are about what the Kitchen is doing.” That’s an advantage you can’t learn in class, on the job, or from a blog (even this one!). When you’re raising money for your Campus Kitchen, don’t feel like you need to be a smooth operator. Be honest about your story, how you found the organization, how you feel about it, and what that donation will help you do. You don’t need to be the center of attention or even an extrovert. In fact, most donors really just want you to listen and respond to them thoughtfully. The key, in my experience, is to be comfortable with who you are – and that will make your donors feel comfortable talking to you, listening to you, and giving to your Campus Kitchen. So, be earnest – and you might be surprised how much you earn.
Brian MacNair is the Chief Development Officer for DC Central Kitchen and The Campus Kitchens Project.
At Marquette, we talk about being “men and women for others;” it’s one of the university’s catch phrases. You can find these words emblazoned on signs in the Alumni Memorial Union, written on banners on the light posts and being spoken by faculty, administration and students alike. One of the best examples of this phrase, however, can be found in the caring smile behind the counter of the dining hall in Straz Tower and at the Campus Kitchen at Marquette.
You see, Sharon Hope is that caring smile. During the school year, you can find Sharon at Straz, serving healthful food to the students. Because of the dietary needs of some of the students, she works closely with the chef managers to develop delicious vegetarian, vegan, nut-free, dairy-free, gluten-free and other options that they need. And she knows her students – if you watch her during meal service, she is quick to point out the appropriate options based on their specific needs.
When she’s not at work, you will probably find Sharon at the Campus Kitchen at Marquette. During her time off on the weekends and over school breaks, Sharon shares her gifts with the greater Milwaukee community. She will spend 18-30 hours each week with CKMU over the summer break, planning menus for and preparing as many as 500 meals per week. Even though Sharon rarely goes on delivery to meet our guests, she prepares food with great love as though each guest was her own child, grandchild or mother. Sharon is an integral part of CKMU’s program, and we are so lucky that she shares her time with us.
Sharon truly lives the words of Marquette – she is a woman for others. Others have taken notice – Sharon was nominated for and won the district Sodexo Experience award for her work with CKMU. Her nomination moved forward, and she won the regional award as well. At the national level, Sharon’s caring smile was judged against over 35,000 employees at nearly 1,000 universities, and she won the Campus Services Segment Award for the entire country!
Recently, Sharon was recognized for her achievement with a reception at Straz Tower. After the cake was cut, she kept urging her co-workers to have another piece, making sure they had enough. And at the end of her shift that afternoon, she brought the leftovers to CKMU. Even in her own celebration, she just wanted to get into the kitchen to prepare the next day’s meal. It is an honor to have her in our kitchen. She is a role model living the words of Marquette – Men and Women for Others.