Robert Egger initially came out swinging at the current paradigm of non-profits inBegging for Change: The Dollars and Sense of Making Nonprofits Response, Efficient, andRewarding for All. By Chapter 7, Egger had considerably softened his tone since his initial self-admitted blustery prologue where he pilloried the inadequacies of the current non-profit sectorand culminates the second half of the book with three key messages regarding the future ofphilanthropy, the strategies non-profits should employ, and the leadership spirit necessary tocontinuously innovate.Iterating on a point from chapter 6 that non-profits, service non-profits particularly,should aim to make volunteerism continuous with the rest of your life (as opposed to ‘in boxeswhere I go to school in one, work in another, and do good deeds somewhere else'), Egger callsfor all non-profits to craft tangible links between their constituencies. In essence, scale up thenotion of face-to-face giving and empowerment with a larger cohesive cause in order to create abond between donors, recipients, workers, and beneficiaries that will sustain a long-term effortand introduce lasting social change. I have personally always found this interaction to be themost compelling part of volunteering and Egger actually lays out in his ‘Robert's Rules:” to“Make sure volunteers and donors see how their contributions help. Show them tangible linkswith their efforts. They'll be so excited that they'll tell [all their friends whose] word-of-mouthhas more marketing power than any direct-mail campaign, national ad, or corporate sponsorship”(Egger). Robert Egger gives two prime examples: Habitat for Humanity and the Dignity Project.The former where you toil alongside the very people whose house you're helping build and the latter where at-risk youth take donated rundown cars, repair them, and donate them to area low-income families (this allows people to see dropouts doing something productive and gives at-riskyouth legitimate work opportunities and self-worth). I'm not sure how exactly we will create a tangible link with Silk Road Recipes, but I think we might add on tours of our plant andgenerally imbue ourselves with the Chobani refugee hiring vibe.Another core element that makes the tangible link so important is how effectively the link can break down false impressions and stereotypes which often hold back support for groups likereturning citizens, drug addicts, and the homeless. Changing these incorrect beliefs is a keyc omponent of a non-profits' job and Egger explains his strategy of doing this effectively is a‘calculated epiphany' vis-à-vis ‘Trojan horse'. Instead of “barging through the front door” asEgger puts it, he rather crafts the experience to plant the idea to facilitate an epiphany so it's their awakening eureka moment instead of him just preaching to no effect. The strategy is ratherInception-like. Also, it reminded me of an excerpt from Virginia Woolf's ‘A Room of One'sOwn' where Woolf describes the mind as a ‘fertile landscape' in which if you plant a seedling ofan idea, it can blossom into profound understanding. In fact, this is what Silk Road Recipes isultimately trying to do. Give Americans a seedling of the culture through the cuisine and prime itwith contextual stories to allow it to blossom into greater understanding and tolerance.Although the first half of the book lavished Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefellerfor pioneering an innovative approach to social reform (invest in eradicating the root cause, notalleviate the symptoms through almsgiving), Egger indicts the very no-holds barred robber baronapproach of the Carnegies and Rockefellers to “make as much money as possible in business and
then later in life try to redistribute this profit by giving back to society” as the root cause itselffor many social issues! Egger goes as far to say “the best thing we can do to help a child in need is not to give that child another meal or tutor, but to pay that child's parents a living wage”(Egger). A statement I whole-heartedly agree with. Instead of perpetuating the problematic pattern of business people adopting the Carnegie/Rockefeller mindset, we need companies totake on greater social responsibility. Egger believes that people increasingly desire to business with companies with a purpose and meaning beyond sheer profit maximization. However,skeptics have in recent years have left many wondering if truly ethical consumption is possible ina capitalist society. One question that I have for Egger is if since he wrote the book, he still believes as strongly that consumers care as much as initially thought?As for leadership spirit, Egger expends an entire chapter expounding the necessity formore mavericks to take the mantle. Putting forth Henry Ford as a maverick whose mission to maximize access to automobile while paying top dollar for labor confounded contemporaries to the point that the Dodge brothers sued Ford for breaching fiduciary responsibilities to its'shareholders, Egger alleges that true innovation only comes from mavericks – anyone less succumbs to the status quo! Egger also heaps in Ray Kroc into this category, but I found the positive social impact of McDonalds' somewhat nebulous. Given the general promotion of the‘go-for-broke' attitude to prevent complacency, I think Egger had he written this book a decade later would have included Jeff Bezos into this chapter. Jeff Bezos of Amazon has a philosophy that every day is ‘Day 1' and the vitality of perpetually looking to improve the customer experience indicates the company's future. I personally have trouble difficulty seeing how this theory (or philosophy is feasible). Success breeds complacency, not intrinsically out of laziness but out of protecting the cash cow and preventing cannibalization. I guess Amazon has the fortune of no real profits to protect.Somehow most of the latter half of the book felt almost unnecessary. Egger keeps sliding in and out of focus, allocating tens of pages to diversions. In one of his diversions, he waxes poetic for pages while he reminisces about hosting Sarah Vaughan, ostensibly one of the greatest voices in the 20th century, as a contrived allegory about the dangers of stasis. Despite meandering through tangential distractions, Egger's overarching message remains. At its' core the positio nseems to be that non-profits are a stopgap measure stepping in to primarily highlight a void (and try to fill the void as much as they can) left by rapacious corporations who have cast away basic obligations to pay a living wage to its' employees and government that has not done enough,particularly in education, child care, health care, and retirement systems.Overall, I found two conflicting ideologies within the book. His earlier chapters contain an endorsement or at least admiration for Social Darwinist ideas with assertions that we are somehow propping nonprofits that should fail. Or as he says, “It's not that we have to say yes more often, or reach deeper into pockets. We have to do the opposite…we have to ask tough questions of organizations” (Egger). I found this a strange and disagreeable notion as I could not really see how any nonprofits were being propped up especially when he says hunting forf unding remains a near Sisyphean task and finite. Despite echoing a call for creative destruction,Egger spends nearly a whole chapter on how he feels bad about raising a multi-million-dollar capital campaign to upgrade aging equipment way past their service life because it would detract from other deserving nonprofits. In addition, he later derides donors who encumber their donations with restrictions which subtly incapacitates an organizations' ability to have a long-term or even mid-term vision. Nevertheless, I personally hope individuals take heed to Egger's
words to not take the cloth and join a non-profit but rather tweak their business to take social responsibility seriously.
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