DC Central Kitchen Has the Secrets to Success for Nonprofit Entrepreneurship




“Why are people going to come here and not the other place,” was the question that haunted Michael F. Curtin, Jr., Chief Executive Officer of DC Central Kitchen when he used to run a restaurant.  The same question drives him today as he seeks to build support for DCCK.  With backgrounds in the hospitality industry, Curtin and the Founder and President of DCCK – Robert Egger – learned the basic values that are key to attracting supporters for their important mission, even in these tough times. 


DCCK – “Combating hunger.  Creating opportunity.” – provides a food recovery program that prepares and distributes 5,200 meals daily (mostly dinners) to hungry individuals at 12 shelters and dozens of transitional housing centers and social services agencies.   DCCK also addresses the root causes of hunger with its Culinary Job Training Program, preparing unemployed, underemployed, previously incarcerated persons, and homeless adults for careers in the food service industry.


Listening to Curtin, and thinking about the multitude of nonprofits I visit day in and day out, and the donors I meet, the keys to successful fundraising are glaringly apparent:

  1. Donors give to success:  People, companies, and foundations give where they see good solutions and effective implementation.
  2. People are focusing their giving: The economy is providing people the opportunity and excuse to narrow down their giving to the causes they care about most and the organizations that are most effective.  (DCCK saw a spike in giving in December.)
  3. The organizations that succeed are the ones that produce high quality services and programs….mediocre will not make it in this economy (recall Curtin’s question, “Why are people going to come here and not the other place?” 



Curtin and Egger have also been driven to build a more sustainable revenue model increasing the fees for services portion of their organizational income.  DCCK generates fees from businesses through its Fresh Start Catering Program.  I can attest to having toured the most immaculate industrial kitchen I have ever seen, and to seeing scrumptious food, most of which is locally grown (not only fresher, but also at 33% of the cost).


The energy and vitality of the Center is palpable. Volunteers work side-by-side with graduates and students from the Culinary Jobs Training Program.  Curtin says that the graduates are “empowerment billboards” for the Training Program students who can see what is possible.  And since the volunteers are working under the leadership of experienced managers who are graduates of the Program, the volunteers (often high school and college students and business volunteers) are learning about the power of the DCCK model and its network of organizational partners.


DCCK also has a national network of college campus programs called Campus Kitchens.


About the author

Korngold provides strategy consulting to global corporations on sustainability, facilitating corporate-nonprofit partnerships, and training and placing hundreds of business executives on NGO/nonprofit boards for 20+ years. She provides strategy and board governance consulting to NGO/nonprofit boards, foundations, and educational and healthcare institutions.