Career Encounters: Kate Maehr

Kate Maehr is currently the Executive Director and CEO of the Greater Chicago Food Depository.

What I concentrated on within the sort of the realm of public policy was looking at nonprofit organizations and, in particular, how they could serve urban areas and areas where there’s extreme poverty which, not surprisingly, has served me very well in what I do now. Last year, we distributed just over 31 million pounds of food to these agencies. They have a total five hundred and sixty agencies and that food was enough to provide 23 million meals for hungry people in Chicago.

It’s been amazing. I’ve been here now for three years and started as its director of individual giving, and now the director of development, and I can’t imagine doing anything else and I am amazed at how all of those skills that I’ve accumulated, in particular the skills with that from my public policy background, come into play every day with what I do at the food depository.

The skills range everything from the quantitative and analytical skills. Every day, we have to think about the fact that there are two hundred to three hundred thousand hungry people in the city of Chicago who need emergency food and my job is to make sure that we have the resources to provide that need. We serve what we call member agencies. We have five hundred and sixty soup kitchens, food pantries, homeless shelters, substance abuse facilities, retirement care and day care centers that we provide food to. If there’s an agency that has a budget of $10,000, in all likelihood the Greater Chicago Food Depository could give $10,000 to that agency, but is that really what gonna make that agency strong? That’s really policy analysis in a lot of ways. We could take one action that would be very direct, but the consequences may be that that organization in three years would be nowhere. They haven’t developed their own means for attaining funding so we’re always trying to think long term and very strategically about the impact of our actions and that’s something that comes directly out of my work in public policy.

When I think about what I do raising money for individuals and people from foundations and I think about the conversations I have with these people, I never talk to them about fundraising. I talked to them about books, I talked to them about the theater, I talked to them about what’s going on in our political process or what’s going on on the front page of the newspaper and I think that, when I am able to connect with people as a human being, they feel good about the idea of getting to an organization.

Feature Image Source: Greater Chicago Food Depository

The video clip above was taken from Career Encounters: Political Science which APSA released in 2000. The documentary-style video features people from across the US who studied political science and discuss how their political science backgrounds have been critical to their vocations, their avocations, and their general lives. Career Encounters feature careers that can be launched with undergraduate degrees as well as graduate degrees.