Giving Back
Chris and Elizabeth Kutschera: The Children’s Hunger Fund (CHF)
By Uma Outka

Whris and Elizabeth Kutschera like to joke with each other that they're both "unemployable."

"I was 22 the last time I worked for anyone," says Elizabeth. "Both of us were always looking at how to improve things, always looking for a new and better way to do business. That's not a great place to be when you're working for someone else."

They don't want to give the wrong impression, adds Chris: "We were hard-working and loyal--but we were entrepreneurial. We both went to work right out of high school, but it didn't feel like our destiny."

Clearly not--and from the vantage point of hindsight, it's clear that the entrepreneurial path was. Today, from their 18-acre ranch in Kelowna, BC, the couple operates an international networking business with a company that they have represented for the past eight years. Before encountering network marketing, Chris and Elizabeth owned eight different businesses, earned a sizeable income, started a family, and burned out.

The turning point, says Chris, came with a restaurant that was the epitome of the "successful" disaster.

"It was successful financially--but emotionally and personally, it was a disaster for our health and our relationship. Sometimes you have to experience certain things to discover what it is you don't want. When we sold the restaurant, we declared that we would never, ever let a business run us that way again. We wanted something that would give us time, money, and balance."

Once they overcame their initial misconceptions about network marketing, they realized it was a perfect fit for what they sought; and success came quickly.

 

Finding Ways to Give Back

As their networking business grew, Chris and Elizabeth increased their charitable giving substantially, supporting a variety or organizations representing a range of causes. Eventually, it seemed they were on every non-profit mailing and phone list in the country.

"When it got to the point where we were getting three or four calls a week," recalls Chris, "we decided we would do better to focus our resources."

That was a few years ago--right about the time that their networking company was itself looking for a way to focus its own philanthropic efforts. Like the Kutscheras, the company leadership wanted to concentrate the corporate giving. They were looking for an organization that satisfied specific criteria: it had to be a cause that the field could believe in, but that also exemplified efficiency in its operations. In the California-based Children's Hunger Fund (CHF), they found just that--a charity that helps needy children throughout the US and abroad while spending less than one percent of donations on administration.

Chris and Elizabeth were equally drawn to the organization, and when the company adopted CHF as its official charity, they immediately threw their support behind the company affiliation. The more they learned about the organization, its work, and its founder, Dave Phillips, the more they felt inspired to assist the CHF mission. After some discussion, the couple decided to designate CHF as their personal charity, becoming major donors and sending large monthly contributions of nutritional supplements to the malnourished children in one of the Mexican orphanages CHF supports.

"We are so fortunate in this industry that we feel it's very important to give back," Chris says. "It means so much to us to know that, through CHF, we can really make a difference in children's lives."

 

Raising the Bar on Giving

Last year, however, their urge to innovate kicked in. They wanted to do more than send money and donations of their own--and from the stage at a company event in Vancouver, Chris put his mouth where their money was.

"I decided to bring Dave Phillips up on stage with me and make a personal donation. Then, I asked everybody in the audience if they would put in 10 percent of that. I wanted to get people to focus on how powerful we can be if we each do a little bit."

In one evening, they raised $20,000.

"It made a big impact on us when we found out how much people had given. In our society, we're taught to be go-getters--but we make a real impact when we become go-givers. It reflects the power of this industry and how much can be accomplished when you get everyone involved. It's so simple, yet if I put up a $100 bill and
you have a few thousand people at an event who each put in $10, think about the impact we're making."

Since then, they've done the same thing twice more, happily adding the collected funds to their personal giving and the company's contributions and sending them off to CHF.

Still, the Kutscheras wanted to be even more personally involved. They wanted a chance to
see the work of CHF up close and get a hands-
on experience helping children where they
live. They talked it over with Dave Phillips and decided on a week in September when the Kutscheras would travel to one of the CHF-sponsored orphanages in Mexico to help serve food and deliver nutritional packages.

"It was a natural evolution for us to go on one of these trips," says Elizabeth. "As we started talking to people about it, the excitement was contagious."

Friends felt inspired to help, too; the idea grew. Eventually, they decided to open the trip up to the first 25 people in their network who asked to join them, along with a few other company leaders and members of their medical board.

In September 2003, the group will converge in San Diego, take a bus together across the border, and do what they can to help the orphanage fill its needs. The orphanage needs buildings, some of the children need medical attention, and the group all plan to bring supplements to help combat their malnutrition.

The Kutscheras observe that there are three separate aspects of their networking business that make such a venture possible: the money, both to contribute and to pay their way; their network of friends and associates, who saw the same vision and amplified their effort; and the time freedom that allows them to step out of their everyday life to go lend a hand with CHF.

"When we put it on our calendar, we started scheduling everything else around that. Our business doesn't need us to be here, and that gives us this time freedom."

 

Hard Work and the Good Life

As they look forward to the trip, Elizabeth and Chris keep busy with their networking business and their shared role as president of their company's Distributor Advisory Board. After serving last year as vice-president, they were asked by the other Board members to lead for another year. This means flying to all the major events, taking feedback from field, and meeting weekly with the corporate liaison.

"We bring issues from field and issues from corporate and work them out."

At the same time, they designed a participatory, personal break-though training they call "Diamond University" with another top leader in their company. Last year they did four two-day intensive events, open to all distributors.

"Again, we were looking for a way to give back," Chris explains. "I went through life with low self-esteem and a victim mentality until I was 20, when I realized I wasn't meant to be depressed all the time. I had a revelation that I could change things if I looked inside. It finally dawned on me, how do you find out about your own uniqueness and strengths if you're always looking outside yourself? Ever since, I've had a desire to share this."

It's a full schedule, but they don't work too hard--they joined networking for balance, and they're committed to it. Elizabeth enjoys watching quail and deer outside their 100-window great room, which overlooks a gorgeous valley. They're building an addition on their home and a stable for horses. They enjoy discovering new ways to make their home life environmentally sound, such as solar energy options and high-efficiency heating, and striving for greater independence on their land. They fit skiing and golf in around their five-day-a-week squash schedule and still manage to visit their children and host their young grandson one weekend every month. This summer, they are taking all of their parents (both couples named Fred and Theresa, oddly enough!) on a dream trip; an all-expenses-paid Alaskan cruise.

These are some of the elements of a lifestyle for which Chris and Elizabeth are so grateful, it inspires them continually to give back to CHF. It also drives them to talk to those in their organization about their giving and the company's charitable donations.

"No matter where they are in the company, it brings that balance back into people's minds," Chris says. "It reminds them that this business is not just about money--that they can contribute to children around the world who are trapped in circumstances from which they can't escape. I believe everybody has a great heart, but sometimes it gets hardened through life experiences. Our industry gives us the freedom to open our hearts again and find out how many ways there are to give. When we make a difference for someone else, it reflects back to make a difference for ourselves."

 

UMA OUTKA is a contributing editor for
Networking Times.

The Work of Children's Hunger Fund (CHF)

Children's Hunger Fund was founded in Los Angeles in 1991, with a mission "to serve children in need across America and around the world." In the 12 years since, CHF has distributed almost a quarter of a billion dollars in food, clothing, and other support services to needy children in 25 states in the US, on Native American reservations, and in more than 70 countries.

The Kutscheras are proud to support an organization that:

  • Provides food for 25,000 families in southern California every month at more than 200 distribution centers.
  • Sent more than one million pounds of food, clothing and other needed supplies to poor children in the Appalachian states through more than 1200 distribution centers.
  • Sends monthly food shipments to 2000 centers in Indonesia covering more than 500 slum areas and serving 200,000 children each year.
  • Donated two million sets of thermal underwear for children in orphanages and on the street in eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.
  • Supports more than 225,000 children in 1200 orphanages with food, clothing, blankets, toys, personal hygiene supplies, mostly in eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, where more than two million children live in state institutions, but also in Uganda, Liberia, Brazil, Mexico, and Peru.
  • Keeps the organization's administrative costs to a low one percent of the total contributions they receive, so that 99 percent goes directly to serve the needs of children.
  • Was recognized as "one of America's most cost-effective charities" in 2001 by Consumer's Digest and in 2001 and 2002 by Forbes magazine.
  • Has been in the Chronicle of Philanthropy's "Top 400 Charities" list each year since 1999.
  • Has been recognized as first out of 459 national Christian relief organizations by Wall Watchers for "program efficiency and cost-effectiveness."

To learn more about the CHF, contact:
Children's Hunger Fund
P.O. Box 7085
Mission Hills, CA 91346-7085
800-708-7589
www.chf2serve.org