The Day We Declined to Do Good


By Ed Nicholson

Yesterday, we were asked by Warren Sukernek,   as a member of the Twitter community, to participate in an online fundraising effort, initiated by David Armano, to benefit a family in dire straits.  Warren raised the issue in a blog post about why brands should be participating in this effort. It was a valid question.    Daniela’s is a very compelling story. Some of the best people in social media got behind it.   But as worthy an effort as it is, I declined, for a couple of reasons.

Why we do what we do.

As a company of more than 100,000 people, with operations in more than 300 U.S. communities, as you can imagine there are compelling stories and accompanying assistance efforts happening within our own broad community every single day.  It’s very difficult to determine how we should (or shouldn’t) fairly allocate corporate support for these efforts. So, while we allow and encourage grassroots efforts to assist individuals to occur among our people (and they do a lot), we made the determination that corporate resources would go to organizations assisting those in need.  The rationale here is that these organizations, doing this every day are in a much better position than we are to determine how support should be allocated.  

Prior to 2000, the company was pretty much all over the board in the types of causes with which we got involved.  We came to the realization that we were helping a lot of people a little bit; not really having a significant impact.  While we maintained our support of local community assistance efforts, such as the United Way, we determined to focus our national corporate philanthropic efforts on hunger relief.   It makes sense. We’re a company that feeds people.   You can see on this site where that focus has taken us.  

To that end, our social media efforts are primarily focused on the issue of hunger, the people and groups who are working in the fight against hunger, and what Tyson Foods is doing in this area. 

Now, What I Should Have Done

In retrospect, I realize the effort to assist Daniela’s family is a community effort.  And indeed we are being allowed into the community, and being supported in our efforts to do good.   While, by policy, we can’t provide money or other physical resources, we can engage the network we’ve developed.  I have a personal Twitter account with quite a few followers.  I could have become involved in a social media-appropriate manner, but my knee-jerk reaction, tempered by years of offline response and strategic focus, was to simply decline and go on.

I’ll bet David and his group would more than welcome continued support for Daniela’s family’s cause.  The effort ends February 5, so there’s still time to contribute.

It’s really amazing and inspiring to see the social web, especially Twitter, being used for worthy efforts.  As the media continue to increase in popular acceptance and use, more and more non-profit fundraising will occur in the social media space.  We’ll all probably become a little more discriminating; possibly a little more cynical. It’s probable that we’ll have to revert to Tyson’s offline policy of engaging within a more narrow focus.   But for the time being, it’s great to see the community coming together to help folks out. 

5 Replies to “The Day We Declined to Do Good”

  1. Chris Field


    Ed,  Thanks for being so transparent and up front stating your position on why you (and Tyson) didn’t participate in the fundraising for Daniela.  I think what David Armano did was incredible.  Such a genuine plea for help for a friend in need.  The Twitter community did something even more incredible… they met that need and surpassed the goal. 

    At first when I read the title and dove into the post I started judging, thinking "why wouldn’t a huge corporation like Tyson help out?  Maybe they could have donated some chicken or something."  But as I read more, I appreciated your stance.  I know you guys are helping out tons of families in need.  I agree that by giving to organizations that are equiped to disburse that donation, you can help more people and have a greater impact.

    Keep up the good work.




  2. Rowan Schaaf

    I had similar thoughts and from the perspective of a corporation I do fully understand this position.  Speaking as an individual however, David Armano personally empowered me with an opportunity to do good – and I gratefully took it.

    Yes, there are many other causes I could have chosen to support on that day, many of which would probably have been far more desperate cases. Yes, I could have made a more strategic choice in terms of how I supported a bigger cause.  But here’s the thing – for whatever reason, this felt like a very personal and highly authentic request for assistance.

    And the payoff was watching a community I was part of, react in an absolutely amazing way.   Many of the people I shared this with – actually replied thanking ME for letting them know and giving them the opportunity to be a part of something cool.

    Yes, there are many other things I could have done – but yesterday,  I actually did something.  It was small, a drop in the ocean really – but it was something.

  3. Chad Bookidis

    The question is Ed, as an individual with a personal twitter account, did you do more than give this movement/idea/effort lip service here? What did you do personally that Tyson understandably couldn’t or wouldn’t? I would argue that your personal effort matters as much or more than Tyson’s official one. You don’t have to be a corporation or in the business of corporate philanthropy to do good. I’m of the opinion that giving should be personal. And I would submit that your personal effort is equally effective and meaningful for Tyson even though it may have nothing to do with Tyson. It simply demonstrates that Tyson has compassionate, empathetic people working for it. Which in the end, buys you positive brand points too.

  4. Ruth Seeley

     The other point to be made is that the fund-raising goal for Daniela was $5k and that was surpassed within the first evening. While it’s wonderful to help one family, it’s even more wonderful to create a safe house where women like Daniela can go when they need help. In other words, to continue to raise more and more funds for one family still benefits only one family. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being strategic about your corporate philanthropy. There are lots of ways corporations can help: some give Search and Rescue volunteers time off with pay, for instance, when they’re out helping their communities by looking for folks who’ve gone missing. Others have small equal funds programs for the smaller charities (sports teams, etc.) that their employees support, while reserving the bulk of their charitable donations for causes that align with their corporate goals – or their products.

  5. Warren Sukernek

    Ed, great job in explaining Tyson’s policies and objectives in supporting communities. All perfectly understandable and appreciated.  Thank you for sharing the position with everyone here and recommending Daniela’s family cause.  Based on your transparency, engagement and the hunger relief efforts you described, you have demonstrated why Tyson Foods is a well-respected member of the Twitter (and social media) community.


    Thank you,


Comments are closed.