Yesterday, I was able to spend a day at the two-day Feeding America Mobilize the Public conference, to which they bring communicators, advocacy directors and development people from their member foodbanks from around the country. I believe there were about 400 people there.
Great conference. I always love the energy when there are lot of folks with high CQs (communications quotient) collected in one spot.
I was on a panel discussing how to mobilize advocates. My role included recommending stragegies for hunger organizations who might want to reach out to their corporate partners to involve them in advocacy activities.
A couple of my recommendations:
- Your corporate partners have more to offer than money and food. They can significantly extend your reach and influence as you make your case to elected officials. For example, several corporate partners became actively involved in joining the hunger community in advocating for a strong Child Nutrition Reauthorization.
- Opportunities for engagement build opportunities for engagement. A company’s involvement as an advocate is most likely going to strengthen their other support, such as sponsorships and food donations, not detract from it.
- Often the interests of the hunger community and its strongest corporate partners are aligned. Quite a bit of the food we manufacture and retailers sell is purchased via SNAP, WIC and school lunch programs. They have a business case for getting involved–but they might not realize it until you present it to them.
- It never hurts to have open, honest conversations with your corporate partners about the advocacy work you’re doing. There might be times–especially if you’re advocating for major changes in the food system–that your position could feel threatening to them. They should clearly understand your position, rather than assuming something negative. And it might not hurt for you to clearly understand theirs.
Have you seen good examples of how companies have been enlisted in hunger advocacy efforts?
On an unrelated note, Feeding America CEO, Vicki Escarra took the time at the conference to offer well-deserved recognition to outgoing SVP of Communications, Phil Zapeda. Phil’s done some tremendous work in that role. We wish him the best as he goes on to conquer new continents!