So what’s the big deal, anyway?



Ed Nicholson
Why should anyone pay any attention to this photo? Isn’t it just another "PR" event?
Community leaders, elected officials, corporate leaders, food bank leaders. 
Talking to media (and each other) about why the issue of hunger needs to be addressed.

I submit that the single biggest challenge those passionate about hunger face is getting other people engaged.

When you get important people out talking about hunger, other important people listen. And perhaps they get involved.

The backstory
At Tyson, a key component of our hunger strategy is to bring as many of our stakeholders as possible into the issue of hunger.  Each year, we sponsor Fall Football Classics with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU).  These are tremendous events, involving phenomenally influential people in the communities in which they occur (see below).  For the past five years, we’ve done food donation events in conjunction with this sponsorship, to which we’ve invited key Classic participants.  They’ve readily and eagerly participated.  This one’s in Memphis–see details below.  If we can get these folks engaged in hunger in their communities, the impact will be so much more than the truckload of food we donate.

Do you have strategies to engage your stakeholders?  We’d love to hear about them.  Please comment.

The Photo
Tyson Foods donates 35K lbs of food to the Memphis Mid-South Food Bank in honor of the Southern Heritage Classic.
l. to r.
Susan Sanford, Executive Director, Mid-South Food Bank
(speaking) Fred Jones – Founder and Producer of the Southern Heritage Classic
Gwendolyn J. Tucker – Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors, Mid-South Food Bank
Libby Lawson – Vice-President of Media & Community Relations, Tyson Foods, Inc.
Chairman Harold B. Collins – Chairman and Councilman, District 3 on the Memphis City Council
Myron Lowery – Mayor Pro Tem for the City of Memphis

Lift Up America–Bringing Communities Together

By Ed Nicholson



Austin athletes unload a truckload of food to agencies of CAFB


One of the most fulfilling things about being involved in hunger relief is the opportunity to work with some fantastic partners.  We’ve talked a lot about our friends at  Share Our Strength and Feeding America
But one group that doesn’t get mentioned as much is Lift Up America.  Founded in 2004, by the visionary Dave Hannah and other business leaders, Lift Up America is a coalition of influential business and sports leaders, brought together by a common goal of addressing some of society’s most pressing challenges. 
In 2005, Tyson Foods began our partnership with them with food donations in cooperation with the Kansas City Chiefs and the Miami Dolphins.
Each year since then, a growing number of professional and college athletic teams have lent their support and their players’ time to events in which food is donated to their local communities, but more important, awareness for the issue of hunger is elevated.  Last year, we did donations in fourteen cities across the country.
The people who comprise Lift Up America have solved some tremendous business challenges.  Very successfully. They’ve competed at the highest levels on the field and off.  It’s a tribute to them that they are now applying their strategic skills to challenges our world faces.  
Last week, I had the privelege of being in Austin, joining a burgeoning local chapter of Lift Up America, led by highly-successful businessman, Michael Cress, in making a donation to the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas (another fabulous partner). We were joined at Southpark Meadows, who generously supplied the venue,  by members of the Austin Toros and the Austin Aztex, along with notable athletes, such as former UT football standout Will Matthews and KC Chiefs linebacker, Derrick Johnson
CAFB CEO, David Davenport said it well.  "Addressing hunger is a community challenge."
Thanks to Lift Up America for bringing the Austin community together for this event. 

 More photos of this event can be seen here. 



Involve me and I’ll understand



Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand.    Chinese proverb


Day of Service at Capitol Area Food Bank, DC

By Ed Nicholson

Hunger is a complex issue.  Most people don’t really understand it. We’re told about it.  We’re rarely shown hunger (how many of us actually recognize it when we see it?).  If we’re fortunate, someone will take the time to involve us.

Many of those we know in hunger relief have been involved through working with Share Our Strength.  At their annual Conference of Leaders, they offer a day of service, wherein attendees go offsite and work together to benefit a hunger relief organization in the community in which the conference is being held.  It’s a lot of hard work for the group’s staff to organize, but it works in remarkable ways to bond the Share Our Strength community, and remind us of why we’ve come together.  We become involved; we understand.   

Who’s doing the hard work to engage your stakeholders?  What are you doing to create understanding among those you want to keep enlisted in your cause?  How do you involve them?

Community–Help it grow or let it go



                                                                             photo by Kris Hoet–Creative Commons

By Ed Nicholson

I’ve had the opportunity to speak at some really great conferences in the past couple of weeks, including Interactive Austin, and the always energizing BlogWell.   One of the best things about going to these things is the opportunity to hear a diversity of smart people talk about how organizations implement social media.

A theme that seems to consistently emerge–and always interests me as a community builder–is that communities–either spontaneous or planned–will arise wherever there’s passion and common interest.  It’s always been that way, but the advent of social networking tools has significanlty aided and amplified the phenomenon.  

Brands and organizations can choose to either host these communities themselves or allow them to grow independently (which they will).   There are pros and cons to each approach.

The largest consumer fan page on Facebook is for Coke (3.4 million members and growing). It wasn’t created by Coke, and they don’t run it.  Check out this entertaining video from its creators (fortunately for Coke, they’re die-hard fans).

There are a number of large brand communities built by the avid fans of Harley-Davidson.

Planet Cancer is a quickly growing community of young adults united by their common challenge, often edgy and irreverent in their approach.  The American Cancer Society probably could have started it.  But they didn’t. (not passing judgement on that; just making note).

These communities provide a place for members to converse with each other, share information, get questions answered, post video and images–any number of things that allow members to develop relationships with each other and the brand.

Online communities can be messy and hard to control.  That’s not an easy concept for established, focused, well-ordered organizations to embrace.  I know.

The hunger community will find a home online, I’ve no doubt.  The question is, under whose roof?

By the way, just to remind you: Today is Friday.  At school lunch, hundreds of thousands of  kids will get the last good meal they’ll have until Monday.  Enjoy your weekend.



We built this city



                                                                                     photo Addictive Picasso–Creative Commons

By Ed Nicholson

Some really interesting discussion here and on the oneicity blog ("Hunger is boring") about this week’s posts.  Before I go any further with the topic, I do want to offer the three disclaimers:
1.  We’re not in any way disparaging the fantastic work those in the hunger relief community. 
2.  We understand the necessity of fundraising, especially in today’s economy, with ever-increasing demands, and ever-decreasing resources (we’re just questioning the effectiveness of how fund-raising communications resources might be applied in many cases).   
3. The posts are not directed at any one organization. All of us are responsible. If you’re feeling it was directed at you, well…

My job title is community relations director. I’m fascinated with the art and science of community building. 

There are some fabulous communities built offline around fighting hunger.   Look at Share Our Strength’s Taste of the Nation communities: the ones built around local events and the one that comes together to celebrate, commiserate and share best practices nationally.  Look at any Feeding America food bank.  Look at the collection of "insiders" that get together at either of these two organization’s national conferences.  You won’t find more passionate people and groups gathered around any other cause.

Just don’t look online, because you really won’t find hunger fighters engaged in open, vibrant discussion there (maybe some closed communities–I wouldn’t know, I’ve not been invited).

Why is that?  Some have suggested this week that hunger organizations are apprehensive about discussing the issue of hunger for some reason or another.  I’ve heard it said the donor base might be offended.  Some have said in private that the big hunger organizations don’t want the messiness that accompanies diverse, outspoken communities.  And some have returned to the time-honored defense: "We just don’t have time to talk about hunger relief. We’re too busy doing it." 

What’s your opinion?