Are you talking to ME? Another voice. Another idea.



By Susan Brockway

Yesterday when I came home from work I was again inundated with envelopes asking for money.  “Won’t you help us send one child to camp?”, “Did you know that your $5 will help purchase an animal to help a family become self supportive?” and many more on a daily and weekly basis that contain the same message; send a check. 
Most people do not know that I actually give a substantial percentage of my income each year to groups and agencies that support missions I feel strongly about. 
However, hundreds of solicitations go in the trash unopened, especially from organizations to which I send regular checks, and I am simply caught in their mass mailing circle like a hamster on a wheel. 
Times are tough.  I know.  I’m president of the board of a local Feeding America food bank, and the demands are overwhelming.  All non-profits are in desperate need of cash. Many will fail.
But fundraising tactics are becoming counterproductive.
Think about this:  What about starting (and maintaining) non-profit relationships with conversation that doesn’t involve an "ask."  (I actually had this occur yesterday–pleasant surprise).  Not necessarily asking for money on the first call, but starting with a conversation about this issue, the work of the agency, and sincerely asking for perspective on how we as a society should approach the challenges at hand.   Would that allow you to open your mind and become a partner in the fight?   Would you engage and not tune out? Are there other ways to open the door to honest engagment without wasting trees and online bandwidth?   Let me know what you think.

Staying Afloat



By Ed Nicholson                                         

Times are tough in the nonprofit world.  As someone who sits on Tyson’s national sponsorship & donations committee, and one who serves on the board of a local nonprofit, I’m fully aware of how nonprofit organizations are being squeezed by increasing demand (especially with those providing social services) and ever-decreasing resources. 

Our company, having shown a $112 million loss for Q1 of fiscal ’09, is continuing to support our hunger relief efforts, primarily through the donation of food.  But cash is tight.  Lots of non-profit support is being dropped, simply because the money is not there.

Our best non-profit partners are just that: partners. They understand that wagons are circled everywhere. They’re not walking away when we can’t write a check.  They’re working with us to explore other assets we might be able bring to the table to help them through their tough times, such as expertise in marketing, communications, logistics, engineering, and HR.  They being creative in offering ROI when we do provide resources (whether cash or in-kind).  They’re tightening their own belts.

We have great hope that when this storm is over, we’ll all  be afloat, and the bonds forged in working through tough times together will provide the basis for growing our relationships ever stronger in good times.

What is your non-profit organization doing to differently to remain viable and effective now that times are becoming more challenging?  Comments always welcome.



Report from Rwanda

Tyson Team Member, Jenise Huffman is currently "on loan," working with Millennium Promise, addressing hunger and poverty in Africa.  She sends this report from Rwanda.




So I’m back in Africa doing what I love, and I thought I’d tell you a bit about it since some of you asked me to send updates while I’m here…
I’m in Rwanda doing a feasibility study, evaluating the potential for a poultry enterprise for the women of the Millennium Villages and the schools so that the women could have an income and the children could have protein in their diets in a school-meals program.  I’m sure you all know this because I talk about it a lot, but my CEO at Tyson, Dick Bond, generously agreed to donate the technical expertise in poultry rearing to the Millennium Villages project (Millennium Promise’s project that I work on in NY) in order to increase the incomes of the farmers and women, as well as adding protein to their diets.   These people currently have NO protein in their diets.  None whatsoever.  So the children are stunted (growth) because protein is required for skeletal growth before the age of 5.  Additionally, protein deficiencies cause all sorts of other problems for both the children and the adults.  Also, many of these people make $0.50 a day.  That will increase dramatically when they have poultry to sell because Rwanda has a huge demand for poultry and very, very little supply.  That causes the market prices to be very high.  An egg costs $0.21 in a grocery store in Kigali (capital city), and so 2 eggs would take the entire day’s wages for many people.  As you can see, they would benefit from increased supply of eggs and poultry meat, which sells for $10 a pound.
Today I visited a memorial for the genocide of 1994.  Somewhere between 800,000 – 1 million people were killed in just 100 days.  This memorial was a church where Tutsi’s were hiding for safety because they thought the Hutu’s wouldn’t kill them in a church.  The Hutu’s killed 10,000 people in that church in 1 day (in a couple hours, actually).  There were only 2 survivors – children who were underneath dead bodies.  After that, the Hutus continued killing the Tutsi’s in this district and took 40,000 bodies to that church to be disposed of.  They also threw most bodies in the river here in this district.  Inside the church, which is still riddled with bullet holes, the clothes that all 10,000 people were wearing when they were killed there are laying on the pews (wooden benches).  There’s still blood on the table cloth that covers the top of the alter – they killed some people by smashing them repeatedly into the alter.  That was just 14 years ago.  Not a single conversation that I have had with anyone in Rwanda ended without them mentioning the genocide.   Everything is marked as before or after the genocide.  In the district where our Millennium Villages are, there were 80,000 Tutsi’s, but in a matter of a few days, all of them were murdered except for about 1,800.  The survivors lost their families and a bit of their soul.  The eyes of the survivors are still so sad and so hollow.  I just don’t want to believe that I live in a world where people do this to each other – and worse yet, America knew and did nothing to help them.  That was the biggest failure of the Clinton Administration, in my opinion. 
I was told by one of the Millennium Village project employees here today that he knew Hutu husbands who killed their own wives because they were Tutsi, and then they killed their own children because they had some Tutsi blood in them.  He said they did this because the government told them to.  How do governments gain such evil control over people’s minds?  Hitler did.  Mao did.  The President of Sudan is doing that right now.
The project that I’m working on is going well.  There is much opportunity here in Rwanda.  President Kagame is determined to make a new Rwanda, a reconciled Rwanda.  Rwanda is more developed than any of the other countries I have visited in Sub-Saharan Africa.  That’s not to say they are wealthy – most of the people here are still making $1 – $2 a day.  The farmers in our villages, though, are improving their lives and building concrete homes (still only 1 room, but at least they are concrete instead of mud). 
The rains are coming.  Rainy season starts in September.  I hope I make it across the border to Uganda before they hit.  The skies have looked ominous the past couple days.
Well, it’s late here, and I have a lot to do tomorrow, so I need to get some sleep.  I’m not sleeping well because it’s so hot in my room without any air conditioning (and not even a fan), and also the staff cleans all night long, sweeping the walkways because dust is always everywhere.  They are quite noisy talking to each other as they work at 3 am.  My walls are about 2 millimeters thick. 
I’ll be going to Uganda on September 4th to do the same work that I am doing in Rwanda. 
Bye for now.  Time to try to sleep.  Wish me luck! 

A good reason to be in (go to) Austin

Our friends at the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas, and their partners Social Media Club Austin and 501Tech Club have finalized details on events for the great HAMup Tweetup.   You can get full details at ,but briefly, here’s how it will happen.

Thursday, September 11, there will be a kickoff at Whole Foods Market at 525 Lamar at 5:30, featuring food and live music.  

Saturday, Septmber 13,  events at the food bank will include a product recovery volunteer effort, a "drive through" food drive, and tours of the warehouse.  Go get an inside view of how this great food bank works to alleviate  hunger in the central Texas area.

On Monday, September 8, Tyson will be delivering the truckload of food that YOU made happen through your comments to this post.   Stay tuned for more information about how the 250 comments we got in addition to the needed 350 for the truckload, are going to make an added difference. 

Details about the HAMup here.




An exciting change for a very important partner



Vicki Escarra–President and CEO, Feeding America

Starting September 2008, America’s Second Harvest will become Feeding America. This new name best conveys our mission—providing food to Americans living with hunger—and will be supported through expansive public outreach campaigns that will raise awareness of domestic hunger and our work.

Despite a 30-year legacy of fighting hunger, America’s Second Harvest has been confronted with low awareness among the general public, and a broader misunderstanding of domestic hunger. Knowing that true, monumental progress can be made when the public is fully engaged in our cause, we have researched how we can best inspire people. We found that the name America’s Second Harvest was limiting and that a new name was needed to quickly and clearly convey our mission.

Our new name, Feeding America, directly conveys that we are providing access to food for people who need it.  It also communicates the positive power of food to be a catalyst in people’s lives.  In essence, “feeding” serves as a double meaning—both providing food and enriching lives. A careful migration strategy is underway to ensure that all key stakeholders and audiences understand that America’s Second Harvest is now Feeding America.   Be sure to visit us at