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. 

A food bank CEO’s perspective–why you should care about hunger


by Ed Nicholson

I was fortunate enough to be able to travel to Austin on Monday for the Tyson portion of the HAM-up Tweetup.  What an inspiring community, full of energetic, passionate folks. Big thanks to all of the friends we made at Social Media Club Austin and 501 Tech Club Austin.  It was a sincere pleasure meeting Mike Chapman, but we particularly want to thank David Neff of the American Cancer Society, who brought us to the event–be sure and visit his online space, a great example of social media put to good work.  Thanks to the staff of the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas, particularly Lisa Goddard and Kerri Qunell.  The video above is an interview with the President and CEO of the food bank, David Davenport.  (I stuck him out in the bright sunlight, so blame the producer for that…but what he said was great) I can tell you, the house really is rockin’ down in Austin.

For those of you in Austin, there are some exciting activities planned for the HAM-up this week, so don’t miss your opportunity to see a world class food bank in action. 


Want to build a community? Look at Austin.



Courtesy of Capital Area Food Bank of Texas "Hunger is Unacceptable" Campaign

Ed Nicholson

I’ve previously mentioned two online spaces that do a marvelous job of giving residents in their communities an accurate and compelling image of the face of hunger:  Food for Thought and Invisible–the frontlines of hunger in Colorado.

This week, I was made aware of the online community-building being done by the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas in Austin.  Extraordinary work.  Lisa Goddard, advocacy and online marketing manager, is the architect of the food bank’s online outreach, which supplements a very well-designed website with a wide variety of social media tools, the center of which is the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas Weblog .  

The blog, up since June, was originally launched provide an account of food bank CEO and President David Davenport’s experiences with the Food Stamp Challenge.  It does a superb job of just that, with compelling insight from David, brought to life with helpful links and embedded YouTube and Google video. But Lisa has now taken it much further. 

David’s blogging generated the phrase around which the food bank’s latest effort was built,  an incredibly-creative Flickr-focused campaign called "Hunger is Unacceptable."  People are encouraged to upload their photos containing the message "Hunger is Unacceptable" to a Flickr group, where the photos are aggregated online.  It gets visitors actively engaged, allows them to make a personal statement about hunger, and provides a reason to re-visit the site.    You’ll need to visit the site to see how they’ve made participation easy.

In addition to their blog and Flickr account, the food bank is using all of the most popular social media tools to build community, including a Facebook group and a LinkedIn organizational profile

In the ultimate social media activity, the food bank is working with the extremely active social media community in Austin, including Social Media Club Austin     and 501 Tech Club  on a HAM-up (Tweetup), mobilizing the well-connected community to a food drive via Twitter. Thanks to the outreach of  David Neff,  director of web and interactive strategy for the American Cancer Society, and highly connected and kinetic Ausitinite, Tyson Foods will be supporting this event in a unique way. 

Stay tuned here next week for more details early next week.  You  have a potential role in this. These guys in Austin have it going on,   having recently organized a highly successful blood drive Tweetup.

We’ll be using this space to talk more about hunger in Austin, and specifically about the good work of the food bank.

Until then, go see what Capital Area Food Bank of Texas is doing.  It’s definitely the most effective use of social media community building I’ve seen among hunger relief organizations. 

If you’re aware of other online hunger relief efforts, let me know and we’ll do our best to create awareness of them.

Tyson Foods Twittering

Ed Nicholson

As part of our effort to get the hunger community engaged in social media, I’ve discussed Twitter in a previous post

For some time I’ve been Twittering under name @ederdn,  In an effort to separate my personal Twitter stream from the official company stream, I’ve registered the name TysonFoods

Unfortunately, there have been some cases of corporate Twitter handles being appropriated by those who didn’t have effective permission to use them.

Jeremiah Owyang, web strategist for Forester Research, and widely-respected social media expert,  has suggested cross-linking Twitter feeds to the organization’s web site to validate.  Which is what I’m doing here.

If you’d like to follow the Tyson Foods Twitter stream, you can access it at

While I’m not going to add a Twitter widget–yet–you’ll note that there’s a link in our blogroll.

Thanks for the suggestion, Jeremiah.

More Social Media Stuff–Twitter


By Ed Nicholson
Another in a series about social media and how those engaged in the issue of hunger might use them to build community.  If you’re already using these tools, this will be elementary stuff.  If you’re not, I encourage you to try them out.

Twitter is a social media tool that’s seen explosive growth recently. Kind of a cross between instant messaging and blogging (sometimes called “micro-blogging”) Twitter allows you to send updates—“Tweets”—of 140 characters or less to a network of “followers”  Tweets can be received either via the Web or an instant-messaging device. 

Twitter is used to inform, promote, stimulate discussion, build networks, and communicate among friends.  Its most effective adherents use it for all of these.

I won’t go into much detail about how to effectively use Twitter.  Too many have already done a great job of that, and some links are posted below.

There are a number of other Twitter-like applications—Pownce, Plurk, and others, but Twitter is the most widely-used.

Twitter is definitely an acquired taste. I can almost assure you, you won’t “get it” when you first sign up for it.  In order to understand its potential, you’ll need to begin following several people. A recommended “starter list” is included below.  It’s also important that you send updates of your own.

I believe you will be using Twitter, or a Twitter-like application someday.  Might as well start now.  Go to and sign up (it’s free).  You’re welcome to “follow” me.  Do that by going to and clicking the little "follow" button under my name.  Then send an update that includes @ederdn, and I’ll follow you back. Let me know that you read this message.  Let’s see if we can build a group of Twitter users within this community.

A few randomly selected articles on twitter (there are hundreds–Google "basic twitter" if you want more)

Twitter for Beginners

9 Ways to Find People to Follow on Twitter

Power Tweeting: 101 Everyday Uses for Twitter

Get into Twitter or Get Outta Public Relations–Todd Defren

These are good people to follow as you start out. Don’t be shy. Go to these links and hit the "follow" button.  Chris Brogan  Beth Kanter (blogs about social media and non-profits) Jeremiah Owyang Steve Rubel David Neff–social media guru for American Cancer Society see also: How a national non-profit reaches Twittering stakeholders Michael Clark me

You might also try putting your geographic location in Twitter’s search bar to see who in your area is using Twitter.

If you have a good instant messaging plan, I recommend turning the "device update" on for one or two of those you follow.

Good luck and let me know how it goes.