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.