4 Things to Consider when Choosing a Nonprofit Partner

Brewing beers to benefit nonprofit organizations is far from being an unusual concept for craft breweries, but how do you find a nonprofit partner that’s the right fit for your brewery and its audience?

Anderson Valley Brewing Company recently thought through that process when it partnered with the Surfrider Foundation to create its Coastal Ale to increase awareness around clean oceans and coastlines and promote responsible and sustainable beer production.

Believing in the cause

Philanthropy and sustainability are both central to AVBC, President Kevin McGee said, adding that contributing to causes is meaningless if a company’s heart isn’t in it.

“From the brewery side, we think [contributing is] important because it directly furthers causes and organizations we believe in and it helps drive some awareness by showing that we think this is important enough to put our money where our mouth is and hopefully encourage others to do the same,” McGee said. “We also think of contributions as something that only reinforces the identity we’ve already developed doing other things. Contributions are great and super helpful to the organizations that receive them, but without ongoing and honest behavior that’s complimentary to the contribution it wouldn’t be that meaningful for a brewery’s’ identity.”

Fitting it into your portfolio

Another question they had to answer: Would the beer be a one-off or would it earn a place in AVBC’s rotation?

“We built the beer to be a long term offering from AVBC and so long as people want the beer we’ll keep making it and donating to Surfrider. We’re also not capping our production or producing only for a limited time or limited geography – if the case leaves the brewery at any time going anywhere we’re going to write Surfrider a check,” McGee said. “The real goal is that we have a huge appreciation for Surfrider and want to support them and figure we can do that by doing what we do best – brewing awesome beer.”

Finding a potential partner

Partnerships to benefit nonprofits can form either by pursuit or being pursued. In Anderson Valley’s case, it was sort of both.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium called AVBC after learning about its sustainability practices (such as being the world’s first solar powered brewery) and the closed-loop water system it’s built around. Anderson Valley was initially on board until they figured out the aquarium was licensed to sell alcohol in its cafeteria, making it a retailer and thus making it illegal for AVBC to partner with it.

They couldn’t work with the aquarium, but they still loved the concept and began looking at organizations they could work with instead. Surfrider was the first one that came to mind and AVBC reached out to them through a link on their website. 

“Truthfully, we thought we were kind of shooting for the moon and were (and still are) totally flattered and humbled that they want to work with us,” McGee said. “Getting to know their partnership team has been great and they’ve been fantastic to work with and the people we’ve gotten to know are just as exceptional as the organization.”

Is your audience a fit?

Audience is important to consider, and there was a lot of overlap between the brewery’s fans and the organization’s supporters.

“The people that comprise each of our audiences are probably pretty similar and we each have an opportunity to introduce ourselves to the folks that might not know one of us,” he said. “AVBC has a lot of outdoor and active-lifestyle oriented consumers and is pretty close to the Mendocino coastline although we probably skew more mountain and forest and Surfrider is obviously more ocean and beach. 

“Regardless, surfers will snowboard and vice-versa so sometimes they’re the same people. Overall, it’s a pretty complimentary Venn diagram and we’re looking forward to seeing how we can further merge it.”

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