The Steps Creature Comforts Takes for its Crowd-Sourced Philanthropy

Matt Stevens sees giving from a corporate setting as two avenues. Each business chooses charities and efforts that align with their business and giving to those groups.

But Stevens, who is the VP of Strategic Impact for Creature Comforts, said that the Athens, Georgia-based brewery’s annual Get Comfortable initiative is different. As he explained over a virtual meeting to explain this year’s launch, philanthropy can be crowdsourced. And last year, the brewery along with many other businesses raised more than $500,000 for a variety of at-needs groups.

“How is your — fill in the blank — your company, your private foundation, your agency, your organization, your church, or whatever … how is it uniquely positioned to serve others,” he asked. “What that is going to look like for an auto shop versus a tech upstart versus a craft brewery is going to look very different. But good citizens wrestle with this question. They figure out how it is they are uniquely positioned to benefit others, and then they take whatever that is, and they turn it loose.

“This question, in many ways, was the key and the engine for Get Comfortable seven years ago. It got us that Creature thinking about our answer to this question. And Get Comfortable, of course, is a byproduct of that answer. And the same goes for the more than 60 other businesses that are now participating with this program.”

Starting in 2015 by giving about $2,000 has blossomed into a collaboration beer that also generates donations from businesses of all kinds across Georgia, and soon, Los Angeles.

Stevens noted how the program has over the years become more effective and influential through creating two key factors: agency selection and creating a board to help.

Agency Selection

Get Comfortable has a rigorous agency selection, Stevens explained.

“It starts with the local priorities, whether it’s here in Athens or down in Atlanta, or eventually out in LA, we never want to barge in with our solution to problems that other people know much more about,” he said. “In Athens/Clarke County, the local priorities can be found embedded within our communities 20-year plan, which is known as Envision Athens. This plan … [has] our data points, community feedback, focus groups, and all sorts of information that collectively show us what are the priorities. We want to always start this process there.

“Once we know what the priorities are, we can lay the needs assessment data, the data points that show us where the disparities are and where the biggest gaps between existing resources and current needs are. We want to become conversant in our community’s priorities, and its needs.”

From there they invite agencies to apply to participate.

“We want to survey all these applicants in our community … hundreds of local nonprofits, doing a variety of things,” he said. “And we want to understand, what is their mission? What is their work? What’s their capacity? What are their needs? We are trying to understand programming specifics, what’s the workforce, what’s the operating budget, and then namely, what that agency proposes to do with a major infusion of resources at the end of this year’s funding cycle.”

Advisory Council

Proposals are gathered and given to a group of experts in the form of an advisory council.

“Here in Athens it’s representatives from our community foundation, United Way local government, as well as the directors of Envision Athens,” Stevens said. “We take all these proposals to that group and we ask them the same question every year: What needs are the greatest?

“Those folks have dedicated their careers to understanding those complexities. They walk into the room not just with answers to that question, but fantastic answers with robust answers to that question.”

Question No. 2 is which proposals are the strongest based on the submitted proposals.

“Who do you think we should be collectively funding because they are doing the most to meet the greatest needs,” Stevens said. “These are agencies doing the most pressing work in our communities in 2021, at least according to the data, and the smart people. That is how we go about selecting our agencies in a given year.”


Stevens added that most importantly, ​Creature Comforts want philanthropists to feel confident that their generosity is going to meet the greatest needs in ​the city every year.

​”​We want philanthropic confidence​,” he said. ​”​And so that’s what we think we are able to offer through this program.​”​

Photo courtesy Creature Comforts

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