By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
From Vancouver, British Columbia, to San Diego, Calif., in 2014, Eugene-based Ninkasi Brewing Company donated 120,000 pints of Ninkasi beer, worth approximately $150,000, to causes throughout its distribution area. Donations were managed through the company’s Beer is Love program, established in 2012.
“Beer is Love is a core piece to Ninkasi’s company culture, value system and method of business,” says Nicole Nelson, Beer is Love Northwest program manager. “It is beyond worthwhile to make positive steps toward a better community and offer support in any way we can.”
During 2014, Beer is Love supported more than 500 organizations. Through 90 “Pints for a Cause” nights, the program also raised $22,456 for nonprofit and community organizations in the Eugene/Springfield area.
“We look for sustained meaningful partnerships and general alignment with our own beliefs about community partnership,” Nelson explains. “We support organizations primarily through in-kind product donation and volunteer hours. We have open conversations with our partners about how to best work together and create the best situation possible for each donation and event.”
Nelson recalls one of Ninkasi’s early donations: contributing beer to downtown Eugene’s New Zone Gallery in 2009. Though Ninkasi’s efforts have grown substantially since those first kegs, Ninkasi still donates to New Zone monthly for Eugene’s First Friday Art Walk.
As more requests came in and more support went out, Ninkasi realized they needed a formal program and an organized process to manage donations and relationships with community organizations. It also helped them manage expectations on what projects they could and could not support. Today, the expansive program is part of Ninkasi’s entire distribution area, encompassing events at the Eugene tasting room, national sales, and point-of-purchase programs. “We are looking to contribute to causes in every way possible,” Nelson says.
The company also allows employees to use paid work days to support local causes of their choice. Ninkasi employees have created literacy kits for United Way, assembled mailers for the School Garden Project and The Service Board, walked dogs at Luvable Dog Rescue, volunteered in their children’s elementary schools, and planted native species for the McKenzie River Trust and Berggren Demonstration Farm.
Ninkasi has also had an evolving relationship with Springfield/Eugene Habitat for Humanity. “Habitat affiliates turned out to be wonderfully reciprocal enthusiastic partners,” Nelson explains, “and Ninkasi became more and more involved with the cause. Eugene/Springfield is our local affiliate and Jean Stover, the resource development coordinator there, has become part of the Ninkasi family.”
As part of their most recent assistance, Ninkasi has sponsored construction of a Habitat house in Springfield. “We contributed financially to the project,” says Nelson, “and also are sending teams to help build, probably 12 employees total so far.”
As of press time, Ninkasi did not yet have projections for its 2015 Beer is Love donations, but they expect the program to continue serving more causes. “We believe in community and working together for positive results,” says Nelson. “As our regions grow, so does the program.”
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.