Beer Donation Brews Trouble for Charity Fundraiser
You know when you expect to have a fun night out, but wake up feeling a little, well, hungover? It’s as equally unpleasant an experience when it happens in the business world.
What began as a fun way for Atlas Brew Works and DC Brau Brewing Co., two Washington, D.C.-based breweries, to engage the community and raise funds for an important cause, left them with a bad taste in their mouths and a five-month headache.
The fundraiser, held Aug. 14, 2015 (during DC Beer Week) at local restaurant Molly Malone’s, benefited Bottoms Up to Down ALS—a nonprofit that raises money for the ALS Therapy Development Institute, a nonprofit biotech wholly focused on ALS research for a cure.
According to Washington City Paper, Atlas Brew Works and DC Brau each donated four kegs—an estimated $9,000 in sales—to the event, believing the proceeds, as well as the funds raised by the event’s $10 cover charge, would go to Bottoms Up to Down ALS. DC Brau’s senior accounts manager and the then-manager and bar manager of Molly Malone’s (and its sister restaurant, Lola’s, that was added to the event) agreed in emails that a portion of the beer sales would go to the charity, but the restaurant managers continually avoided specifying how much.
While the nonprofit did receive the $1,212 collected from the cover charge and raffle tickets, it received a significantly smaller sum from the keg donation than expected—and only received it just recently, five months after the event.
So, what happened? Why did this attempt to do good go so wrong? The reasons are manyfold.
Richard Cevera, the owner of Molly Malone’s, said he didn’t know about the event—or any related agreements—until weeks after the event was over, blaming the event’s poor organization and failure to track sales during the event (and subsequent headache) on a manager who no longer works for the restaurant.
The restaurant also said not knowing how many beers were given away as part of the cover played a role in the ensuing problems.
The delivery of the kegs also posed issues. While both breweries invoiced the beer to the nonprofit and set it up so the kegs would be delivered straight to the restaurants, the restaurants ended up paying for the kegs. Immediately following the event, the breweries retroactively donated the kegs.
But poor communication may have been the biggest cause for such a mess—and its delayed resolution.
Despite the quick fix of the donated kegs, problems ensued. After a month of no response from the restaurant on the status of the donation, a series of semi-hostile emails were exchanged between the restaurants’ then-manager Colin Laverty, and DC Brau’s co-founder Brandon Skall and Atlas Brew Works’ founder Justin Cox, with the brewers calling into question why the kegs were getting processed now, as opposed to when they initially fixed the problem.
It was around then that Cevera stepped in. Even after the amount the restaurant would donate—$1,652, an estimated number for what was sold—had been determined, the check wasn’t put in the mail. Teresa Thurtle, the founder of Bottoms Up to Down ALS, followed up with Cevera four times between Oct. 20 and Dec. 11, even offering to drop by to pick up the check, but to no avail. Each time, she was told the check would be sent out soon.
It wasn’t until the Washington City Paper recently inquired about the situation that the check made it to the mailbox. Cevera told Washington City Paper it was something that had gotten lost in the holiday shuffle.
All parties involved maintain this is atypical of charity events they’ve been involved with.
Allison Ebner is content editor for Promo Marketing, NonProfit PRO and Print+Promo. Reference any animated movie, "Harry Potter" character or '80s band and you'll become fast friends.