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Education,Event,Petite Sirah,PS I Love You,Variety,Wine,Wine Business

The Challenges of Operating a Single Variety Advocacy Group

This is a presentation that I am giving today at the Midwest Grape & Wine Conference in Rhineland, MO.

As the executive director of PSILY, I was asked to deliver The Challenges of Operating a Single Varietal Advocacy Group. I’m not sure this is what they were looking for, but it is what I face daily, with very few solutions. PS I Love You is operating on $25,000 a year (about $20,000 in dues, and about $5,000 from events).

How can any non-profit operate this way? First of all… no loans. Loans would grow it, but we would go deeper in debt, and I not willing to leave a mess for someone else, the day I’m ready to hand over the group to someone else. Not really “American,” but it is what it is. I have enough to worry about running my own communications company.

What follows are the stark realities of running this single variety, wine industry advocacy group …

Let me set the proper stage of why this group was formed: The original mission: To promote, educate, and legitimize Petite Sirah as a heritage variety, with a special emphasis on its terroir uniqueness.

After eight years, these are the challenges that we face daily, in the order of most important to least important:

  1. The greatest challenge is to get the wine industry to support the effort from which they are benefiting.
    • With 756 known producer and 142 known growers, one would think that membership should be solid.
    • Of these 898 potential members, there are only 77 companies support PSILY’s marketing efforts. That’s only 8.5 Percent.
      • When we stated in 2002, there were only 65 growers and producers combined.
      • Our eight year efforts have created an atmosphere for successfully labeling, bottling, and selling Petite Sirah; but only 8.5 percent share the continued costs.
    • Most of the members are small wine companies
      • By 96 percent
        • The list of 72 vintners and one grower (Bacigalupi) is on the PSILY site under “Members”
      • The other four percent have real marketing savvy, and pay higher dues:
        • Bogle
        • Concannon
        • Guenoc
        • Mendocino Wine Company (Parducci, Paul Dolan)
        • Michael ~ David
  2. Competition
    • How many wine advocacy group are there?
      • AVA
      • State
      • Industry
        • Related ( Wine Institute)
        • Not related (Chamber of Commerce, Rotary, etc.)
  3. Workers
    • Unlike other non-profits, PSILY is based in a small town, where volunteers don’t exist.
    • Members are all over the West (CA, OR, WA)
    • Members are also running their own wine companies, so their dues is all they can do to help.
  4. Assets
    • People
      • Volunteers are the heartbeat of any non-profit
      • Being a national organization based in a small rural community, there are no volunteers
      • In this case, it means that Diaz Communications gets $37.50 an hour to run the group for all of the following:
        • Administering
        • Marketing
        • Event planning
        • Bookkeeping/accounting
        • Web updates (daily) and redesign (New Website this year)
        • Mailings
          • Physical ~ Vertical Response
          • Emails
    • Places
      • My Diaz Communications office is where it all happens
      • PS I Love You is gifted the following
        • Files are stored at Diaz Communications
        • Phone and Internet
        • Rent and utilities
        • Storage space
          • Files
          • Event assets (table, glasses, water pitchers, dump buckets, sign and sign poles, etc.)
    • Things
      • Assets: Without substantive income, there can be no assets
        • Without assets, there can be no marketing… Unless
        • Everything that PSILY uses belongs to Diaz Communications
      • This kind of group needs a patron, who is willing to work long, hard hours indefinitely
  5. Sponsors
    • A great idea
    • Not enough time to pursue

The same mission eight years later: To promote, educate, and legitimize Petite Sirah as a heritage variety, with a special emphasis on its terroir uniqueness.

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