Marketing,Petite Sirah,PS I Love You,Wine Writer

What’s a Non Profit Wine Group to Do? Thoughts From an Executive Director

Weekly Holidaze Drawing: Just leave a comment on any wine-blog entry this month, to win gifts this December:

As I read a wine writer’s newsletter with a story from a guest commentator, it really got me thinking…

It was a story about how many wine groups there are, and it came from an outsider… not someone responsible for running a non profit.

In the relatively small, growing universe of wine in America, there are more than 500 consumer and trade organizations representing various aspects of the wine industry. There are wine appreciation groups strictly for the trade, consumer groups, appellation groups, state and federal lobbying groups, and hundreds of consumer and trade wine groups.

He writes a lot more, including a mention of PSILY as one of the advocacy groups, and then states:

Oddly enough, other than hoping their members consume wine often, almost none of these groups is doing anything to expand the number of American wine consumers.

This is where his thinking made me realize how little people understand advocacy groups behind the scenes. If one hasn’t started a group or directed a group, the insider details ~ from being on the outside ~ only allows for inferences, not real hard data and understanding. (Does WSWA, for instance, do anything as a collective in advertising, except for what benefits the group: i.e., conventions, meetings, etc., or does it create advertisements to encourage those who don’t yet enjoy alcohol to become alcoholic beverage consumers? These groups are devoted to developing markets, not developing consumers, as they now stand.)

If I, or any of my colleagues, were to blatantly advocate wine consumption, we’d be putting a big target on our backs.

Example: yesterday a man was in front of our grocery store with a card table and propaganda. He was shouting to anyone who became within ear shot, “Sign a petition to legalize marijuana for tax money!” Every single one of us made a huge swing around him. Not because we don’t support the effort, but we didn’t support his methodology.”

That said, in an Email dialogue with wine writer David Falchek, who returned my Q&A completed for my wine writer page, I found the perfect answer for this author within David’s brilliant words and thinking ~ all coming to me on the exact same day.

David Falchek:

[Q]  For what would you like to be remembered?

[A]  When I’m going through God’s wine cellar, I’d like to have some wine drinkers saying “Remember that guy who used to write about wine for the newspaper? And do you remember newspapers? Well, that guy got me to drink wine.”

My most gratifying e-mails start with “I’ve never been much of wine drinker, but I read your column and picked up the ’07 Thus-And-Such.” Not enough Americans drink wine. In the last decade or so, I think the industry and wine writers have cultivated more of a messianic zeal to spread to the joys of wine and expand the base of wine drinkers.

The final solution, according to the author, is that these groups need to be spending more on advertising.

I have several answers for that:

  1. Who lives and dies by advertising to make purchasing decisions? I certainly don’t, or I’d be buying lots of Viagra even though I don’t need it.
  2. All of the groups that were mentioned are non profits, mostly of the 501 (c)(6) ilk ~ Non Profits being the operative words here.
  3. It is quite possible that 95 percent of these groups listed operate on a shoe string budget ~ PSILY operated on approximately $60,000 last year. Given that a full page ad in a WS or WE magazines, for instance, can run from $25,000 to $35,000, who in their right mind would spend that amount of money on advertising, when there’s so much day-to-day that has to happen?
  4. Which leads to this one ~ Many, many press releases left my desk last year that went to wine writers. Quoting David again, “In the last decade or so, I think the industry and wine writers have cultivated more of a messianic zeal to spread the joys of wine and expand the base of wine drinkers.” It’s our job (non profit advocacy groups) to feed the feeders, not create great advertising campaigns. I can’t speak for others, but I do my fair share of PR with my $60,000 annual budget.
  5. Getting wineries to join is the major thrust on such limited funds. (I have to market to the wine companies on a consistent basis, or lose them.) The day I have a half million to play with is the day you’ll see a full page ad in WS, WE, Food & Wine et al with PS I Love You’s brands being the focus.
  6. The author was also assuming we’re not advertising, just because he’s just not seen anything of note in a magazine ~ However, stealth advertising within the wine clubs for our Dark & Delicious event in 2009 brought us many people who love PS, with some of them being a whole new group of potential wine drinkers and lovers of Petite Sirah. These people all walked away praising the effort. That was 800 people with NO PRINT ADVERTISING, but we did lots of Email blasts, and paid Vertical Response under the cost center item of “advertising.”

I’m seriously looking for volunteers. I could sure use anyone’s help, including the author’s. I (along with my team) spend about 35 hours a month with PSILY as a paid contractor. Then, we collectively spend about 85 more as volunteers each month, but my staff is paid for their hours through Diaz Communications.

Non-profits stay alive with a lot of volunteer hours, and operate on shoe string budgets. With help from anyone, including this critic’s, you’d get a great look at the inside of what these groups are all about and the daily challenges we face… Including that advertising is the least of our worries. Hosting events is the way to go,when there are no real sugar daddies out there.

Most of us don’t have mammoth budgets. Our jobs are to advocate for a region or a variety. Getting people to enjoy wine is the job of each winery, and through the media, the word gets out and loyalties are built.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

12 Responses to “What’s a Non Profit Wine Group to Do? Thoughts From an Executive Director”

  1. Jo says:

    FROM Molly Fisher on Facebook

    I find his opinions pretty funny. I should write an article about how to run a car company or a bank, you know? I know nothing, but I’ve got opinions because I’ve seen car companies and banks and I’ve read about them in the news. I hope he reads your blog post.

    I don’t speak for my husband’s winery, but IMHO the best thing advocacy groups do is organize excellent tastings like the Zinfandel Festival and Dark & Delicious. You’re not trying to get people to drink wine, you’re educating. If people who already drink wine have a chance to taste my wine and learn something about the varietal, they’ll probably share it with their friends. You start a little wave rolling with every single 1 oz. pour at these events. Thank you for your hard work with PSILY.

  2. Jo says:

    Molly, Amen and thank you very much for not only backing me up on this, but also calling D&D “excellent.”

  3. Honey says:


    Who is this guy??? Let me give him a piece of advocacy…where can I read this story and respond back to him.


  4. Monte says:


    One of the things I have a tough time doing is volunteering due to where I live. I live in north suburban Houston, Texas. While I really can’t be in California but once or twice a year, I would love to support organizations like PSILY and ZAP. I could either lend a hand online or when members are in Houston. If a PSILY producer was in Houston for a tasting, having an extra hand available to help set up and tear down or pour when things get backed up could be valuable. Maybe having a list of people who can help in different cities would help.

  5. Loweeel says:

    Jo, I’m always happy to do what I can to help spread the gosPSel. Last month, Vincent Arroyo accidentally sent me a duplicate of my standing case order. They originally wanted me to send it back, but I asked instead whether I should dole out the bottles to local sommeliers/wine store owners. And I did.

    And whenever I go to a wine bar, I ask why they don’t have PS, especially this time of year.

    Oh, and this is my entry for today :).

  6. Jo says:

    Hi, Honey, aka Sergeant First Class Dupris of the 82 Airborne… Why am I not surprised you’re ready for war with the author? I realize that he was writing from an unknowing perspective, and what I’ve written may come across his desk, so he’ll now be more informed. You’re one of our greatest foot soldiers, Ms. Honey!

  7. Jo says:

    Monte, that’s the problem with this kind of advocacy group. We’re so small and our members are all over the west coast (CA, OR, WA). It just is what it is, and I appreciate your sentiments.

    Unless someone lives right here in Sonoma County, it’s impossible.

    The next problem is intellectual property. It’s all in my head, so unless I get it out, it can’t then get it out to others.

    Steve Heimoff just told Randall Grahm the other night that I’ve singlehandedly brought PS from obscurity into the lime light. I just don’t know any other way to do this. I don’t know what to hand off, other than helping with our events and mailings.

    I did get an Email this morning from someone who fund raises for advocacy groups. Let’s see where that goes. I’m a better publicist than I am a fund raiser or member developer.

    I appreciate your thoughts, and you’re entered in this week’s drawing for the Riedel glasses!

  8. Jo says:


    You’re right there as our number one fan… the male version. Honey is your female counterpart. You read about her adventures in PS wine country with me, when she returned from Middle East duty a couple of years ago… On a quest for ONLY PS. Search on Cheryl Dupris. I gave her a 10 day odyssey in wine country – as her guide, no less.

  9. David Falchek says:


    Thanks for raising such interesting points (and for dredging my name up for another mention.)

    I’m a long time member of the American Wine Society. Founded by Dr. Konstantin Frank in the 1960s, its mission is promotion of wine appreciation through education. It is a great organization, but one that is cash strapped and far from its full potential.

    Sadly, few of the hundred-plus local AWS chapters have that messianic zeal. Many chapters operate as closed, cul de sac clans that reject new (or young) members of the national organization. Our nascent chapter in Scranton, Pa., is open, attracting 60+ at monthly meetings and a Facebook page approaches 300 “fans” after one month. Wine appreciation, casual and reasonably priced (our chapter tasting fee: $10 to $15), is one of the easiest products to sell. After 8 tutored tastings with friendly knowledgeable people, last year’s white zin drinkers are this year’s cabernet drinkers.

    AS for PSILY and groups like it, they are the best friend of wine writers — offering one stop shopping for multiple producers, ample appropriate information, and interviews. My weekly work appears in general interest publication, reaching mostly non wine drinkers.

    But eventually, Jo, we’ll reach each, won’t we?

  10. Jo says:

    David, You, too, raise interesting points. (Based on my story, you know how long ago I wrote it, then sat on it for a long time refining it, so I’d not offend anyone.)

    Thanks for backing me up… that we’re writers best friends. That’s what it’s supposed to be, at least as it’s written in our mission statement.

    I’ve entered you into the Riedel give away this week. I’m celebrating all the holidays with gifts to my readers through drawings.

  11. Monte says:


    It seems like organizations like yours and some others in the wine industry are looking for that next phase in their evolution. Are you familiar with Seth Godin’s book Tribes? I went back and read a few short sections and it seems to parallel a number of issues brought up in the original post and the discussion. You certainly have some passionate followers who want to help. Seth has some ideas you might be able to use.

  12. Jo says:


    I’ll get the book and read it.

    The greatest thing I’ve learned about non-profits through this one (and I’ve been a member of so many non-profits it would make your head spin, heading committees – Chamber of Commerce, Red Cross, Rotary, United Way, etc.) is that they operate well with local chapters and with their volunteers.

    There aren’t enough hours in the day to open local chapters for PSILY, and there’s no one else as passionate as I am who is stepping forward and saying, “Here, let me give you a few hours of my time at the office,” who is local. If someone were self motivated and able to just get things done without direction, then it would grow. Everyone I know is just too busy, have their own businesses, and have to blaze their own trails. (The all own wineries.)

    This is just not their “singular” passion, and there it is. They have lots of varieties of wine to sell, not just PS.

    I also need to find a book that’s written about how to shrink time into multitasking, high accomplishment jobs… Now I’d be cooking!

Leave a Reply