Friday, July 02, 2010

Philly Beer Week 2010: Contemplations, Conversations, Ruminations, and an occasional Diatribe: Part 9.5

(This is the ninth in a series of ten installments documenting both my time during Philly Beer Week 2010 and insights provided to me by customers, importers/distributors/representatives, brewers, brewery owners, publicans, et cetera. All of whom wanted their comments to be aired, but very few who wanted their name associated with them. Some of you may not appreciate the anonymity, but that's the way it needs to be if we're going to talk about these things around here. You'll need to trust in me that I've gathered up all of these notes and opinions during PBW '10 and am sharing them with you in order to continue the conversation about what will make a better Philly Beer Week 2011.)

Click back to see the ninth in the series. Click forward to see the tenth in the series.

I needed to create an interval here, let's call it installment 9.5 in my series of 10. All other installments in this Series had been written prior to putting up even the first one. But, one that I (intentionally) neglected to include was one focused on beneficiaries (compensation, "interests", and otherwise) of Philly Beer Week. Most likely the touchiest of all subjects I've raised in this expanded 10.5 segment series.

Since this is at least a half-step above my so-called pay grade, I typically make a rule against doing super-sleuthing, expose-writing, scandal-reporting type of work. I have and will continue to focus at least 97% of what I do around here on the positives of the craft beer and homebrewing world.

But, since this topic was raised to me, oh, at least 10-15 times during this year's Philly Beer Week, I figured it's something that should be included here in my 10.5 part series (after all, just check the title of these postings, and this topic seems to obviously belong here in the reams). I'll leave it up to those that get paid the big bucks to dig further to unearth any salient details.

How many times do we hear of scrutiny that is pointed toward beer festival organizers and the charities that they reportedly contribute proceeds to? Goodwill is quickly eroded when good intentions do not measure up to reality when the till is accounted for.

Philly Beer Week, remember, is a concept..a festival organizer..a marketing organization for a grand 10-day event. It's also set up as a non-profit organization. And now, more voices are asking for some accountability...from the inside and the out. Lots of money comes in and some amounts go out. What happens in between apparently has quite a number of people more concerned than ever.

More concerned about who is taking how much in terms of a stipend/salary. More concerned about how the public relations firm is being paid. More concerned about the rising rate of "membership" in PBW. More concerned about what the rising membership rates actually, tangibly give the participating organizations.

From one long-term participant in PBW: "What do I get other than a listing on the PBW website and in the newspaper? Why should I bother to pay $750 when I have my own website, my own email distribution list, my own Facebook Fans and Twitter Followers, my own advertising budget that already puts advertisements in newspapers, magazines, etc?"

And, from another reputable participating establishment: "Why shouldn't I simply throw events where I take advantage of my own resources, online word-of-mouth through guys like you (i.e. The Brew Lounge), and forums like BeerAdvocate, Rate Beer, Burgundian Babble Belt, etc. Wouldn't I get just as many customers to show up for my events?"

From an interested consumer: "There's a whole lot of money floating around PBW. I'm not convinced that they are really a nonprofit organization to the letter of the law."

From a high-ranking participant/board member: "I've been involved with the PBW Organizations and not even I know where all the money goes. I'd love to see a full accounting for the cash flows."

Listen up; I'm not putting all this out there to cast anyone in a bad light...even though I suppose that is how some of this can be construed. So, I go back to one of my original statements above...We're quick to jump on any festival organizer who doesn't live up to their stated charitable intentions or nonprofit status.

I'm not crying foul on anyone yet here around Philly Beer Week. But, enough folks who have vested interests in the success of PBW are raising cautionary flags and I figure it's better to start talking about these things now before it's too late and we're talking instead about how to salvage something that has broken.

That's as far as I'm willing to dig for now; others feel free to pick up the shovel if you can contribute to the conversation. Remember it's all about creating a viable long-term success in Philly Beer Week and beyond.

Your thoughts, if you will?

Enjoy the long holiday weekend. Coming next Tuesday...We will finally take a crack at wrapping up this Philly Beer Week.


Greg said...

As someone who's put on a much smaller charity beer event, I think it's a little early to be throwing around veiled accusations. Sorting out this many partners can take some time, and it's fairly likely no one knows what the final tallies are yet.

Of course you're right; the fact that there is skepticism is news and it means people are expecting some answers. But cranky participants who wonder why they should pay are probably underselling the exposure they got as part of a very large beer community. Let's let Don Russell and the organizers recover, get the numbers together, and give them a chance to show us an honest accounting.

John Doherty said...


Sounds great having a full accounting of all the money coming in and out and thanks for all you do to help PBW, and I got to say that you and your wife are very nice people! :)

Having said that, I'm fine with Don Russell getting paid (as long as it is reasonable and I hear it is) for putting lots of time into this project that many don't have the time to do.

I've talked to others that are unhappy with this arrangement, not me. There are other beer bloggers, writers that get paid to promote a brewery or beer distributor and I'm just as fine with that.

I'm more interested how much the public relations firm is being paid.

jfitzy78 said...

As a non profit organization, as far as I know anyone can demand to "see the books" I think they should do it just like an association meeting... show where the monies are being spent in a detailed report every time there is a meeting. or a quarterly report drawn up having all financial s open.. this keeps any accusations from flaring up, and also keeps the organizations honest.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I guess I'm not the only one wondering where all the money is going and where it went. I think accountability is in order.

Seriously, to ask for $750 to partake in PBW is crazy. Some of these people quoted above make a lot of sense indeed. They all spent thousands of dollars on marketing efforts already. If PBW is truly about BEER why is it necessary to pay $750? Besides sending a press release and having a website what else does PBW "the organization" offer clients for the $750? does anyone know?

Mark Haynie said...

Jfitzy78 is correct, as a treasurer of a nonprofit organization, the books are required to be opened on demand, at least the IRS 990 forms.There is certainly no reason to believe that anyone is doing anything inappropriate. As for membership fees, that is up to those who wish to pay it. Nobody forces them to do that. If nobody pays, then PBW would have to look at the amount and adjust accordingly. I was not even aware a fee existed.

Scoats said...

I recall there was an accounting of last year's incomes and outflows at the kick off meeting for this year's PBW. I am sure they will release one again when this fiscal year is over.

Since the beginning (3 years now), the way I look at it is that $1000 (down to $750 this year) is a contribution to help spread the word about what a great beer city we have. I don't expect much if any bang for my buck(s).

An ad in one of the weeklies is about $250, so there some value/cost added right there. And this years version of the PBW Website did a great job of helping sift though the 1000 events. I assume Sparks gets paid for that.

I strongly suspect that when the financials are released PBW will show they were pretty good stewards of the money given then.

Anonymous said...

don't care about the circumstances. it's all about the beer, but that has seemed to be gettting in the way of some people. Relax and enjoy the fact u r in the beer industry.

Lew Bryson said...

FWIW, I have very little "skin" in this either, and I don't see any issue here. PBW is a non-profit. The PR firm gets paid and delivers; Don gets paid, and as anyone who saw him running around and blogging and interviewing and all that stuff can attest, he delivers. For me, this is a non-issue; of course, I'm not paying $750, but as Scoats points out, it's not really that bad a deal comparatively.
I too heard a lot of bitching about the money. I don't think it's likely that there's a problem. At least, not with the money.