Partnerships with brands are being increasingly seen as one of the most promising avenues for alternative revenue streams and exposure in the nonprofit world. Teaming up with for-profit brands makes a lot of sense, particularly when the brand and its customers share a core set of values associated with the mission of the nonprofit. Organizations should be looking to use their mission to leverage resources and customer engagement — even when the customers aren’t necessarily yours. For years I have watched big beverages brands navigate exciting brand partnerships with nonprofits, and this year I co-founded a beverage startup with environmental sustainability as a foundational pillar.
The beverage space has some of the most iconic brands in history: Coca-Cola, Pepsi. Budweiser, Starbucks, Gatorade, just to name a few. Everyone drinks bottled beverages. They are a staple of our everyday life, and according to Business Wire, the global beverage industry is expected to reach $1.9 trillion by 2021.
Giving back has always been important to beverages, and a quick search of any of the big brands will uncover pages dedicated to charity and philanthropy. Smaller beverages are also giving back, although at a lesser scale. In a crowded market, filled with health and environmentally-conscious consumers, doing good is a necessary part of being an evolved beverage company. As a result, there are opportunities for nonprofits. Here are three areas you should be paying attention to.
1. Find ways to make healthy drinks better for the environment.
Healthy drinks that provide functional beverages is one of the fastest-growing categories. These types of beverages naturally align with environmental stewardship, conservation and human health. Coming from an environmental background, this is the space where I have seen some of the greatest potential. In fact, this year I linked our ocean nonprofit, Beneath the Waves, with Tempo, a line of organic, unsweetened sparkling teas that I recently co-founded. The partnership goes beyond charity and puts Tempo team members, partners, supports, investors and customers on boats to help nonprofit scientists tag and collect data from threatened shark species. Mamma Chia makes healthy chia seed drinks and donates 1% of gross profits to support local farmers and groups that are building healthy food systems. Look out for healthy drinks that you can tap for partnerships that go beyond just product donations.
2. For craft beers, get the early-mover advantage and avoid competition.
For approaching beer companies, look for the right match in size and try to find new brands that are looking to make moves in the charitable space. Craft beers are king today, and one of the biggest differentiators in craft beers is their packaging and branding materials. In 2015 craft brewers donated $71 million to charitable causes. Finnegans beer company donates 100% of its profits to its community fund which purchases food for food bank partners across various states. In 2016, the Denver Beer Company provided outdoor experiences to young adults battling cancer through a partnership with nonprofit First Descents. With the volume of craft breweries, there are many opportunities for small local nonprofits looking to partner, although competition will be high; the Denver Beer Company had 68 applications from nonprofits looking to partner in 2016 alone.