Beers for Books

This is the place to tell us about YOUR Beers for Books event. How was it? Let us know in as much detail as you can. Also, be sure to post photos and audios on the site if you have them.

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The launch was a huge success!!! Thanks to those of you who came out to support Beers for Books and Room to Read. Here are some thoughts on having a good B4B event from after the launch event:

We had a BIG crowd, 200+ and it was like herding cats when it came to the short presentation. The one’s that paid attention “got it” and that is what B4B is all about—raising awareness of RtR, raising some money for books, and getting the one’s who feel a positive connection with RtR into a long-term funnel.

1) Great for raising awareness, not great for raising big money if no supplementary fundraising is done.

In the end, solely through drink sales we raised 78,000 yen = 780 books. Not bad, about 3 drinks per person were consumed which is what I expected.

I purposefully did not do any other kind of fundraising element (auction, raffle, contest, etc.) because I wanted to keep it super simple so potential organizers wouldn’t feel like it was too involved for them. In hindsight, it would’ve been good to do a raffle because it would’ve generated a lot more money and have been a good way to leverage the crowd we got that night.

For B4B, I do want to encourage the maximum simplicity for those who love the idea but just can’t be bothered with going overboard on organizing. I can see someone with a friend who owns a bar/restaurant getting them to do a simple event and inviting friends to fill the place. The owner may not want them to be running any other kind of activity as it might disturb regular patrons.

At the other end, I’d like to attract and encourage super-organizers who want to go whole-hog on an event and maximize revenue. Generally super-organizers are up for anything and they’ll go the extra yard to do whatever sounds fun and interesting, so I don’t think it will be difficult with them. I just don’t want to put off average folk too.

Conclusion is that I encourage all organizers to add a fundraising element to their event.

2) It is critical to be very clear with the bar owner/GM on how things work.

Rusty, the GM of the bar, was very accommodating for the launch event. In hindsight, I found that he wasn’t totally clear on the mechanics of the event, which I take the blame for. What out found out at the end of the night was that he was only taking money out for the beers and Zubrowka cocktails but not taking money out for other drinks (other cocktails, premium beers, wine) which I expected him to do.

The good thing is that most people were drinking beer and vodka, but there is no reason why he couldn’t have pulled out from the other drinks unless he had his register set up for two special drinks (500 and 300 yen) and it would’ve been a hassle to set it up for all drinks. I think the reason is that I just assumed he would, and he assumed that it was just for beer and vodka.

The reality is that it is the bar’s call on what they will/won’t include in B4B outside of beer. The fundamental drink is beers, but all venues should be asked to contribute from ALL drinks and a clear understanding in place either way.

The other thing is that Rusty expected me to transfer the money, so he gave it to me at the end of the night. There is an element of risk with both parties, but I think it’s a good idea to set the expectation that the venue will send the money as there won’t be transportation risks, less moral hazard potential for the organizer (though some for the venue). I need to think this one through.

I’d like the venue to feel a sense of ownership of the event and also have the money being collected ALL NIGHT, not just the peak hours. Most bars close at 1AM or 2AM and it is usually difficult to have the organizer stay there that late.

Conclusion: Maybe some kind of venue/organizer checklist would help to keep things clear?

3) The “What Can I Do Next???” action sheet is really important.

A B4B event is something that can keep volunteer organizers busy and raise funds for RtR, but its also important to reach any super-active types that come along and get them aware and interested in the RtR mission so that they go on to a) get their company involved as a donor b) become an individual donor themselves c) organize a company book drive d) organize their own B4B event, etc.

I had intended to give people the attached sheet as they exited, but that would’ve required a volunteer and again, I wanted to keep it super simple so people didn’t think they had to have a volunteer. I tried to hand the sheet out to as many people as possible personally and encourage them to act further. This was a great way to do it, but given the number of people there, I wasn’t able to speak to everyone and I don’t think everyone went away with a sheet.

Conclusion: Make sure everyone gets an action sheet.

4) The switched-on super active people are easy to reach, but the fence-sitters are harder to reach.

Since the idea was put out a few weeks ago I’ve had commitments/high interest from many people in Tokyo and also Shimane, Fukushima, Niigata, Saitama, Chiba, Kanagawa, Okinawa, Hyogo, Nagano, and Fukui prefectures. I’ve also scheduled the first event in San Diego (March 26th—I’ll be there) and have people in Portland (thanks Kiyoshi), Seattle, and NYC interested.

The ones who “get it” really get it and it’s not too hard to work with them to make something happen. I know you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink, but I’ll be working on how to get the fence-sitters and looky-lous to take action and do something.

The good thing is that I don’t want this to be a short flash in the pan, I’d prefer a long slow burn if this turns out to be an effective tool for getting books in kids’ hands, so I’m not pushing at this point, but I do think the system will need to be fine-tuned to get an keep a broad spectrum of people’s interest over time and keep it sustainable.

5) Other random thoughts

I hope that people don’t feel they need to get 200+ people out for their event. A couple people said things like “I could never get this many people out for an event”. Luckily, I was able to tell them they don’t have to. A small bar with 20 people drinking is fine. It’s the people who I didn’t have a chance to get this message across to who may be lost until we get some smaller more intimate events going.

I want to look for networks that are natural leverage points for B4B. In Japan, the JET organization is a very natural conductor for this nationwide. I know a lot of alums and we’re working on getting things rolling with them in the hinterlands. Another one is the craft beer community. They are REALLY into B4B as most craft brew people are thoughtful literate people who love beers and books. I’m open to any other potential natural fits, but these are two good places to start.

I am concerned about people thinking that drinking a couple beers is plenty to give. I know people don’t want to be hassled about giving and I think B4B is a really great low-barrier way to engage people. I guess the “I gave at the office” syndrome is going to happen regardless and each individual must make up their mind about how and how much to give, but I don’t want them to go away thinking they are done (unless, of course, they become regulars at B4B events and drink LOTS). The supplemental activities will give them a chance to give more, but I want to make sure they max out whether it is a little or a lot.

If B4B gets traction, especially in Tokyo, we could be creating an army of beer-drinkers who will patronize venues that support the cause. This network effect will make it easier for venues to commit and create a virtuous cycle. I know that if I’m thinking about going out for a cold one on the way home, I’ll check to see if any places have a B4B night on and go there as my 1st choice. One website someone told me about last week has some clues to this (and might be a good partner for B4B) . I’d love to have a B4B flash video like theirs!

The use of social media was CRITICAL in making the event a success. There is no way I could've gotten the word out so efficiently without Facebook. I'll start experimenting with other platforms, but Facebook was an excellent tool for this event.

Overall, I think it was a good start and that there is lots of room for fine-tuning and improvement. I’m encouraged by peoples’ reactions to the idea and glad that some have already stepped up to plan future events.

Please let me know if you have any questions, comments, feedback, etc. Thanks again to those who came out to support the first event.
I recently had a private birthday party at my friend’s new bar in Kokubunji, The Lighthouse, located in West Tokyo (Kayou Kokubunji Green Heights, 2-15-6 Minami Machi, kokubunji-shi 050-1361-4797). We added a slight change to the formula and added 100 yen donation for every food item in addition to every drink purchased as well as collecting donations. We raised 21,000 yen (210 books!) for Room To Read. Who’s next?
Hey Pat, this is great news! An excellent example of people taking their own initiative to support Room to Read via Beers for Books. Very well done. This was a private event as its a smallish bar and Pat was able to fill it with his friends without having to promote it. The Lighthouse sounds like a cool place and I'll definitely make it out there to thank the owner/manager or whoever is there when I get a cold one!
Gary, I met you at Tokyo Grand Biere if you remember! I am DH of Good Beer and Country Boys, I just found your site and linked you from ours. I used the logo, hope you don't mind. Also I'm willing to host an event in Aichi! Let me know what I need to do to get the ball rolling!
Hi DH, YES! Thanks very much for getting in touch. A good place to start is the "Tools" section of this website. There is an Organizer's Manual and also "pitch book" that helps you explain to a bar/restaurant owner how B4B benefits them too. That would be awesome to get something going in Aichi and I'm happy to answer any questions you have. Thank you!

IUJ's kick-off B4B earned us 63 100yen coins! We invited our graduating class right after a 1.5 hour long graduation orienation to catch a good group on their way back to the dorms. The Global Concerns Forum, a student group associated with our Graduate School of International Relations were the hosts. Thanks to Gary, we could show off the books we were helping to purchase, and students from those countries enjoyed reading the stories a they sipped a cold one. One student from Finland got to read one story from Thailand in English too!
Our audience is so diverse and FROM the countries we are trying to help, that we did have one mistkae. Some thought they had to donate a book from their own children's collection in order to get a beer. We will fix that next time, and hope to get a lot more going! We had fun. Great campus initiative which we hope to promote world wide using our Alumni Network!


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