Philanthropy-in-Place: Charity Wine Auctions Are Employing New Strategies to Support Communities

While big events are canceled for now, charities are launching innovative efforts to offer COVID-19 relief

Philanthropy-in-Place: Charity Wine Auctions Are Employing New Strategies to Support Communities
Napa Valley Grapegrowers has made vineyard worker safety a major focus of their community efforts since the pandemic began. (Courtesy Napa Valley Grapegrowers)
May 8, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic presents a Catch-22 for charity wine auctions. Their philanthropic efforts to support communities are needed more than ever, yet they cannot gather for big events. So while lockdown measures persist, auction organizers are trying new fundraising strategies. While many charities have faced event cancellations or postponements, they are using virtual auctions and fund-a-needs to continue to support their neighbors in need.

Oregon's Classic Wines Auction raised over $2.3 million on March 7, just one day before Gov. Kate Brown declared a state of emergency. With shutdowns still in place, the charity has taken its next auction, Corks + Forks, online for the first time, running from May 27 to June 4. The event will include four days of virtual programming, including conversations with community leaders and travel experts about the future of the wine industry. Organizers are also looking to boost guest interaction through online wine trivia and even a virtual "ring toss" game.

"It's all about creativity and versatility, hoping that our guests will come along for the ride and continue to support our community in this new way," Julie Dalrymple, marketing director for Classic Wines Auction told Wine Spectator.

Corks + Forks will also support a local beneficiary with COVID-19 relief, though details have not yet been determined. Dalrymple says that the auction wants to support local restaurants and wineries.

Auction of Washington Wines (AWW) organizers recently shifted their August events online and are exploring innovative ways to engage wineries and patrons. The staff has assembled four playlists with favorite tunes to pair with Washington wines for their Wine & Music auction, which will run online May 6 to May 10.

"We believe that the accessibility of an online format will attract more people from a broader geography than can be achieved with an in-person event," AWW executive director Jamie Peha told Wine Spectator.

While AWW's primary mission is to support the Washington wine industry, including a #MustHaveWaWine promotion similar to Napa Valley Vintners' "Open the Cellar," Peha says that AWW is looking at creative ways to help restaurants, including the promotion of "Dinner in a Box," a Washington wine and restaurant-catered meal combo.


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Some charity organizations are helping wineries in a different way. Napa Valley Grapegrowers (NVG), which spearheads the annual Harvest Stomp wine auction, provided 5,000 masks for vineyard workers and bilingual safety posters for work areas, along with a seven-page best safety practices manual for its 730 members.

"Throughout this process, we've wanted to ensure that agriculture can safely continue," Jennifer Putnam, NVG executive director and CEO told Wine Spectator. "We felt strongly that it was our responsibility to protect individual and public health, while providing employment."

NVG is also working on a plan to provide COVID-19 testing for farmworkers and give them every level of support if they test positive. The needs for protective gear and employment opportunities are still very high. The Harvest Stomp wine auction is scheduled to take place Aug. 29.

Florida's Gulf Coast is getting much needed help from Destin Charity Wine Auction. While their 15th annual celebration has been postponed until August, the organization is providing COVID-19 relief to the local community with an online fund-a-need that started on April 6.

"We said, let's reach out to our supporters for a fund-a-need for two weeks and generate whatever we can generate," John Russell, president of Destin Charity Wine Auction told Wine Spectator. "It turned out to be $21,600." Russell targeted three children's charities based on their needs: Opportunity Place, Food for Thought and Youth Village.

Animal rescue has also received attention from WineaPawlooza, a charity wine auction benefiting Jameson Animal Rescue Ranch in Napa. "There is a huge uptick in fostering and adopting from shelters," Monica Stevens, co-founder and CEO of WineaPawlooza, told Wine Spectator. "We have dedicated our COVID-19 resources, at least through 2020, to help families with pets in the Bay Area who have lost their jobs and cannot afford pet food."

Since March 11, the effort has provided food for over 2,500 pets in 13 cities. WineaPawlooza is also providing pet food through weekly food drives. The charity wine auction plans to go live and virtual on July 25.

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