We’re really excited that Risa Sherman, Manager Philanthropy and Cause Marketing at The Boston Beer Company will be joining us as Keynote Speaker at the Net Impact Boston Annual Meeting on Tuesday October 21st, 6.30 pm.
For almost two decades, Risa Sherman has helped companies, brands and nonprofits advance their missions and differentiate themselves through breakthrough cause campaigns. Her areas of expertise include strategic philanthropy, cause marketing, public/private partnerships, employee volunteerism, and corporate social responsibility. At The Boston Beer Company, Risa oversees all philanthropy including the company’s focus initiative, Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream, a program she helped create in 2007 as a consultant to the brand.
How did you first become interested in social issues and the role of business in tackling them?
Social justice is a big part of the way I was raised and is definitely in the DNA of our family. My Dad has been a life-long social justice advocate and activist and so world issues were always part of lively debate at dinner, over the Sunday paper and whenever he was involved in something particularly compelling. We were made to read the newspaper at an early age and were always encouraged to help change something we felt was unjust. In college I knew that, while I was a good writer and communicator, my life’s work would always have a social purpose.
How have philanthropy and cause marketing evolved since you first became involved with them?
I had the good fortune to “grow up” with these evolving disciplines. When I first became involved in this work, cause marketing was really catching on as a way to drive sales. That said, the potential for brands and companies to align over the long term had barely been discussed – people thought cause marketing was revolutionary. Then, in the late nineties, signature corporate cause programs began to emerge in the marketplace and it seemed like the whole discipline exploded with creativity; there was more of a focus on strategy, brand building and achieving long-term social outcomes. Now companies are looking at their core values and operationalizing against them to make their businesses and social endeavors truly sustainable – it’s a really exciting time for the field.
What’s the most interesting/most fun aspect of your job?
So many things. Being able to say “yes” to a donation request is up there. The first check I approved for a nonprofit in my first month of work moved me to tears. I was hugging the nonprofit partner and thanking her for letting us make the donation. I think she thought I was nuts! I also love being able to work so closely with the small business owners we support through the Brewing the American Dream program and joining them on their inspiring journeys. When one of them has a success, our whole team here at Samuel Adams celebrates; and conversely, when there is a challenge, we try to rally around them and see what we can do to help. The Brewing the American Dream team – Samuel Adams, our partner Accion, and the business owners – are like a family and I love having that as part of my job.
What is it about Brewing the American Dream that you are most proud of?
There are a few dozen business owners who we have worked with over the years who are doing really well. They’ve been able not only to change their lives, but also the lives of their employees and neighbors. It’s that really tangible improvement in quality of life that makes me the most proud. I also have to say that I am immensely proud of my colleagues at Boston Beer. They are so committed to sharing their talents with others. Whether we’re here in Boston or with our sales team in Seattle or pretty much anywhere, they are so enthusiastic, generous and committed to helping others. When people come away from our coaching events and say “Doug really helped me with my packaging” or “I learned so much from Sally” or “Ashley gave me some really practical advice I can put to work tomorrow,” my heart just swells with pride.
What are the company’s goals for the program going forwards?
Simple: Help more small business owners achieve personal economic stability, create local jobs and be able to do what they love. We are a very happy company created by a man who often says “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” If people can do that, and help create opportunity for their families and employees, we can’t ask much more.
What advice would you give to people wanting to pursue a career in corporate philanthropy/cause marketing?
There’s just so much opportunity in the field and its evolving so rapidly. Read everything you can, every day. Stay on top of the trends and pick a job where you think you can learn and grow. It doesn’t need to be perfect, but if it gives you exposure and an opportunity to learn about one corner of this universe, it is time well spent.
What’s your favorite Sam Adams brew?
That’s hard…there are so many, but let me take a stab…Rebel IPA, Latitude 48, Noble Pils, Chocolate Boch (but it’s hard to find). I also love some of the smaller batch stuff from the Barrel Room Collection like Tetravis and 13th Hour. And then I also love the Angry Orchard Ciders…all of them! Look we make about 60 liquids a year. I could try something new every week of the year and still not hit them all! It’s a hard job, but someone’s got to do it, right?
Join us at the Net Impact Boston Annual Meeting on Tuesday October 21, 6.30pm to hear more from Risa and provide input on our past activities and future plans. Look forward to seeing you there!