Already home to an impressive number of nonprofit organizations, Santa Barbara is now headquarters for one of the more inventive philanthropy tools on the planet: Cultivate Wines, a company that sells fine wine from all over the world, sets aside 10 cents off every dollar earned, and then distributes $100,000 each quarter to the charities that get the most votes via cultivatewines.com. Though open to nonprofits everywhere, the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation, Santa Barbara Aquatics Club, and Storyteller Children’s Theater are Santa Barbara organizations that have participated in the past. Right now, Child Abuse Listening Mediation, or CALM, is one of the 30 groups vying for this quarter’s cash, with $50,000 going to first place and $10,000 going to each of the five runners-up.
The Give, as this program is called, is the brainchild of Ali and Charles Banks, who moved to Santa Barbara in 2000 when they purchased Jonata Winery but stuck around after selling that property a couple of years ago. The globally sourced wine selling part was inspired by the exotic apparel-finding J. Peterman catalog of the 1980s, but the philanthropy side is an example of “conscious or connected capitalism,” explained Ali, and she hopes the idea, which started last November, is contagious. “Our country as a whole needs entrepreneurs to take responsibility for the future and the revival of the American economy,” she explained. “If we can be successful and be a responsible exercise using wine, hopefully we inspire other businesses to do the same thing.”
The response from the nonprofit community has been “incredibly positive,” said Banks, but she warned that it does require a full-scale campaign. “You cannot wine depending on just the public to choose your cause and vote,” she advised. “You have to spread the word.”
And it’s turning heads in the wine world too, with more than 100,000 visits to the site each month. “There’s not a lot of wineries getting that kind of traffic,” said Banks. “Every winery tells the same Mad Libs — your aspect and your soils and your stainless steel tanks — but, really, every winery story is almost the same. With Cultivate and The Give, we put a story in the glass, but we really want the story of Cultivate to happen after. What do you do with those wines? What does The Give inspire in other lives? It’s much more of an ongoing story of us and our wine.”
To vote for Child Abuse Listening Mediation (CALM), see cultivatewines.com today.