One of the ways we live out our purpose of fostering human connection is through serving others – leveraging our hands and our brands to make a material impact on the communities around us.
Since its inception, the mission of the Get Comfortable program has been to channel the generosity of many toward the greatest local needs. To serve as a unifying anchor in the business community to both drive awareness and coordinate philanthropic resources for the nonprofits who are doing the most pressing work.
In 2021, we made the decision to tether all community impact fundraising to 1% of annual revenue – both simplifying and accelerating our giving mechanism. The predictability of this model enabled us to transition Get Comfortable from an input-focused (x dollars distributed) to an impact-focused model capable of moving a specific community priority metric from x to y during a specified period of time.
Proceeding with this new model, we approached our Get Comfortable Advisory Council – a consortium of community leaders and social services professionals – to help us identify that single area of focus to which we could direct our resources and energies over the next five years, with the aim of achieving measurable impact.
With the guidance of this group, we selected early literacy as the first multi-year impact area, focusing specifically on 3rd-grade reading proficiency as our metric of success.
Literacy is more than just an educational issue. Studies show that the prevalence of early literacy has either positive or negative long-term effects: contributing to increased employment and economic development on the one hand, or predictive of poverty and incarceration rates on the other.
For the next five years, our Get Comfortable program is committed to increasing the percentage of Clarke County 3rd-grade students reading at grade level from 20% to 60%.
Check out our partners who are helping us meet this goal!
3rd grade is when students go from ‘learning to read’ to ‘reading to learn.’
In 2021, 20% of Clarke County 3rd graders were reading at grade level.
A non-proficient reader in 3rd grade is unlikely to graduate from high school.
The average high school dropout has a negative net fiscal contribution to society.
From 2022 to 2024, we’re conducting a pilot program at H.B. Stroud Elementary, with the aim of achieving a proof of concept that we plan to subsequently roll out district-wide. We’ve locked arms with Books For Keeps – a local agency aimed at reducing literacy loss – to launch our Literacy Mentorship program. Through this partnership, Creature employees and community volunteers are oriented, trained, and paired with select 2nd or 3rd-grade H.B. Stroud students for the duration of the school year. Each weekly one-on-one session is dedicated to expert-developed reading games and activities. As a result of this intervention, each participating student is exposed to an additional hour of literacy instruction every week.
The structure of our Get Comfortable program has evolved as we continue to learn more about how to best serve our communities’ most pressing needs. Come along with us on the journey across the years!
The program was initiated by several passionate employees who began by producing an annual rotating Get Comfortable IPA release as its primary fundraiser. In its inaugural year – only our second as a brewery – the program raised and distributed $1,800 to a short list of agencies curated by the Community Connection of Northeast Georgia, who at the time managed our city’s 211 Helpline.
By year two, Get Comfortable ramped up its rigor by selecting its agency recipients using an RFP (request-for-proposals) circulated to agencies working in the areas of hunger, homelessness, and poverty. That same year, we also enlisted the help of the United Way of Northeast Georgia for proposal review and agency selection.
As the scope of this program continued to expand – from $65,000 distributed in 2016 to nearly $120,000 in 2017 – it became clear we needed an individual full-time dedicated to this work. Matt Stevens joined our team in late 2017 as our first-ever Community & Culture Director, taking on the future direction of Get Comfortable.
With dedicated support, Get Comfortable grew into a year-round campaign, assembled the Get Comfortable Advisory Council – comprising representatives from United Way, local government, Envision Athens, the Community Foundation, and the Athens Wellbeing Project, – and worked to align the generosity of 60+ other businesses for these efforts. 2018 community support tallied up to more than $450,000.
More changes came in 2019 when the annual Get Comfortable IPA release was elevated into a collaboration project with breweries we admire. This shift helped both to raise awareness for this initiative and to drive excitement behind each unique release, choosing Russian River Brewing Company as our inaugural collaborator.
Even the Covid-19 pandemic couldn’t slow the program’s momentum in 2020. We brought two new employees into this work (Ally Hellenga, our Community Manager, and Fenwick Broyard, our VP of Community Impact), goBeyondProfit presented us with their Champion Award, we were excited to collaborate with Allagash Brewing Company for our annual Get Comfortable IPA release, and $532,068 was generated in support of our 12 beneficiaries.
With 2021 came two massive programmatic shifts. We made the strategic decision to tether all community impact fundraising to 1% of annual revenue and set out with our new goal of identifying a specific community priority to channel that toward. Continuing with our yearly IPA release, we loved collaborating with Sierra Nevada for the 2021 release.
In 2022 we were thrilled to collaborate with Bell’s Brewery for our Get Comfortable IPA release. Not only was our collaboration partner a highlight, but by the close of the year, Get Comfortable was nearing three million dollars in total community impact! We hope you continue to follow along as we work toward making a lasting, measurable change in the community we love so much.