An Overview of Revenue and Expenses for Homebrew Clubs

By Chris P. Frey,  Ann Arbor Brewers Guild & AHA Governing Committee member

Club funds allow homebrew clubs to support a variety of activities. A club’s priorities depend on whether the club is just starting or long-established. One of the most entrusted positions within a club is that of club treasurer, for which careful tracking of all expenses and revenues is essential.

Because many homebrew clubs are relatively small, the first challenge for many clubs is finding an appropriate financial institution that will set up an account in the club’s name. Many banks will not do this. Credit unions can be more flexible, but if all else fails, a checking account can usually be opened in both the club treasurer’s and president’s names. As members vote for new officers, this typically requires all names on the account (old and new) to visit the depository institution to meet and sign off on the changes. While logistically challenging, the value of a simple checking account for a club can’t be overstated, as it allows a great deal of flexibility and accountability.

Let’s now turn to common revenue and expense sources for homebrew clubs.

Dues

The primary source for many club’s revenue is membership dues, which members usually pay annually. Clubs can also pro-rate dues. In one of the clubs where I am currently the treasurer (Ann Arbor Brewers Guild – AABG), dues are $15 a year. This equals $1.25 a month, so if a new member joins during the year, it is easy to determine what they owe. However, for members who delay renewing (say in March for the year), we continue to ask them for the full year’s dues.

Additionally, over the years, we have developed different classes of membership.

  • Family membership: For $20 a year, a family membership has been offered because many members’ spouses, roommates, and/or significant others didn’t actively participate in the monthly meetings, but wanted to join a club’s annual barbecue or obtain separate local homebrew supply discount cards (a member benefit) so that they could purchase gifts with the club discount for their friends or partners.
  • Discounted long-term membership – We developed this membership level for members who wished to pay for several years in advance. While the discount is small ($40 for 3 years for an individual membership, $50 for a 3-year family membership), it provides members the option to prepay, save a little money, and beef up the clubs treasury. I have learned two important lessons about money: 1. More is better than less, and 2. Now is better than later!
  • Out-of-state membership – The AABG has been around since 1986, and the club’s email distribution list is an important channels for members to stay in touch, so several members who have moved out of state have requested to stay members. For these members, we created this form of discounted membership, which is $15 for three years or $50 for life.
  • Non-paying members – We allow people to request to be on the email distribution list, but until they are a member in good standing, they can only receive the club emails and cannot post to the distribution list.
  • Free membership – We have developed two free memberships.
    • The first is for exceptional service to the club or the homebrewing community: honored guests, competition organizers, whatever is deemed appropriate.
    • The second is for members who have fallen into hard times, such as losing their jobs. Because of the sensitivity of the later class, members just have to attest to the treasurer that this is the case. They can elect to pay back dues when they get back onto their feet again or not. The idea is that after one loses their job, it would be adding insult to injury if they had to prioritize other more basic necessities and lose the camaraderie and friendship of the club.

And here is a tip to encourage members to pay their dues. A day or two before each club meeting, the treasurer sends out a note through the club email distribution list. I simply title mine “The Good List.” Almost every month I receive stragglers’ dues this way.  And we also accept PayPal and simply add the transaction fee to the amount.

Sell AHA Memberships

The American Homebrewers Association’s web banner program allows homebrew clubs to generate revenue for themselves by encouraging their members to join the AHA through a custom hyperlink. For every person who joins through that link, the AHA will mail the club a rebate check on a quarterly basis. To sign up for the web banner program, or to find out more information, visit the Generate Revenue page on Club Connection.

Merchandise Sales

Anyone who has attended local beer festivals, taken part in Homebrew Con, or just walked into a local brewpub has probably spied someone wearing an article of clothing with a homebrew club logo on it. Virtually all homebrewing clubs come up with a name and a logo, and attaching these to a variety of items acts both as a source of pride and a form of marketing for the club. Selling these items to club members should also be a source of revenue.

The most popular logo’ed merchandise item is the club shirt. T-shirts and polos are great ways for members to display their club affiliation. Hats, children’s clothing, and infant-wear are other possibilities.

Additionally, tasting glasses engraved with the club logo (and perhaps 1- and 2-ounce pour lines) are a great way to encourage moderation and show off the club logo. Business cards with the club’s logo, website, and meeting information can also work terrifically in generating leads from current members.

These are some of the most common merchandise items. Clubs typically round up in $5 increments based on the costs. Shirts can be a difficult proposition for a fledgling club, as the discounts usually occur around the two- or three-dozen mark. Getting pre-order commitments is the best way to go so that the club treasury can bear the upfront purchase, but then reap some dividends at subsequent meetings as the shirts are sold off. It is usually a good idea to order some extras as well for future members,

Host a Competition

If the club has the inertia and resources (both in up-front funds and access to certified beer judges), a competition is not only a great fund raiser, but allows for a group activity that is rewarding on multiple levels. It can take a couple of years to generate the number of entries necessary to break even and then earn some funds, but it also allows members to participate in judging, stewarding, and pre-events such as calibrating their expectations.

50/50 Raffles

An easy way to supplement the club’s coffiers is to purchase a roll of raffle tickets and sell these at the meeting. A dollar apiece, six for $5 allows members to participate in a game of chance whereby they can win half the pot, and the club earns the other half. Please make sure that you review your local regulations regarding this activity to ensure compliance with the law.

Silent Auctions

A great way for members to get rid of their unwanted equipment or excess ingredients, a silent auction can also be held in junction with a club event such as a beer-becue or holiday party. A member asks their local homebrew supplier to see if they have any items that they are willing to donate to the cause. Simply place the available items on a table with a signup sheet for each one, and members can add their names and see which bid holds until the end.

Events

Most clubs host a variety of events. These can be annual beer-becues, holiday parties, brewing demonstrations, Big Brew day celebrations, pub crawls, and other events. Food is typically served at such events, and decorations, prizes, and other expenses can be incurred. It is up to each club to determine if these events will be gratis for paid-up members, or if they want to defray some or all of the expenses with an event fee. The obvious benefit of doing so is to offset some or all of the event’s expenses.

Expenses

Once the club has some funds, what are you going to spend them on? The wish list can be expanded ad infinitum, so I will only mention some of the better known expenditures that I have run into in my dealing with some local clubs.

  • All-grain system for club rental
  • Jockey box
  • Pop-up tent
  • Brewing-related book titles for a club library
  • Counter-pressure bottle filler
  • Shirts, hats, and other logo items for sale
  • Club banner for events
  • Business cards promoting the club
  • Club meeting space rental
  • Events
  • Thank-you gifts
  • Plaques and trophies for club competitions
  • Commercial examples of beer styles for calibration and educational purposes
  • Off-flavor sensory sampling supplies
  • Entry fees and postage for club-only competitions
  • Membership to a beer-of-the-month club
  • Flowers and gifts for members in good standing who suffer a loss
  • Name tags for meetings
  • Water bottles for demonstrations
  • Lamination device for ID Cards
  • Card stock
  • Club bar
  • Supporting local and state homebrew competition as a sponsor
  • Breathalyzer
  • Offset members entrance fee to a Homebrew Con
  • Port-a-potty for events
  • Postage for snail mail newsletters, club-only competitions, etc.

If you have any questions or suggestions, please contact the AHA Club Support Subcommittee.

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