Grammy-winner Brandi Carlile has been making unknowing humanitarians out of her fans for more than a decade, and it started with a simple pledge: Since 2008, Carlile has donated a dollar from each ticket sold to the Looking Out Foundation, a nonprofit organization she founded with her bandmates, Tim and Phil Hanseroth. Eleven years later, the foundation is expanding to include profits from XOBC Cellars — a wine club created and curated by Carlile, through which 100% of the Carlile’s profits benefit the Looking Out Foundation.
Looking Out began based on Carliles’ desire to make a difference. When the foundation began, the Maple Valley resident had not yet reached her current level of fame and international recognition.
“They were a very small band at the time,” said Catherine Carlile, Brandi’s wife and the executive director of Looking Out, “And they were approached to have one of their songs in a General Motors commercial. They were concerned about the environmental impact of those cars at the time and they turned it down on principle.”
It was a big thing to pass on because the commercial would have provided the band with the exposure they needed to make their national debut, Catherine Carlile said. The band eventually agreed to the commercial, with the caveat that their songs could only be used in a commercial advertising environmentally friendly cars. With the money they received, they began the Looking Out Foundation.
“They donated all of that money to environmental grassroots organizations,” said Catherine Carlile. With that, the foundation was born. For 11 years they have continued to donate money to a variety of grassroots organizations and nonprofits around the U.S.
The foundation is designed to be “nimble to the ever-changing needs of the human race and adapt to support the diverse demographic [they] serve,” the Looking Out Foundation touts in its mission statement.
The organization changes their donation focus depending on which city the band is in, who reaches out to the foundation or what national issue captures their attention, said Amy Andrews, board member of the foundation and a partner in XOBC cellars.
“Brandi and Catherine are able to find smaller nonprofits in addition to the global causes they support through their travels and Brandi’s concerts,” Andrews said.
The Carliles use the foundation to mobilize fans to advocate for the causes they believe in.
“The demographic of fans is very interesting,” said Carlile. “They’re all activists. They inform us, they galvanize us instead of it being the other way round quite often.”
A few years ago, the Carliles had a campaign where they recruited volunteers to man a booth for a grassroots organization of their choice during one of Brandi’s shows. It was a way to mobilize their fans, to show they could make a difference and bring issues they cared about to light without asking people to donate their life savings.
“I think Brandi’s fans have always been much more about rolling their sleeves up and volunteering rather than being able to make huge donations,” said Carlile. “We have to turn down volunteers, it’s crazy. We’re really lucky to have this enthusiasm and support.”
XOBC cellars is the next step in the Carliles’ mission to involve their fans in issues that matter to them. Over the past three years, the Looking Out Foundation has partnered with War Child UK and Children in Conflict to launch “The Story“campaign: a movement to share the stories of children that have been affected by war and fund protection for their families. The Carliles are hoping to reach their fundraising target of $1 million by the end of this year; the wine club is one way to expand the reach of that campaign.
“A lot of people have the desire to give back but with the wine club they can also get something back,” said Andrews.
Andrews and her wife, Jeri Andrews, helped curate XOBC cellars. The Carliles and the Andrews’ were chatting and sharing a bottle of wine one evening when the idea arose. The name XOBC came naturally — it’s the way Brandi signs her emails and letters. A wine club seemed like a perfect opportunity to encourage a steady stream of donations to the foundation. It’s creative, fun, and as an added bonus, Brandi loves wine.
They partnered with winemaker Sean Boyd and blended their own wine in Walla Walla. The Carliles chose a custom blend and ended up with three wines that Brandi named after her two daughters, Elijah (a Grenache) and Evangeline (a Rose), and her wife Catherine (a syrah).
“We wanted to illustrate how personal it was. We hope that our daughters will inherit the foundation from us and improve upon it and be as passionate about the foundation as we are,” said Carlile.
The members of the wine club, named “Collectors”, will receive either a six-bottle allocation or a 12-bottle allocation in the fall and spring. The first group of wines will be bottled in August and sent out to collectors in September. There are a limited number of memberships due to a limited amount of the fruit in the Walla Walla valley. Collectors will be chosen on a first-come, first-served basis, said Andrews.
“We just want to have a ripple effect out there in the world,” said Carlile. “We feel like the need is ever changing and therefore so is our focus. And it wouldn’t be possible without the fans.”
For more information on XOBC cellars and the wine club, visit xobccellars.com