The Barman's Fund is Drinking With a Purpose

People in a food bank with a cart full of supplies.
After dedicating a shift's worth of tips to charity, members of The Barman's Fund in New Orleans buy supplies for the NO/AIDS Task Force's food pantry. Photo courtesy of The Barman's Fund.

The Barman’s Fund has a slogan and motive that are hard to argue with: “Drink with purpose.” Its many members encourage this mission by dedicating one shift per month to a specific cause, and then donating all those tips to the charity in the form of deliverable goods.

Brian Floyd started the first chapter in Brooklyn at Freddy’s Bar and Backroom in 2011 when he wanted to do something to help with tsunami relief in Japan. “They got the idea to just donate their tips,” David Naser of the New Orleans chapter tells me. “‘Hey, I'll work for free at night. Whatever you guys throw in the bucket, I'll donate to the cause.’ That's how the Barman's Fund was born.”

From there, it’s grown to include chapters in New Orleans, Louisiana; Jackson, Mississippi; Los Angeles, California; Palm Beach, Florida; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Austin, Texas. The only chapter that is an official, 501(c)(3)-licensed nonprofit is in New Orleans, which has a nine-person board, and since their formation, they’ve donated time, goods and services to over 40 charities in the city. From The Edible Schoolyard to Girls on the Run to the NO/AIDS Task Force, their support has been expansive. Their website allows city residents to keep up with which bartenders at specific bars will be donating their tips, as well as see where the month’s collected money will go. Right now, it’s Second Harvest Food Bank, First Grace United Methodist Church and the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center.

Kids in a garden holding books. Among the organizations that have received help from The Barman's Fund, Kids Rethink New Orleans Schools received graphic novels purchased with money raised in a single shift. Photo courtesy of The Barman's Fund.

“We rotate our charities monthly,” explains Naser, who says they try to support two to three local nonprofits per month. “We all just pool our tips together and purchase tangible items. All we require of the recipients of our donations is a wish list of items, because we'd like keep it tangible.” Members then go shopping to purchase the goods with the money they’ve made, then deliver these in person. “It makes a difference,” he notes. In 2015, Naser says the New Orleans Fund alone brought in $64,000.

Another way that the Barman’s Fund helps out is by providing free labor to fundraisers and school functions so that nothing has to come out of the organization’s bottom line. “Last Thursday night, myself and three other bartenders went and worked a fundraiser for Morris Jeff Community School,” he says, adding that New Orleans is still in a process of rebuilding. “A lot of construction costs, a lot of schools still being opened up. They're in the hole, of course, because they just built this giant building. So they did a fundraiser, and instead of them having to pay for bartenders to come work, we went and worked it for free.”

Going above and beyond for the community is a huge point of pride for Naser, who’s been involved since day one at the end of 2011. Giving back, for this bartender, hasn’t been a one-way street: “It's been a real blessing on me as well.”

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