The Barman’s Fund
How often do you consider forking over an entire paycheck to charity? It would be a tall order for most people to pull off, yet bartenders across the country are signing up to do just that, and the collective impact has been enormous.
The Barman’s Fund is a simple concept. Participating bartenders and servers each pick one night per month and donate all of their tips from that night to the fund. The pooled money is then donated, usually on a monthly basis, to a local organization in the form of tangible goods or wish-list needs. For example, at the New York City chapter $540 bought playground toys for a special needs second grade class in Bed-Stuy, $978 paid for furniture for the Park Slope Women’s Shelter, and $560 bought diapers, wipes and formula for the CHiPS community shelter in Park Slope.
The idea was initially Brian Floyd’s, who was bartending at The Vanderbuilt in 2011 when an earthquake and tsunami hit Japan. Floyd decided to donate all the tips he earned that night to the Red Cross. His roommate, also a bartender, loved the idea, and quickly, Floyd had inspired half a dozen bartenders to follow suit. Today the Barman’s Fund has chapters in New Orleans, Los Angeles, Palm Beach, Charlotte, Austin and Jackson, Mississippi.
Hilary Krishnan, who works at Proletariat and No. 7, now heads up the New York City branch. “On any given month, we have about 10 to 15 participating bartenders,” she says. “But the organization as a whole has well over 100 people at any given time.”
While the numbers may seem small compared to other charitable organizations, it’s impressive given the volunteer-only nature and minimal infrastructure. It also ensures that 100 percent of the money raised goes directly back into the community. “We have no overhead,” says Krishnan. “We take the pooled money from the month and decide where to use it based on wish lists that we receive. At one point we saved all the money from three or four months and we helped buy a colposcope for the Mt. Sinai Adolescent Center, which was like a $10,000 purchase.”
Donations must remain non-political and be used directly toward goods and services that help people within the community. “We prefer to keep our donations tangible, so we know definitively that out hard-earned monies are not being wasted,” says David Naser, who heads up the New Orleans chapter. “Our total donations, including all chapters since inception, are well over $200,000.”
During Negroni Week, all money donated to the Barman’s Fund will go directly into the tip pool, which will then return to the community. “What we always say is that you don’t have to be a doctor or a social worker to give back to your community,” says Krishnan. “You can plant your butt on a barstool and do some good.”