DC BEER Event: An Opportunity for Relationship-Building

Posted on July 8, 2019 | Jenell Rosa, Weissberg Foundation

BEER event attendees took home a Unicorn Manifesto sticker as a reminder of why this work is so important. Photo credit: www.epicpartnerships.org

Last month, the Weissberg Foundation joined Grantmakers for Effective Organizations, Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers, Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy-DC,  United Philanthropy Forum, and Young Nonprofit Professionals Network DC to co-sponsor a DC BEER event. And by BEER, we mean “Beverage to Enhance Equity in Relationships,” a now annual event that is the brainchild of Vu Le, the truth-telling, humor-using, hummus-loving author of the Nonprofit AF blog.

According to Vu, BEER is “a time, usually on Summer Solstice, where nonprofit and philanthropic leaders can get a beer, ice cream, donuts, or perfectly blistered shishito peppers sprinkled with Maldon sea salt and a spritz of lime (we deserve nice things too!) and get to know one another without an agenda.” This year, BEER events took place all across the country, including Seattle, San Jose, St. Louis, Baltimore, Newark, Boston, and Lincoln, NE, just to name a few.

The Weissberg Foundation participates in events like BEER because they make it easy for funder and nonprofit folks to get together in an informal setting and chip away at the power dynamics so prevalent in our sector. They are a chance for us to get to know each other as humans and to explore common interests, share ideas, and make connections.

This year’s DC BEER event on June 21st was a happy hour at Tonic at Quigley’s, a fun, bright, and casual venue. Like most networking events, we were asked to wear nametags. Unlike most networking events, we were asked to include on those nametags our nonprofit unicorn names, generated by corresponding our initials and birth dates with a random assortment of fantastical descriptors, mythical roles, and nonprofit jargon. For example, my name is Rising Peaceful Dandelions, Face of Volunteers. To discover your nonprofit unicorn name click here. These unique and quirky names were quite the conversation starter, an easy to way to engage with everyone in the room.

The sights and sounds of people engaged in animated conversation while sharing food and drinks, though not groundbreaking, was truly energizing. There were so many lively conversations happening among like-minded people that, though informal, it felt like meaningful things could come out of them. The conversations ranged from what we were excited about for the weekend, to what each of us does at our organizations and in our communities, and even to what we do in our spare time (i.e., many favorite Netflix and Hulu series were discussed).

In the end, forty nonprofit folks and twenty funders attended the DC BEER event. We’d like to increase the number of funders showing up and see the mix closer to 50/50, so that will be a goal for next year. In any case, the popularity of the DC BEER event highlights the need to create more opportunities for informal relationship-building. There can be an unspoken pressure between funders and nonprofits, so events like BEER can help alleviate some of that. Can one happy hour dismantle funder-nonprofit power imbalances? Probably not, but it’s a low-stakes step in the right direction!

Jenell Rosa is a program assistant at the Weissberg Foundation, where she provides programmatic, communications, and administrative support to advance the foundation’s mission. Jenell’s commitment to democratic values and social justice started at home with family discussions and education on issues of human rights; her work over the past few years has allowed her passion for equity to flourish. One of Jenell’s favorite quotes (and words to live by) is from Jon Bon Jovi, “nothing is as important as passion. No matter what you want to do with your life, be passionate.” She believes passion is what fuels us to work for the change we believe is possible.

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