In Conversation with Go Fund Bean

While our annual holiday coffee, Rockefeller, is always rooted in what this season means to us, this year in particular we wanted to focus—both in cup as well as spirit—on compassion, intention, and giving. To make this coffee a standout, we teamed up with Go Fund Bean to double down on supporting our greater network of essential hourly coffee workers. Go Fund Bean is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting, uplifting, and defending baristas nationwide. Established in the early days of the COVID-19 to support folks put out of work by the pandemic, the organization has grown to so much more over the last year—mentorship, free mental health care, disaster relief grants, and more. For each bag of Rockefeller sold, we’ll donate $1 to Go Fund Bean.

Ahead of the holidays, we sat down with the team at Go Fund Bean to learn more about the critical work they do for the industry, how they remain motivated to keep pushing forward, and what they see for the future of the organization and baristas everywhere.

Pictured above: Adam JacksonBey, Founder of Go Fund Bean.

Q: Who and what is Go Fund Bean and what does it do?

A: Go Fund Bean is an organization that supports, uplifts, and defends the hourly coffee worker. We do that through a variety of ways including through direct aid, like our Grants program and Disaster Relief program; through supporting hourly coffee worker’s mental health with our Stay Grounded Initiative, our talk therapy program, and Get Psyched, a collaboration with Umeshiso to help provide and through professional development; and with our Bean Development classes and Bean for Bean, our mentorship program.

Q: What prompted the formation of Go Fund Bean? How has the organization evolved since its formation?

A: We started on March 17th, 2020, right at the beginning of the pandemic, when out of work baristas were sharing [virtual] tip jars to help them make ends meet in the face of massive layoffs. We were promoting their tip jars, trying to get attention to them beyond their communities. About a month into that, we were contacted by a couple of companies that wanted to donate to Go Fund Bean and have us disburse the money to the baristas ourselves. We incorporated as a nonprofit so that we could be best positioned to do this. 

How we’ve evolved over the past year and a half has a simple answer: we’ve grown. We’ve stayed true to our guiding principles—supporting, uplifting, and defending hourly coffee workers. We’ve taken a hard look at what that really means and used that answer to grow what we can do as an organization, starting with giving out grants to hourly coffee workers impacted by COVID and adding more programs as we went along. We have a very holistic view of what it means to support, uplift, and defend.

Q: What would you say have been the biggest challenges across the lifetime of the organization? It strikes us that you’ve had to put active collaboration into practice, which is a little bit of a difficult thing to do sometimes. How have you collectively navigated through ups and downs?

A: The biggest challenge we’ve had is that we’ve grown extremely quickly and it has been hard to try to scale that growth while maintaining the same level of care, but manageable. We’re lucky to have a responsive, attentive, and active Board of Directors that is able to guide the future of the organization. They continue to provide support to help us set up structures, which allows us to grow quickly and efficiently. 

Active collaboration is a hard thing to do sometimes, but one thing that is special about this generation of coffee professionals and organizations is that we want to work together. Competition isn’t part of it. We’ve been lucky to support and be supported by other organizations within the industry: CCRE, Getchusomegear, and Glitter Cat, to name a few, that have helped us grow and allowed us to bounce ideas off each other and work together in both formal and informal ways. 

Q: What are some of the challenges and successes you see within the coffee industry today as a whole? (This may also get at the underlying question…how are you defining “the coffee industry” for your organization’s purposes?)

A: The biggest challenge we see in the industry is the same it’s always been: a lack of support for workers at both ends of the supply chain. Both the producers and the hourly coffee workers are integral to coffee worldwide, and our industry could not exist without them, yet they’re the lowest paid members of our value chain. We feel as though they should be supported in every way possible, and the best way to do that is through collaboration and collective action on both ends of the supply chain. 

Q: Is there anything related to Go Fund Bean that speaks most to your heart, that you’re most passionate about, or see yourselves as being most uniquely capable to accomplish?

A: We love our mission because it’s simple but powerful: support, uplift, defend. One thing that we are going to spend the next year or so working on doing better is defending the hourly coffee worker. Hourly coffee professionals face many challenges, and figuring out how to be reactive and supportive, through work such as our grant program, has been easy. Now we are focused on being more proactive to give hourly coffee workers structure and a framework to be better in this industry. We’re doing this through our Bean Development classes, Bean for Bean mentoring, and the mental healthcare Stay Grounded Initiative. We also have an upcoming Advisory Committee that will be made up of current hourly coffee workers.

Q: What’s the future for the organization?

A: Ideally, our goal is to no longer be needed! The programs that we have been doing, are doing, and will be doing in the future should already be in place for hourly coffee workers, whether that’s through the government or their employers. Until that day comes however, Go Fund Bean will be focused on collaboration and growth. We want to collaborate with more organizations and companies in order to help more hourly coffee workers reach their full potential within this industry and as individuals.

If you are or someone you know is an hourly coffee worker in need of emergency financial assistance, training, or mentorship, or if you would like to make a contribution to support the work of Go Fund Bean, please visit their website here.

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