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How a Grassroots Movement Raised $2,000,000 in Under a Year

COVID has shown us that we need to rethink much of how we support our community. We are the ones that care about our community — no one else. It’s up to us to step up and help our community.

— Krewe of Red Beans founder Devin De Wulf


The Krewe of Red Beans

The Krewe of Red Beans is a parade group created originally for Lundi Gras 2009. The idea was to take inspiration from different elements of New Orleans culture to celebrate the culinary tradition of Red Beans on Monday. For years, this group grew organically as a community organization.

The COVID-19 Pandemic caused major economic destruction to the New Orleans region since the majority of their economy relied on tourism. Middle school teacher by day and founder of The Krewe of Red Beans, Devin De Wulf, created a number of initiatives to leverage his personal network to help those in need.

  1. Feed the Front Line NOLA was the first initiative created to continuously send "food love" to the front line hospital heroes of New Orleans as they battled COVID-19.
  2. Feed the Second Line was created to put younger musicians to work driving their elders and at-risk culture-bearers door-to-clinic to get their COVID-19 vaccines.
  3. Hire a Mardi Gras Artist was formed to raise funds for laid-off carnival artists to give them work while bringing Mardi Gras magic to New Orleans neighborhoods.
  4. The Bean Coin, their most recent initiative, was created with a goal to save the neighborhood bars of New Orleans by creating a prepaid bar tab redeemable at local businesses all over the city.

Total Performance of These Campaigns

  • $2,000,000+ raised in under one year
  • $500,000+ raised on GiveForms
  • $575,156.24 given towards job creation 
  • 171 people employed
  • 49 local restaurants & coffee shops supported
  • 150 elders receive on-going groceries delivery

 

The Krewe of Red Beans paraded through the Bywater and Marigny on Lundi Gras in New Orleans, La. Monday, March 4, 2019. Photo by Matthew Hinton.

Keeping the New Orleans Economy & Culture Alive During a Pandemic

With the COVID-19 pandemic wreaking havoc on businesses across industries, forcing many out of business, Devin and the rest of the Krewe of Red Beans decided to step up and help. 

Using their dedicated parade fan-base, the Krewe of Red Beans launched their first initiative with a $60 food order and an Instagram post. 

Feed the Front Line NOLA - Serving & Feeding Front Line Hospital Workers

Feed the Front Line NOLA project began on March 16th and raised $1.2 million in only 6 weeks. During these weeks, over 90,000 meals were distributed to New Orleans hospital workers, alongside 12,230 coffee and cookie orders.

Jay Butler and Shonda McNeil at Joey K's on Magazine Street, one of the restaurants helping feed health care workers through #feedthefrontline, while getting a lifeline of business in take-out mode. Photo by Katie Sikora.


In this way, support was provided to health care providers on the front line (moral boosts in the form of “Food Love”), in addition to creating new delivery gigs for otherwise out-of-work musicians and providing a lifeline to local restaurants struggling to keep the lights on.

Feed the Second Line NOLA - Employing Jobless Musicians to Help the Elderly

In April 2020, “Feed the Second Line NOLA” was started up, creating a safety-net for New Orleans culture bearers. This initiative helped the elderly get groceries purchased and delivered to their homes while creating jobs for younger musicians and other culture bearers. In year 1, $130,000 worth of groceries was bought and $300,000 worth of jobs were created.

Krewe of Red Beans volunteer delivers food to local drummer Benny Jones, leader of the Treme Brass Band. Image courtesy of Katie Sikora.


In the summer, The Krewe of Red Beans had also created the Mask Up Raffle Drawing to help encourage mask-wearing in New Orleans to curb the spread of COVID-19.

For two weeks, volunteers went around different neighborhoods and surprised people that were wearing a protective mask with raffle tickets. In the end, the lucky winner won $10,000 for wearing a mask on the streets of New Orleans. In total, 3,500 masks and 600 raffle tickets were given out! Two weeks after their public health intervention mask-wearing increased 19% overall and in some areas, they saw mask-wearing nearly double in areas of the city that also had the highest COVID-positive rates. 

Devin De Wulf hands a ticket on July 20, 2020 to Paul Guillaume, entering him in a raffle for $10,000 for wearing a mask. Photo by Doug MacCash.

Hire a Mardi Gras Artist - Supporting New Orleans by Employing Out of Work Artists

On December 4th, Krewe of Red Beans also created a project “Hire a Mardi Gras Artist”, raising funds for laid-off carnival artists to give them work in the lead-up to the city’s COVID-carnival. With this initiative, they've raised a quarter of a million dollars to fund the decoration of 23 Mardi Gras house floats. This initiative created 48 jobs for Mardi Gras artists around the city and helped salvage the “COVID carnival”. 

Ariel Troxclair paints butterflies at the Rex Krewe Den for House Float #7, “Butterflies of Winter” at Mignon Faget. Photo by Ryan Hodgson-Rigsbee.

The Bean Coin - Saving Local Businesses Using Artist Creations as Currency

But the Krewe of Red Beans didn’t stop here. To help local businesses stay afloat, they came up with the “The Bean Coin”.

The Bean Coin is essentially a form of currency. People who contribute to the fund get physical Bean Coins or glass red beans which work as prepaid bar tabs redeemable at local businesses all over the city. 

“If we want to save our bars, this little piece of glass might be the best bet we have,” Krewe of Red Beans founder Devin De Wulf says. Photo courtesy of Nola Bean Coin.

For $10, supporters can buy a Bean Coin, the equivalent to a $10 bar tab at local joints. Customers can cash them in starting in 2021, presumably when the virus will be under control.

But local businesses don’t have to wait for the funds: 50% of the value is delivered now. This helps create a mechanism for grassroots donors to support treasured neighborhood bars today, helping them survive. Over time, it will morph into a shop-local campaign and  local job-creator. 

The Avenue Pub is one of the bars that will participate in the Krewe of Red Beans' new Bean Coin initiative, which aims to help local bars. Photo courtesy of Nola.com.

Challenges Finding the Right Fundraising Platform

To respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Krewe of Red Beans moved fast. Feed the Front Line was created first, bringing in a large number of donations quite quickly. 

To receive and process these donations, Devin had initially tried using Venmo, PayPal, and GoFundMe, but none of the platforms were a good fit.

  • Venmo doesn't support recurring donations.
  • PayPal made it difficult to track the campaigns donations were given towards.
  • Both Venmo and PayPal created another task for Devin — withdrawing money out of these platforms into his own bank account.
  • GoFundMe held tens of thousands of dollars in donations for over 60 days, forcing Devin to take out personal loans to pay for meals he had promised.
  • Additionally, using GoFundMe meant directing website visitors to a 3rd party website with no way back.  

Eventually, Devin and the Krewe needed a more robust and customizable online donation platform.

THE KREWE OF RED BEANS NEEDED A BETTER ONLINE FUNDRAISING SOLUTION THAT COULD:

  • Facilitate a simple, intuitive giving experience for their donors
  • Encourage donors to give monthly
  • Be easily managed by someone who isn’t tech-savvy
  • Easily collect donations using credit cards and PayPal on each of their different initiative websites
  • Automatically receive funds into their bank account

Though GiveForms offers direct deposit into your bank via Stripe, donations from PayPal still require manual withdrawals.

Finding the Right Fundraising Platform 

The Krewe of Red Beans was referred to GiveForms by a friend who  happened to be a web developer. He created the initiative websites and embedded a GiveForms donation form on each. According to Devin, using GiveForms was instrumental to their fundraising success because it solved issues he had with the other platforms. Devin stuck with GiveForms because:

  • Transaction fees were low
  • Funds were automatically transferred to a bank account
  • Multiple payment methods were offered on a single form
  • It helped keep track of donations and which campaign each was associated with
  • GiveForms didn't require redirecting to a 3rd party website

Key Ingredients of Success

Why was Devin, a middle school teacher with no prior fundraising experience successful?

  • He understood his target audience personally. He knew their needs and how to help.
  • He used photos and video effectively to tell his story.
  • He leveraged social media to tell stories, engage with donors (and keep them updated), and show the direct impact of donations by showing who they helped.
  • His storytelling was backed up with metrics to quantify the impact.
At the core of effective grassroots fundraising is storytelling. It’s key to focus on inspiring donors by making them feel empowered and a part of a cause. — Devin

GiveForms donation forms are easy to set up and use, so the team at the Krewe of Red Bean seamlessly embedded them on their project websites, allowing visitors to donate using credit cards, PayPal, Google Pay, and bank transfers. This ease of use, both by donors and the organizers, was appreciated by Devin and the team. You too can sign up for a free GiveForms account today.

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