What do Truth or Dare, a Virtual Supper Club and a First Birthday Party have in common? They’re all inventive routes some bloggers and social media accounts have taken to help raise funds for D.C.’s restaurant industry suffering from the financial tolls of Covid.
Truth or Drink
Known for their playful, innuendo-laced captions, the duo behind food-centric Instagram account @DistrictDelicious knew they wanted to inject some of that personality into their fundraising efforts.
“We challenged ourselves to think about how we could use our account to make a difference,” notes co-founder Kristen Dominguez. “We’ve also always had a sort of risque brand and voice… We wanted to explore how we could infuse a personal element and do something on brand.”
Thus the idea for their Truth or Drink fundraiser was born. Similar to truth or dare, it featured account co-founders Dominguez and Aparna Raj asking questions to each other, ranging from embarrassing dating experiences to food-specific queries on Instagram Live as followers, fans and curious watchers alike tuned in.
Dominguez and Raj chose Restaurant Opportunities Center D.C. (ROC-D.C.), a multiracial organization with the mission to empower restaurant workers through advocacy, justice campaigns, job training and research, as the beneficiary of their fundraising efforts.
“We knew we wanted to support the local D.C. community and directly impacted restaurant workers as much as possible. ROC-D.C. seemed like the perfect way to achieve both of those objectives,” Dominguez says.
“They’re such strong advocates for restaurant workers, and it was really important to us to support organizations that prioritized the workers themselves,” Raj adds.
The Instagram Live event was part-interactive game show, part-reality TV, and all entertainment for a good cause, but the best part? Funds were still being raised while the event was happening.
“During the event, if there was a question that Kristen or I didn’t want to answer, we would take a shot [of alcohol],” Raj says. “But if there was one we were on the fence about answering, we would offer up a donation amount that we would be willing to answer it for. For example, one question was about my most embarrassing date, and I said I would answer it for $50, so when enough people donated money across our GoFundme and our Venmo to total $50, I would have to answer it. We ended up raising about another $600 over the course of the event.”
All in all, the duo raised over $3,000 for ROC-D.C. And although there are no definite plans for a Truth or Drink round two, Dominguez and Raj do intend to keep utilizing their platform to help support the restaurant industry.
“We’ll definitely keep coming up with fundraisers or initiatives to support people in food,” Raj says. “When you have an influential platform, you’re obligated to use it in a more meaningful way. We will definitely continue to direct our resources and our platform to bring attention and fundraising for different organizations, and I just hope that other accounts and platforms also continue to do so after these issues fade from the news.”
T-Shirts and Supper Clubs
Pre-pandemic, Kyley McGeeney could be found eating her way through the D.C. Michelin Guide, documenting the journey on her aptly named @MissionMichelin Instagram account, while also playing the role of hostess extraordinaire for her Woodmoor Supper Club meals. The intimate dining experience hosted at her Silver Spring home features a range of chefs from up-and-comers to those helming the kitchens of Michelin-starred restaurants alike. Needless to say, food and restaurants are near and dear to McGeeney and when the pandemic hit, she supported the industry through monetary donations and co-sponsoring Coconut Club’s market for industry workers. However, she soon realized that by tapping into her follower base and community, she could further the reach of her support.
“The best way for me to have a real impact was to work to amplify my efforts by getting other people involved,’ McGreeney says. “This started with the t-shirt fundraiser but then was also the inspiration for the “Virtual” Woodmoor Supper Club.”
She was confident hardcore foodies would be interested in branded t-shirts of some of their favorite restaurants, but by offering a product versus advocating for a generic donation fund, she was hoping to tap into a wider audience.
“By providing a tangible good [the t-shirt], I thought I might have better luck getting a wider net of folks involved in the fundraising effort, [with the goal of reaching] those who are a little less wrapped up in the food scene.”
She ended up producing t-shirts for local restaurants Reverie, Bresca, Maketto and Three Blacksmiths raising nearly $1,000 for them.
As Woodmoor Supper Club experiences a physical hiatus, McGeeney has been organizing virtual dinners in continued support of D.C.-area restaurants.
“Each week I organize a delivery from a different D.C. restaurant to Woodmoor [our neighborhood],” she says. “It started when I read that oyster beds were being choked by the abundant supply of oysters with drastically reduced demand. I organized with neighbors and we ordered 900 oysters from Rappahannock Oyster Company. The next week we ordered 37 dozen crabs from Captain Pell’s in VA. Then we moved to restaurants and each week we place anywhere from 10-30 orders with that particular restaurant.”
She hopes to resume in-personal meals soon, but until then, the virtual neighborhood dinners are her way of continuing to support by providing local restaurants with bulk orders.
Snapping photos of lifestyle and restaurant scenes from around the District, Kelli Scott of Instagram account @yesplsdc also felt compelled to support the restaurant industry during Covid. A new mom, over the course of the past year she had been documenting her daughter’s monthly milestones using doughnuts from Astro’s Doughnuts & Fried Chicken. With each month that passed by, her followers got to experience her daughter, Redding, grow up, accompanied by the number of doughnuts representing her age in months. As one year approached, Scott decided she would integrate her daughter’s first birthday and doughnuts into her fundraising efforts for ROC-D.C.
“We thought it was a little more personal than just donating; we love all the D.C. restaurants and it’s a big part of our lives,” Scott says.
To celebrate her daughter’s first birthday, she shared one last photo of Redding nestled in an Astro’s Doughnut Box with a dozen of the sweet treats as the final milestone photo of the year. The post was accompanied with a donation ask of $1 to mark her daughter’s first year celebration. By tapping into their respective social media networks (Scott’s husband is a journalist with a large following in his own right), the couple raised $1,000 to benefit ROC-D.C. For Scott, the final post was a way to say thank you to the industry that has already played a large role in her daughter’s first year of life.
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