In the weeks after doomsday (aka the 2016 presidential election), Liz Alpern felt all the feels—confusion, fear, blindsided despair. So she looked for comfort in the things she knows best: food and community. Alpern, 33, is a business owner, food educator (she co-runs The Gefilteria, an artisanal Jewish food company), and organizing powerhouse within Brooklyn’s queer community. And she had a hunch that soup might serve as the healing balm and rallying force she and others needed.
“I’d always dreamed of hosting a queer soup pop-up,” she says. “After the election, it became clear that people needed spaces that motivated and inspired them.” For the first event in January 2017, a local bakery and café donated their space, which partygoers piled into after hours, with a suggested donation of $10–20. They clinked soup bowls like cocktails, and raised more than $700 for CAIR-NY, an organization fighting for the civil rights of Muslim communities.
Since then, Queer Soup Night (queersoupnight.com) has morphed into a near-monthly party of resistance and resilience, raising an average of $1,200 for progressive organizations like the Trans Women of Color Collective, The Center for Anti-Violence Education, and The Youth Farm. The soups are serious, too. Local chefs make visionary bowls of coconut lentil stew, spicy tomato bisque with cumin broth, and Yemenite chicken soup with fenugreek, donating their time and expertise (though Alpern is happy to reimburse the cost of ingredients). The original Brooklyn happening has also inspired spinoffs in Gainesville, FL, and Portland, OR—locally organized fêtes that share in the vision of what Alpern calls, “joyful generosity.”
Going forward, Alpern says Queer Soup Night’s mission is to create new, intentional spaces for queer people and allies, and to reinvigorate local communities around common values. With a deeply divided country and vulnerable communities at ever-increasing risk, sipping a bowl of soup feels nothing short of revolutionary.
QSN’s Guide to Throwing a Unique Fundraiser
Hosting a fundraising event brings folks together while supporting a shared passion or cause. Here are Alpern’s tips for making it a smashing success.
1. Choose Your Thing + Find a Space
Whether it’s a food-oriented pop-up or a supercool DJ night, pick something you love that other people will want to pay for. A business or venue that supports your mission will be more inclined to donate their space.
2. Pick Your Peeps
“Identify two or three people who are as excited as you are and work closely with them,” Alpern says. The goal should be co-ownership of the project, not one person delegating. “If you start from a solid core, everything ripples out from there.”
3. Nail the Visuals
Whether you are planning a one-time event or an ongoing series, Alpern suggests enlisting a graphics maven to create strong marketing images. “You need a powerful visual cue,” she says, “because you will share it over and over.”
4. Bring the Party
“People come out to events mostly because they want to see friends and connect with new people,” Alpern says. Whatever the cause behind the evening, identify who you want there and make sure they find out about it.
5. Maximize Volunteer Time
Avoid grumpy volunteers by assigning specific jobs and using a shareable spreadsheet to chart who’s in charge of what, when. Public shout-outs at the event and personalized thank you notes afterward also help.
6. Evolve Organically
Whenever you start something new, Alpern says, “you have to be ready to pivot as you grow.” Ask for attendees’ feedback and incorporate it into future events. “Don’t be afraid of negative comments,” Alpern says. “That’s where you learn.”
By Leah Koenig
This article originally appeared in the October/November 2018 print issue of BUST. Subscribe today!
Top photo by Megan Krebs
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