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Podcast 2.0

Pandemic And Beyond With Another Round Another Rally's Amanda Gunderson

We talk to Another Round Another Rally co-founder, Amanda Gunderson, about pivoting in a pandemic and the change that will result from it.

By: Tiff Christie|September 8,2021

If you’d asked anyone two years ago, what we would be doing today, slowly recovering from a global pandemic would probably not have been their first answer, but here we are.

But in a pandemic, like in any other disaster, it is the quick and the nimble, who are not only the most likely to survive, but will also be the most likely to be there to help those around them.

One such organization that jumped into the fray was Another Round, Another Rally, a fledgling non-for-profit when COVID struck, the group led by Amanda Gunderson and Travis Ness adapted pivoted and everything in between to help out the hospitality industry when they needed it most.

To find out how they managed it we talked to Amanda about the effects of the pandemic and what the future looks like for both the charity and the industry at large.

For more information, go to anotherroundanotherrally.org or conect with the nonprofit via its socials (Instgram, Facebook & Twitter)

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Tiff: If you'd asked anyone two years ago, what we would be doing today, slowly recovering from a global pandemic would probably not have been their first answer, but here we are.
But in a pandemic, like in any other disaster, it is the quick and the nimble, who are not only the most likely to survive, but will also be the most likely to be there to help those around them.
One such organization that jumped into the fray was Another Round, Another Rally, a fledgling non-for-profit when COVID struck, the group led by Amanda Gunderson and Travis Ness adapted pivoted and everything in between to help out the hospitality industry when they needed it most.
To find out how they managed it we talked to Amanda about the effects of the pandemic and what the future looks like for both the charity and the industry at large.
Thank you for joining us, Amanda,
Amanda: I'm happy to be here. Thanks for having me
Tiff: You and Travis started Another Round, Another Rally back in 2018. That must seem like a lifetime ago.
Amanda: It certainly does. Yeah, it certainly does. One of us was at a professional turning point in our lives and we'd started kicking around ideas of what to do, instead of just looking for new jobs here and there, like what would be the most meaningful thing.
And we saw this kind of hole in the industry here. It's very rare for somebody in the hospitality industry here to have. Health benefits. And it's also, there's a major discrepancy between the people who have the most high paying jobs and the people who don't. And that discrepancy also tends to go hand in hand with race and gender and sexual identity.
And so we have this idea to start this programming to help fill this hole. And then, two years in, when we were about to make a big splash within the industry we had to shut everything down because of the pandemic and we just went into GO mode.
Tiff: Another Round Another Rally was partly started as an emergency fund, why was that necessary?
Amanda: We'd seen over and over again, people with unforeseen brain cancer diagnosis, for example, or a car accident or, our industry here really functions on the hard work of immigrants. And so I had seen, one operator who had for the third time been going to court for one of her dishwashers to say, "Hey, please don't deport this person'.
And so we were really mostly focused on those types of emergencies, natural disasters as well. We're just in the process right now of putting together a major fundraising page for hurricane Ida, which just hit the south particularly Louisiana.
But, we really were thinking that, that was going to be the secondary piece of our two buckets of money that we would have these one-off moments of need, and that we could primarily focus on professional development. But when the pandemic hit, we just spent a year and a half just in triage mode, trying to get to as many people as we could.
Tiff: Talking about that second part, the professional development, you did very much focus on underrepresented communities.
Amanda: We've always had that focus there, it's something that both Travis and I could just see for ourselves in our workplaces respectively, that the white male tended to be given the biggest jobs, the most money-making positions.
And it was particularly hard for people who were immigrants, people of color, women, LGBTQ folks, people with disabilities. One of the statistics that we uncovered while we were working on this, is that for every $10, a white male makes in the hospitality industry, a black woman makes four, so 40% of the pay.
Yeah. So we're trying to close that gap a little bit. And a lot of times what can help close that gap is just giving somebody the tools that nobody else, none of their competitors have. Whether that's, certification programs, the CSS, the WSET bar five day, whatever it might be. Or maybe it's sending a young line cook to culinary school to really fulfill the dreams of maybe being an immigrant who one day wants to be on Top Chef, when we can help with those big dreams as well.
But really it's about getting the skills to the people who need them to be able to make a fulfilling career and make the money that they deserve.
Tiff: Now, when COVID hit, you obviously had to jump into forming the Pandemic Hospitality Relief Fund. How difficult was it transition to that?
Amanda: It was so ... Everything was on fire. It was just such a crazy time. On March 23rd, we were about to go into our biggest fundraiser that was going to be also our biggest splash within the bartending world. We were putting on a live event. And this was how we were planning to introduce ourselves to a bunch of bartenders and people within the hospitality world.
And that event was canceled and we just looked at each other and said, 'okay, we've raised this much money for this event. Even if that's all the money we give away, let's get into this and figure out how to put the money somewhere'. And we got very lucky because we were very careful about how we selected our board of directors.
And so we had people on the board that saw what was happening with us and jumped in and said, 'okay, here's how I can help'. One person in particular was a fellow named Jeremy Veatch, who is a consultant for a living for bringing small businesses to large businesses. So he might have a client, for example, who finds herself with her tiny business on Oprah's list of her favorite things.
And all of a sudden, they're just turning into a million dollar organisation overnight, because Oprah loves her notebooks or whatever it might be. And so he jumped in with us and he said, okay, look, you guys are going to go through the growing pains of two years worth of building a company in the next two weeks. So let's get in front of the problem.
And he was the one who really helped set us up with some of the infrastructural needs that we had to be able to start receiving large donations in the millions. Small donations, five or 10 bucks, but people who wanted to keep it in their various neighborhood, their city, their state, smaller liquor companies or beer makers who might want to keep the money that they're donating to us in their community.
He's the one who really came in and said, all right, this is the type of accountant you need. Here's someone I think you should get in touch with that. And we just started really reaching out. It was such a crazy time. Travis and I looked at each other a few times and we were like, how the universe really wants us to do this.
Because every time we had we had come up against something, we would just reach out to our network and somebody would be there to raise their hand and be like, oh, I have the solution to that problem. We were about to get our first big donations from Patrón and Campari who were extraordinarily generous. Not just with us, but with other organizations,and to the whole community. And not just in the United States, I feel like they really did a lot of work on a global level, but they were particularly kind with us and we needed a legal team, and it was just a connection of a connection.
And we were able to reach out and we have this wonderful legal team that has backed us as well. We just really raised our hand and said we need help. And every time we did that, there was somebody there to say, 'I got you'.
Tiff: Looking back, do you think that you guys were at all prepared for how much this would gear up?
Amanda: Yes, I do because we took two years really. And the first year was all sort of infrastructure building. So when we first thought we would do this, I remember it was the spring and Travis was in the middle of a job transition. And I was like, look, what if we did this thing? And then we just started going back and forth and batting around this idea.
And I was like, yeah, maybe we could have you working full time by August. Cut to two and a half years later and we finally had a full-time employee. It's just not how it works. We have learned so much, but that first year, a lot of it was infrastructure building and working hand in hand with one particular consultant who works in the nonprofit field.
It was a friend of Travis's from college, and she really consulted us into all of the things that we needed to get done. But bylaws, the deciding on our board of directors, our employee handbook, just everything that we were going to do structurally. And we were able to work in trade with her. So she was working on her own nonprofit and anytime they had a fundraiser, Travis and I would manage the bar.
And we would get all the donations of liquor and we would go and be the bartenders and we would run the whole entire thing for her in exchange for her help with us starting. So we were really grassroots in the beginning, but by year one, we had all of that stuff in place. So by year two, we started to do very small things to get out into the world.
But things that really fell in line with our mission statement, we did something at the LA food Bowl with a female chef, who's the daughter of Japanese immigrant. We did something at Aspen Food And Wine. We did something at Portland Cocktail Week and that one was a diversity equity and inclusion luncheon.
And we had a bunch of bartenders there who were bartenders. We had management there who were real decision-makers in terms of their hiring practices. So we were able to, before the pandemic, start to really make our mark on the type of company we wanted to be, but we have the infrastructure ready to go.
We had our website set up, we had our campaign building going, and we had sold tickets to certain things, so we knew how to really run those campaigns. So we were way more ready than we realized in that moment.
Tiff: It sounds like having your mission statement clearly defined and having those two years was the thing that allowed you to propel forward so fast?
Amanda: Yeah, it was, you know that old adage about luck being where opportunity and preparation meet. That's definitely what happened. I hate to call the pandemic an opportunity, but it was a need that was had arisen and we had spent two years preparing for the needs of the hospitality industry.
We would have never thought that we would be preparing for something on that big of a scale. But we definitely had spent some time preparing ourselves. And the mission statement was the most important thing that we did. It was so fortunate that we were able to get that consultant to help us understand that because she really, with a fine tooth comb, help us go over every single word. And that allowed us to make major decisions right away.
One of the first decisions we made was that every single thing that we put up online will be in both Spanish and English. And that was really helpful for our initial outreach, not just to the people that we were trying to get, but also to our donors who could see that we were trying to reach a similar group of people that they were interested in reaching people who, traditionally would fall through the cracks or are uneligible for federal funds being in the United States. So we really just pushed hard on making sure that we had all of those people in our sights.
Tiff: Now, as you've mentioned, of course, one of your main focuses was workers and people who could easily fall through the cracks. How difficult was it to build up trust with those communities?
Amanda: It was very difficult. We naively went into it and we're like, let's put everything up in Spanish and that'll work. And in the beginning, we, it was brought to our attention pretty quickly from somebody who was on our advisory council. Hey, there's a lot of people who want to apply for this, but they're afraid that it is a scam from ICE.
And in the very beginning, we still had our cell phone numbers on the website and I was getting phone calls pretty regularly every day that we're mainly in Spanish. And I was speaking in my broken Spanish, trying to convince people that this was safe, that it was okay.
We've never asked for something as private, as a social security number. Various organizations do for various reasons. It's not bad when other organizations do. We just took that out of the equation from the beginning, because we knew we wanted to get to undocumented workers, but we did have a bit of a questionnaire that you had to fill out.
In the beginning, we were like, okay, this can't be a questionnaire. People are too afraid to give us their information that has to become a phone call. What happened is, as we put together a team of Spanish language volunteers who did their very best, but where in a space of two hours of volunteer could go through 500 applications on the English language side.
In two hours, a volunteer might get through six phone calls and they were not easy phone calls. They were deeply emotional. We are getting to people who are in one of the most desperate moments of their life. And, you're talking to a group of people who are traditionally very hard working. And it's hard to be in that position where you're asking for help and you're working in a country that will not recognize that you're there legally. We had to really build a lot of trust there and we were banging our heads up against the wall.
How do we protect the mental health of these Spanish language volunteers, and how do we better utilize our time, so that we're getting to many more. And as we were trying to sort it out and we were really just stuck out of nowhere, we get an email from a group of students from the business school at Stanford.
They had a professor who said this semester, what I'd like your task is to go out and find a non-profit that is focused on COVID relief and see what you can do to help them with their structural business. And we had these students reach out to us who reached, who found us because they were interested as a group in people who are dealing specifically with immigrants.
And so they found us and we sold ourselves really hard to them on a call.
'we do all of these things', because we really needed their help and they just came in and figured out a way to help set up like a voice message center where you could just go through message after message. And they helped us also with some infrastructural work that we needed to have them in terms of keeping everything organized and all our records straight, but in a way that still protected everybody's privacy. And so they worked through this whole thing that we ended up adopting across the entire organization because the organizational strength was so strong; the template that they left us with.
So it was just another example of us being like, 'shoot, we really need help here. And then something in the universe, popping its head up and being like, Hey, I'm here to help. So it was, we got very lucky and we were able to give about 1.5 million so far to undocumented workers in the industry.
Tiff: Having the information, both in Spanish and English, must've been an advantage in itself .
Amanda: Yeah, it depends on how you would consider it an advantage because on one side we were working really hard to figure out how to fulfill the need that we promised, but then it was an advantage, I would say in terms of our relationship with our donors.
We didn't do that to have a better relationship with our donors. We did that because we wanted to capture this group of people, but it turns out that a lot of our donors also wanted to capture that. I think anyone who works in hospitality, whether you are a dishwasher or liquor rep or, the vice president of whatever company or a farmer.
I think anyone who works in hospitality here understands that the people who really grease the wheel and keep it moving are the immigrants of the nation. And so we were really thankful that our dream was recognized by other people who also had the same dream of just trying to capture as many of these people as we could.
Tiff: Now, another of your differentiators was your ability to designate funds. How important to donors did that end up being?
Amanda: Very, it was very important. And I would say, with our bigger donors, they were more like take this money and get it out there, and so they just trusted us and our work that we were going to be able to do that in a way that was most effective for their dollars.
But with our smaller donors, I would say, smaller being anyone under a hundred thousand dollars, it was really important. We had some people who were donating like 25 bucks and they wanted to keep it in their community of their town. We had a brewery that gave us $15,000 that wanted to keep it in the city that they were functioning in. And we had a smaller donation from a solar power company in New Mexico that gave us some money, but they specifically wanted to keep it in New Mexico. And we weren't even necessarily in the same industry as them, but they could see the need within the hospitality industry and they just wanted to make sure that the small amount of money that they had could go as far as it could within their own community.
I think it was really effective for getting money to each state. And we have today given money to all 50 states, both in grants and in our grocery programme. We've been able to reach people in all 50 states. It, it was very effective.
Tiff: It must've been rather hard to organize though?
Amanda: Yeah, unbelievable accountant, shout out because she is really this brilliant person who can not only help us keep all of that organise d and who can make sure that we're on track and we can say, okay, this 15 K went here, this $500 with there or whatever.
But she's also somebody who we can go to, she has such a deep understanding of how non profit funding works. And so she's been able to be there to help us understand legally just what we can and cannot ask for what we can and cannot do. Between her and our legal team, we've been able to really keep everything on the up and up by the books and be as transparent as possible. Lisa's really the reason, not only could we offer these designated funds, she's that a designated funds account and she specializes in it, but she's also the reason because she was giving us such a quick turnaround, that we month over month, we're able to put images up on our social media, a map of the United States with the numbers on each state of where the money has gone so far.
And it really allowed for the people in the hospitality industry who were hurting and who were applying for funds or who were shutting down their restaurants, or who were moving to a skeleton crew to turn their place into a bodega or whatever it was, it really allowed people to see that we were taking the money in and putting it back out where it needed to go. And that level of transparency is something that I think was particularly calming to a lot of people who were applying for funds from us.
Tiff: Now you settled on a $500 grant. Why that amount?
Amanda: That was something that we decided was enough that we could spread the money around a little bit. So it wouldn't be so much that we would end up spending it all on, 10,000 people, that we could actually like really move it around quite a bit. But it also was not so small that it wouldn't make a difference.
So in the beginning, I remember at that time thinking. ' My friends think they're going to reopen in April, this is really gonna probably be more like June'.
I remember thinking at that time, then at some point in June, Travis and I were going to look at each other and be like, 'we did it'., And then that never happened and we just had to keep on trekking along pushing. In the beginning we thought, okay, 500 bucks, this is enough money to keep your cell phone on, keep you connected to the outside world.
Keep your lights on, put some food in your belly. Maybe put some diapers on your baby. It might not be enough to pay your rent, or it might be enough to just pay half of your rent, but it's enough to make a substantial difference in your life, but at the same time, allow us to really reach as many people as possible.
Tiff: Now you also started a number of campaigns, including for black mental health and LGBTQ fund and as well as a non COVID emergency funding. How important were those more tailored funds?
Amanda: Those are extremely important because, hopefully we're going to get to a point where COVID is no longer a thing. And so this is starting to get into the work that we really intended to do from the first place. In addition to about 3.4 million in COVID relief that we've been able to give out in the last year and a half, we've also given out about a quarter of a million in unrelated emergency funds, just as you mentioned there. And we also started the black mental health grants the black owned businesses. We have right now a grad system that we're about to launch in October, but we're just starting to talk about it right now, because we've just pulled everything together.
It's called the Brave Voices Campaign and that's really set up to help women or anyone in the industry who has been affected by harassment at work. And there are various tiers of what our funding will cover. So some of it might cover mental health. Some of them might cover legal fees. Some of it might help cover your rent while you're trying to move from one job to another.
And then we would like to also put in there a different fund that will help people who are saying, 'Hey, I spent 10 years at this brewery. I was totally sexually harassed the whole time I was there, but beer is my love. I want to start my own brewery'. So we'd like to help people in their professional work start a better working environment for crafts on their own.
So this is all stuff that we had originally intended to be encompassed in our emergency programming. And right now I think it's particularly important because we're at a real turning point. I think people's eyes are really being opened. There's a lot of discussion about whether or not people are not going back to work because they're so busy living high on the hog, on their unemployment checks.
And that is really, I think, a rare case of why people are not going back to work. For a long time. It was very dangerous to be at work. People were paying with their lives. So let's not forget that a lot of industry people died in the last year and a half. And so there's a lot of people who don't feel safe about going back to work for themselves, for family members that they might live with for children that they might have.
But there's also people who are tired of these 60 hour work weeks and their feet hurting all the time. Of an 11:00 AM to 1:00 AM schedule six days a week, of the constant harassment that can go on behind a bar or in a kitchen, whether it's verbally abusive or sexual harassment or whatever it might be.
The culture really has bred something that we all just felt like it was a part of our everyday lives, and so we didn't even think to take a fine look at what it was we were experiencing day in and day out at work, the place that you spend most of your waking hours throughout the week. And so people I think are really starting to take another look at what that is. And I think there are a lot of employers who are also taking another look - is it so fair that the entire front of the house makes a ton of money in tips and none of that money goes to the back of the house?43 billion with a B dollars in 2019, went into the economy in tips alone. And almost none of that went into the back of house.
I think there's a lot of people who are starting to realize too, just how inequitable a tipping structure is or how inherently racist it can be. So there's a lot of work to be and I think if we're not going to do it now, where we've all had to sit back and watch our industry crumble around us for a year, and now we're going to chance to rebuild, if we're not going to make those changes now, when are we going to do them?
When are we going to make those changes? When are we going to focus in on LGBTQ people having a safe place to work, having an immigrant who spent years as a bar back when a bartending position opens, it makes sense that they should be promoted into that position rather than hiring some good-looking person from the outside who's white and has no experience within the restaurant itself.
How do we change these things? And that's really the path that we're on in our very small, incremental way. Sometimes it can feel like you're throwing a stone into the ocean but it's worth it. If the stone that we throw out there manages to change some lives for the better than all of the work is worth it.
Tiff: As bad as it's been, do you feel that the pandemic has accelerated not only Another Round, Another Rally, but also the industry as a whole ?
Amanda: Yes. I do think, it would be an interesting sociological study to understand what the pandemics impact on the video, basically a snuff film of George Floyd being murdered, how those two things came together to really cause an awakening there.
But after that moment happened, I feel like a lot of people were a lot more interested in a conversation about true equity and what that means. And I think a lot more people were looking at themselves and picking out moments in their own lives whoa, I didn't even know, at that time that what I was doing was not okay or was oppressive or was any number of things.
And I think the fact that we had a chance to really be quiet and sit back and watch these things unfold and have them affect us truly and not just be able to ignore it day to day and just go back to work and just chat with your friends. And that thing in the news is just happening in the news somewhere.
I think it really has fostered a major change or a want, a yearning for a major change. Change is super hard. I think we still have a ton of growing pains to go through, but the fact that people are even open to the conversation of change right now is a much bigger step than we were a year ago.
I remember, I was on this group discussion with Tobin Ellis had brought some people who were leaders in the industry who were trying to get us to put one foot in front of the other last spring. And, he had in this committee, Jackie Summers, and I remember we were maybe a month into the pandemic and Jackie was screaming right and left. 'This is our time to change. This is our time to change. This is the chance for us to make a difference. If the one thing I know is if we come back after this pandemic, the way we were before we missed an opportunity', and he was really the first person that I heard screaming about it. And I was thinking at the time Whoa, dude, let's just get some emergency funds out there.
Like you're talking about major change and I don't know if anyone's, it would be receptive to it, but, cut to a year later and people are really open to the discussion and it's a major important step that we shouldn't overlook, that we are all in a different position than we were before about this type of change that needs to happen.
And maybe within a decade or so, looking back, we can. Look at that moment. In the United States, we had to have the great depression before we could have social security. The whole country had to go through something so horrible that everybody had to jump together and band together and say, we, 'this can't happen again'.
Financially people need to have some sort of a net that will appear in a time of great crisis. And I think that's where we are right now, where we had to go through such a painful moment, look around and say, ‘okay, we can do better’.
Tiff: On your website, you use the tagline. 'There is always more to do'. What does the future hold for Another Round Another Rally?
Amanda: I'm so glad you asked me about that because that tagline actually, there's always more to do more, to learn and more fun to be had.
And so I think all of those things are things that we need to do at Another Round Another Rally. There's always going to be a need for emergency funding. We still have things like Hurricane Ida or, other major disasters that people are going to consistently need help with. So emergency funding is always going to be there. It's always going to be a need. But just like we said I feel like pivoting the educational programming towards what the future of the hospitality industry could be, is really where our biggest work is right now. We're in the more learn and more fun- to- be- had phase. We're adding that finally to the more to do part of it.
Right now we're working on something called the Harvest Stage program or working with a winery in New York called Laurel Lake Vineyards, and they're based off of long island and we're about to take a group of bartenders, primarily women and people of color from Kentucky for two weeks of intensive, hands-on learning at the winery. So we'll be learning directly from two of the wine makers, one of them Hispanic, one of them a woman, and we will be working with them directly in the fields for harvest.
We'll be learning about yeast and we'll be spending time in the barrel room and we'll be understanding how to measure bricks. And we'll just be going back and forth between the harvesting and the classroom, depending on the weather for two full weeks. And that's the kind of work that we'd like to do is to get people in a position where they can see themselves in these positions, a woman winemaker or a Hispanic wine maker or a black beer maker or whomever, it might be, a transgender grain grower.
We want people to be able to see themselves, but we also want them to leave these educational experiences with such a deep sense of confidence and such a deep sense of skill level that they are leading with something that's even bigger, which is a feeling of job security afterwards
Tiff: If people want more information, they can, of course go to your website, which is anotherroundanotherrally.org, or connect with the nonprofit through your social.
Amanda: Exactly. So we're @anotherroundanotherrally on Instagram, and I believe it's another round AR on Facebook. And then also reach out to us and send us a direct email at info@anotherroundanotherrally rally.org.
You can send us direct messages as well on Instagram and Facebook. We're constantly checking those things. And also I would say follow us there so that you can be up on dates because like I said, we are still giving away emergency funding, but we're now pivoting into some really beautiful, wonderful educational opportunities that we will be advertising for, application processes and whatnot through our social media.
Tiff: All right, Amanda, we'll look, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us today.
Amanda: Thank you so much for having me. This has been such a lovely conversation. It's nice to get back in touch with what we were doing at the beginning.

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