Survey of Arts Management

Course blog for American University PERF-570, Fall 2014

Veterans, Community Foundations, and Starbucks…Connecting the Dots

Yet again, Starbucks has done something that catches national attention. While often talked about across a variety of industries for the standards they set, the prices they charge and the experiences they create, their philanthropic arm now has the limelight. In this particular instance, Starbucks has paired up with Onward Veterans, and for every Starbucks card purchased for the next few weeks, they donate $5 to the organization. Read it here.

While not directly related to arts management, I’m posting it because it’s relevant to our class discussion from last week. Onward Veterans, an organization that helps veterans create lives back in their communities, is a donor-advised fund that is part of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. The community foundation itself bears the statement that they’re “supporting the common good”, and this particular fund means that anyone leaving money to this foundation would have to qualify that they would like it to support the Onward Veterans cause.

Arts organizations of all types have endowments, or other funds, in community foundations, and many of the funds are donor advised, such as these. Philanthropy in all forms can be controlled by the donor, and as we discussed, it is incredibly important to understand the terms of donor-advised funds and to clarify them so that they’re ultimately not a “lock” for your organization.

In this case, the money that Starbucks is giving to this fund will then directly benefit many nonprofits that are working toward this similar cause, one in DC even entitled “Hiring our Heroes”.  Indirectly, this qualifies as a for-profit supporting a non-profit cause!


2 comments on “Veterans, Community Foundations, and Starbucks…Connecting the Dots

  1. evanjsanderson
    November 6, 2014

    There must be a corporate initiative in C-suite of Starbucks to support veteran related advocacy groups, because they are also advertising their support for the Concert of Valor that’s happening on Veterans Day with HBO (check it out here: From an arts perspective, money is starting to be thrown at non-profits that address veterans needs. I know this because we are working with the VA and the NEA at my fellowship, and it is becoming the “hot” funded item.

    It makes me a little uncomfortable, however. Whenever there are these important social issues that catch fire, they never last long. Think about Hurricane Sandy – how many concerts do you see being performed for people who lost their homes now? It creates a massive influx of support, media coverage, and cash to non-profits that deal with the issue, and that sudden influx is often very hard to manage from a programmatic and mission point of view. And then suddenly, next year or the year after, something else captures the nations attention and POOF the support is gone. I hate to be a Debby Downer with this, but what we need is corporations underwriting long term grants and research projects, not marketing promotions for a week long fundraiser.

  2. alexgilbertschrag
    November 6, 2014

    At first, as I was reading this, I wondered why Veteran Affairs, of all people to be able to support. I do agree that there are certainly “hot” items that for-profits choose to support when it seems to be the cool thing to do. However, as much as it may seem to be a fad, both the Concert of Valor and the Starbucks Giveback is all happening around the time of Veterans Day. In fact, the concert IS on Veteran’s Day, which has been a holiday for quite a while. I think when there are specific dates for causes, such as breast cancer month, domestic abuse month, Martin Luther King Day, it gives organizations a direction of who to support, and it brings the public’s awareness to a holiday that may otherwise easily slip by.

    I think by having a concert, having Starbucks publicly donate money to a VA organization, this may have a long term impact for Veteran’s Day’s to come. Focusing a charitable effort around a nationally recognized day makes it easier to market to people and encourage them to donate. It’s definitely smart marketing!

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