The Starbucks Cup Fund and the Store that Supports It.

The Starbucks CUP (“Caring Unites Partners”) fund is a fund which distributes money to Starbucks partners who are experiencing financial stress.  It is like a safety-net for  partners experiencing significant and immediate hardship.   For example, the CUP distributed funds to numerous partners who suffered after hurricane Katrina.  The money for the CUP fund comes from partner donations and fund raising efforts.

I think it is possible that many of the readers of this site were unaware of the CUP fund.  Even more interesting, there is a Starbucks store that fully supports it.  Every dollar of profit from the Starbucks “SODO 8” location goes to fund the CUP fund.

The SODO 8 Starbucks is actually located inside the Starbucks headquarters.  You have to be working in the building, or have authorization to enter into the corporate headquarters office space.  Its grand opening was March 8, 2011.  I was trying to see if I had any good photos of it, and came up empty-handed, despite that I have visited it several times.  In fact, I’ve definitely seen official Starbucks-made content that was filmed there too.  I looked on Winter’s website,, and found this photo of it here.  (Winter is a famous customer who is on a life-long journey to visit every company-operated Starbucks in the world).

A reader of this blog sent in this great photo of the hand-drawn artwork which is on the wall adjacent to the SODO 8 store.

2 - 1 - revisions 5-14-13 - Cup fund art signThe reader who sent in these photos said that the SODO 8 Starbucks location to-date has raised over $100,000 for the CUP fund!  Everything about that is awesome!  I think it’s great that Starbucks has that kind of safety net for employees.  Not many employers provide such a thing.

The next photo submitted is of a sign near an entrance of the building, signifying the global nature of Starbucks. Each country that Starbucks has a store in is indicated by the Starbucks logo magnet. The more stores, the larger the logo. Starbucks operates  in 63 countries, as I write this.  I imagine it would be humbling to feel a part of something so large – that you’re intertwined with many cultures, customs, languages, and traditions all over the globe.

close up of map1 copyPartner entrance map - 2013Hope you enjoyed this rare peek into something special inside the Starbucks corporate headquarters.



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  • purple1

    I am really curious as to why this program is not promoted more in the SB community and why they have limited it to just one store. I would think that they could create a program to allow stores to give a portion of their sales to this program.

  • Melody

    Purple1 – Starbucks is a for profit business, and there are a number of funding sources for the CUP fund, this just happens to be one important one. There already are community stores too, which giveaway their profits to local non-profits. In balancing the demands of shareholders who want profitability, against the need to act responsibility, this store is a nice balance: the other sources of funding are significant too.

  • Melody

    @Purple1 – I realize what I wrote was pretty incomplete. Within the world of Starbucks, I would assume that every US and Canada partner knows what the CUP fund is.

    The funding sources include profits from sales of the books Pour Your Heart Into It, and Onward, donations – I know I’ve read a couple of times that Howard Schultz has donated a million to it. Partner donation – I am pretty sure that partners can have it donated directly from their paychecks – that probably is huge because if more than thousands of people are donating even something small every paycheck, that will add up. Sales from this SODO 8 Starbucks. I think I’ve heard of others, but that’s what I can think of off the top of my head. I think that’s huge. If anything, maybe Howard should donate more to it! 😉 (Just being silly)

  • CoffeeBreakPartner

    The way it’s supposed to work is that the promoting should be done largely by the Store Manager. I’ve set up at least three partners that I can think of with the Cup Fund and they’ve gotten a few hundred dollars to really help them in times of real need due to unexpected expenses. Every time a partner expresses a problem, I instantly think, “What can we as a company do to help you?” — Temporary Disability? CUP Fund? EAP? Any stock options they didn’t know they had?, etc. — Starbucks has amazing resources for its people and store managers should be the front line for connecting their partners with them!

    I’ve heard that some of the proceeds from the store 1810 Wisconsin Avenue in DC (where three partners were killed many years ago) go towards the CUP Fund. Can anyone verify this?

  • Melody

    @CoffeeBreakPartner – Oh yes, I have heard that too about the DC store. Due to the tragedy to partners in the store, Starbucks wanted to do something to never forget. The tragic shooting dates to 1997, and originally, I think profits went to area non-profits ??? It could be that some portion goes to CUP fund too. At some point, I could try to figure that out with an official Starbucks spokesperson.

  • DadCooks

    Yes, Melody I enjoyed this latest inside look at Starbucks.

    @CoffeeBreakPartner, thanks for sharing your real life example.

    The thing about a company’s charitable and philanthropic activities is that there is a fine line between too little and too much publicity. Too often it is too much, like, “hey look at us and how great we are and we are better than you”.

    I try to follow this bible verse: Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. Matthew 5:16 KJV

  • Brad Kovach

    I donated $2 per paycheck to the CUP fund. I saw it help some of my fellow partners many times, and I think it is one of Starbucks’ best programs.

  • Melody

    I am in a rush posting this, but I like this comment discussion. DadCooks, I learned the simplified version of that bible verse: “If you toot your own horn, the notes will come out flat.”

    Ironically, Starbucks walks a fine line in boasting about this kind of thing – if it comes from them, it could sound like PR self promotion.

  • JR

    Hi Melody!

    I was just wondering if the first Starbucks at 1912 Pike Place will be open on Thanksgiving. I have a 5-hour layover in SEA and would want to visit the first store..

    Thanks :)

  • Claire

    Love this article! Can’t wait to go visit HQ and go in this store. Those magnets are really neat!

    I love the community stores and the CUP fund. I wish there was a community store closer to me. I believe there is one in San Antonio or Houston but I can’t remember which. I donate $10 of every paycheck to the CUP fund. I was sad when I found out that I was the only person at my store that was signed up to give to the fund. I don’t think that a lot of partners donate to it (especially the younger partners) but it’s something I feel really passionate about doing.

  • jocelyn

    i was just there, and even thought.. i should take pictures of this store for melody! but i didn’t! i will next time i go, which i hope is pretty soon :)

  • DadCooks

    @Melody, I like your simplified version.

    @Claire, don’t be sad about the CUP donation status at your store. There is never a reason to be sad that you do what you feel is right to help your fellow Partners. You are leading by example and you may not know how the other Partners are helping in some other way. There are so many needs out there that we can only do so much. What is important is that you do what you can do, where you feel it does the most good.

  • kitenarie

    We had a period of about two weeks where we did a collection for the CUP fund in our store, amongst partners, and we also had a small collection jar for our customers. We put up a little sign that explained what it was, and how it helps, and a lot of customers added money. We raised somewhere around 200 dollars doing that.

    It was really a big deal for a lot of us because we’re in an area that was hit hard by Superstorm Sandy, so to be able to help build it back up after it helped so many people in our area was a great thing for our community.

  • Melody

    I’m sorry I haven’t been able to reply to all of these comments, but what great comments. I would love to hear more about how the CUP fund helped partners after Superstorm Sandy.

  • Melody

    I was just reading a Facebook message to me from a partner in the Philippines about to do her first coffee tasting. We talked briefly about coffee tastings. It reminds of how amazingly universal the Starbucks experience is. It’s one of the things that keeps me inspired about this blog: it doesn’t matter if you’re in Seattle, Arizona, New York, the Philippines or wherever, there are still coffee events and passion.

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