Starbucks Will Start Paying Employees To Spend Half Their Work Week Volunteering

Starbucks has been making headlines recently, and in the best ways possible. In early July, the company announced that they would be eliminating use of plastic straws globally by 2020 and last year, they pledged to donate roughly 50 million meals per year to food banks through their FoodShare program. Now, the good news continues for the coffee chain: Starbucks is going to start paying employees to volunteer for 20 hours a week at local nonprofit organizations. The program, just announced Thursday, is the first of its kind for the coffee chain.

Starbucks has teamed up with Points of Light, an international nonprofit focused on solving and raising awareness on serious social problems, and picked 36 Starbucks service fellows from a total of 13 different cities to participate in the new program. The initiative will last for six months, during which time the fellows will spend a minimum of 20 hours per week working for their local Starbucks, and a maximum of 20 hours per week doing paid local volunteer work, as per CNN. The nonprofits available for the Starbucks fellows to work with all fall under the umbrella of the company’s outreach causes, which include environmental sustainability, providing disaster relief, combatting world hunger, aiding refugees, and supporting veteran and military families.

The volunteer program is a win-win-win for employees, the community, and Starbucks itself. Virginia Tenpenny, Starbucks’ vice president of Global Social Impact and executive director of The Starbucks Foundation, explained that the work-volunteer program is a great way to keep employees happy and help them enjoy the work that they do even more. When the fellows are "engaged in communities and they feel connected, they’re going to stay with Starbucks longer," she said to CNN. Tenpenny also mentioned that she hoped program fellows would tell colleagues about their work and encourage them to apply–not only would the employees’ opinion of Starbucks become more positive, the communities’ would as well. The company is giving back to local nonprofits, so residents can feel good about frequenting the coffee spot.

The Starbucks Foundation, which is dedicated to providing funds to support community-building efforts, is completely covering employees’ salaries by giving grants to Points of Light. If the program goes smoothly, there will be a new cohort of fellows next Fall–and Starbucks hopes to expand the program beyond 36 people in the future.

With unemployment at the lowest its been in almost 20 years (evident by the fact that employers are regularly experiencing workplace ghosting), Starbucks’ work-volunteer program is a great incentive for employees to be excited about their work and stick to their jobs at the company. In addition to volunteering, the program fellows will have the opportunity to recommend where company-donated funds are allocated. The Starbucks Foundation announced recently that $1.3 million will be given in grants to the company’s Opportunity for All program, and employees who are working at local nonprofits will be able to help decide where the money goes–this is an amazing chance for people who know their cities well and are passionate about improving them.

Starbucks has been doing great work lately and I’m very happy about it–for all the obvious reasons and because it makes me feel a tad less guilty about buying $6 iced coffee.

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