Dear Mr. Schultz,
Thanks for taking the time to read this. We’re reaching out today because this is an extraordinary moment we share—a moment you’ve spoken on eloquently as a thought leader in American public life—and we need your help.
Last weekend, more than 400 privately owned coffee brands representing some 800 + cafes joined together across the United States to raise funds for the American Civil Liberties Union, those non-partisan defenders of the Constitution who serve all Americans, regardless of religious or political beliefs. We launched with 26 partners and agreed to match the first $500 they raised, but nothing could have prepared us for the flood of interest and good will that followed, as hundreds and hundreds more coffee companies reached out to join in. Journalists in the media helped amplify this effort greatly, with stories about the fundraiser appearing in NPR, Food and Wine, your hometown Seattle Magazine, Teen Vogue (currently this country’s most important publication), and dozens more regional and national news outlets across the country.
All told, including corporate matching partners stepping up in a big way, America’s coffee bars raised some $423,373 for the ACLU as of press time, with around 100 coffee brands left to report. We believe the total amount raised last weekend will reach the $500 thousand dollar mark once all the reporting comes in.
We’re asking you today to consider matching that amount in the form of a $500,000 donation to the ACLU.
Participation in the fundraiser was open to all coffee companies, and we know y’all read us, but we never heard from you or anyone on the team at Starbucks. That’s fine—you’ve got your own stuff going on right now. And in fact, if you’ll permit us the compliment, Starbucks is very much out there fighting the good fight every day, making laudable public commitments to basic human rights and values when it comes to refugees, immigrants, veterans, the LGBTQ community, and new parents, recently expanding your maternity and paternity programs into one of corporate America’s best.
We have fun here at Sprudge, but please know that we respect you and your vision for Starbucks’ place in American society and around the world. The importance of the role your company plays in communities large and small cannot be overstated, and your commitment to acting responsibly up and down the supply chain is the stuff of much admiration and legend in the coffee industry. We grew up drinking coffee in your cafes, and Sprudge co-founder Zachary Carlsen took his very first coffee job at Starbucks store #342 in the Tacoma, Washington suburb of University Place. When Sprudge launched in 2009, we printed out our very first set of business cards in the Kinkos that occupies much of the ground floor of your SoDo headquarters in Seattle. We still happily patronize your cafes around the world today.
Much has been made over the last few years of Starbucks assuming its place at the American specialty coffee scene’s table. You helped set that table, that’s for sure—so many of today’s leading coffee professionals got their start, either as coffee drinkers or baristas, in one of your many coffee bars across the United States. We know that opening more of these Reserve cafes is now your main professional focus at Starbucks, and we know from interviewing your capable team of designers that independent coffee bars are a major source of style inspiration in designing these new cafes.
When you launched your first Reserve Roastery in Seattle, your media team took time and effort to reach out to us, a small independent publication, and made sure we were part of the same first-look media consideration you gave to the folks like The New York Times and Bloomberg. You even gave all the media brands the same embargo deadline for web publishing, which means our story came out the same time theirs did—a major show of respect and good faith towards our comparatively tiny media company and its coffee-loving readership.
The respect goes both ways. Under your guidance and leadership, Starbucks helped pave the way for a new generation of American coffee lover, a generation who has expressed that love in the form of vital, vibrant coffee companies operating in every nook and cranny of the United States. We are inspired by you, and in turn, you by us.
Match the coffee community by making a $500k donation in your own name, or on behalf of Starbucks, to the American Civil Liberties Union. Do it now; join us in helping support the non-partisan keepers of American liberty at the ACLU. Be a part of the wider moment of fundraising and awareness in American coffee, and together we’ll have raised a million dollars for this deeply important cause.
Please forgive us this moment of bombast—the open letter and all that—and know that like you, our hearts are in the rightest place we know. Thank you for reading, and onward.
-Jordan Michelman and Zachary Carlsen
Sprudge Media Network