Chabad Starbucks Club: College Students Get Into the Giving Habit

Starbucks-CharityBy S. Fridman

Jonathan Horn is the perfect poster boy for Arizona State University: a freshman, he studies hard, works a part time job at a think tank in Phoenix, and is actively involved in Jewish student community life at ASU.

Now Horn has become a donor, making regular, monthly contributions to his school’s Chabad Center. Not that he’s independently wealthy; most students are not. But he’s one of a growing group of students who’ve become members of a new club created at the Chabad Jewish Student Center at ASU, to cultivate giving practices among students.

“The club helps change the idea of giving for someone who feels that it’s hard for them to give, since they can donate just a couple dollars once a month,” explains Horn. Once a student signs up online, their card is automatically charged once a month for the amount they pledged: Tall:$1, Grande:$2, Venti:$4, or Trenta:$6+, corresponding to Starbucks sizes.

“The point is that everyone can be a giver at their level,” says Rabbi Mendy Rimler of Chabad ASU, who founded the Chabad Starbucks Club. Rimler got the idea from the Starbucks habit he observed on college campuses: if a cup of coffee doesn’t break the bank but gives students the caffeine fix they need, then donating two or three dollars a month and becoming part of a real philanthropic effort is not out of their reach.

A study by Edge Research found that millennials are most likely to increase their giving in the next 12 months. That’s more than any other age group – even more than their older and wealthier counterparts. Rabbi Shmuel Tiechtel, executive director of Chabad at ASU, describes this group as “emerging philanthropists.”

“These students are the youngest members of our donor base, but they’re leading their generation in charitable giving,” he says.

The Chabad center is funded entirely by donors and depends on the generosity of alumni, parents and community. And now, 31 students of the Chabad Starbucks Club are putting their money where their coffee is to help the student organization that is integral to their college experience.

“We believe that donating doesn’t only mean middle-aged people writing checks,“ says Rabbi Rimler. And the size of the donation, he says, is beside the point. “Either way, they’re giving real donations on a monthly basis, and that’s something new to college students.” Almost all the student donors give anywhere between $1 and $20 a month.

For Adam Zalkin, a senior at ASU and a business major, being a member of the Chabad Starbucks Club is a melding of his interests. As someone who has benefited from many of the programs and classes offered by Chabad on campus, and from the relationship with the rabbis and their families, Zalkin says he sees himself very much a part of Chabad. “It feels good to give back.”