Selfless in Seattle: The Schultz Family Foundation Funds Vets’ Program

The Schultz Family Foundation is ramping up. In October, they hired Daniel Pitasky, former Gates Foundation Special Assistant To Director of Postsecondary Success and Special Initiatives, to serve as the foundation’s first-ever executive director. Previously, SFF, which is run by Howard Schultz, Starbucks CEO, and his wife Sheri, gave piecemeal grants of a few hundred or a few thousand dollars to a wide range of community, educational, and Jewish organizations, many of them based in Seattle. Now, they are rolling out two substantial grantmaking programs, Onward Youth and Onward Veterans, and have committed—get ready for it—$30 million to the latter.

It was enough to earn them a spot on the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s “Foundations to Watch in 2014” list, and with good reason. A glimpse at SFF’s financials reveals a dramatic surge in their coffers as Howard and Sheri Schultz have transferred big chunks of Starbucks stock over to the foundation. Simply put, SFF is heading for the big-time. We think this announcement, coupled with the significant ballooning in foundation assets—from under $6 million to over $35 million in just five years—points to a future that looks very different from SFF’s small-time past.

Besides being the biggest recipient of SFF’s money ever—by a factor of 30—Onward Veterans is the first time SFF has rolled out a specific grantmaking initiative with a catchy title, set goals, and a stirring story behind it. “A few years ago, my wife, Sheri, and I began a journey to learn more about our all-volunteer military,” reveals Howard Schultz on the foundation’s website. “We’ve had a number of conversations with former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who is on the Starbucks board of directors. And we have spent time with distinguished retired military leaders, veterans and active-duty service members, all of whom have sparked our conscience about our personal responsibility.”

Though the initiative has three distinct goals—to provide mental health services, employment training, and family reintegration counseling—the emphasis seems to be on helping vets cope with PTSD, traumatic brain injury, and other wounds through research. “The Schultz Family Foundation is mobilizing leading practitioners and researchers who will help veterans make a productive transition to the civilian workforce, and who will study and remedy the consequences of post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury,” says Schultz.