I’m all for companies giving back. In fact, I wrote about a whole list of great companies who are making a difference in the world. I was excited to hear that Starbucks would be giving back this year, too.

I headed down to my local coffee conglomerate and ordered one of the new (RED) drinks, and found a curious little economic equation. The (RED) latte costs $3.40. A regular flavored-shot latte costs $3.00. So . . . just to be clear. If I pay an extra 40 cents for a special latte, Starbucks will give 5 cents of it to (RED). Wow. What a sacrifice on their behalf. And then I’m supposed to leave the store feeling self-righteous for spending a ridiculous amount of money on coffee, of which 1% is donated.
This charitable act doesn’t appear to require one ounce of sacrifice on Starbuck’s behalf, and ultimately makes me question whether it’s really about giving, or just a marketing ploy to make people feel like they are “doing their part” by buying an overpriced drink. And then when a mere 5 cents is all that is donated in my name, after spending that much money on a drink I don’t really need, I have to question how generous I’m really willing to be. I have this visual of myself walking down a village road in Africa, drinking a Peppermint latte and throwing 5 cents towards a hungry child as a gesture of my genorosity. Ouch.

So I propose we skip spending that money at Starbucks and just giving it all directly to (RED). Let’s make our own gingerbread lattes. Or just forego them altogether.
Don’t get me wrong, I think the (RED) project is great. I am excited that Starbucks, Gap, Converse, and countless other corporations are working together to create a growing excitement about giving in general. If charity is becoming hip, I’m all for that. I just want to be careful to differentiate between actual charity, and marketing schemes or fad philanthropic gestures. I’m not so sure about this Starbucks one.