Time to light a bunch of candles on a big ol' ice cream cake: the Ben & Jerry's Foundation is 30 years old! Since 1985, the Ben & Jerry's Foundation has been working—tirelessly and effectively—to protect the environment, secure sustainable food systems, and further social justice in Vermont and around the country. How does the Foundation do so much good? Through a number of programs that provide grants to organizations that support the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation mission.
Although their stories and missions clearly intertwine, the Ben & Jerry's Foundation operates independently of Ben & Jerry's Homemade, the makers of your favorite ice cream. Still, Ben & Jerry's employees have always played an important role in Foundation decision-making. In the early '90s, the Foundation realized that there was no better way to affirm its support for grassroots organizing than by ensuring that all grant-making decisions would be made by employees. In 1998, to encourage employees’ own generosity, the Foundation began matching employee donations to non-profit organizations. After Unilever acquired Ben & Jerry's in 2000, this unique culture of giving and engagement remained intact. Unilever now supports the Foundation via an annual gift that takes into account all ice cream sales. In 2015, this was an impressive $2.8 million.
The Ben & Jerry's Foundation believes that the people in the best position to help develop solutions to a problem are those most affected by that problem. The Foundation's employee-led committees support grassroots organizations around the country that are working to address the systemic causes of social and environmental injustice. In 2014, the Foundation provided grants to 275 organizations, representing a broad range of activism from coast to coast. Whether it's Atlanta Jobs with Justice, the Latino Union of Chicago, or the AGUA Coalition in California, these groups have rallied community members to organize for real and lasting change.
Ben & Jerry's, of course, calls Vermont home, as do most of its employees, so the Foundation pays special attention to challenges facing the Green Mountain State. Vermont Community Action Teams offer small grants every month to locally based non-profits and community celebrations, in addition to planning service projects for employees. And two grant programs, the Vermont Capacity Building Grant Program and the Vermont Economic Justice Grant, were developed to provide needed assistance to Vermont non-profits.
Ben & Jerry's was founded on the principles of working hard, having fun and giving back. Shared prosperity is the secret ingredient in every pint. For 30 years, the Ben & Jerry's Foundation has been providing resources to non-profit organizations and grassroots activists to ensure that these principles are put to work helping people and communities in Vermont, and all across the country. Now that's something to celebrate.