While almost everyone has heard of Ben & Jerry's the ice cream, not everyone has heard of the Ben & Jerry's Foundation. Ben & Jerry's has always held certain values that permeate every aspect of their business, so it's no surprise that the successful company started a foundation as a way of giving back. The Foundation began in 1985 with a donation of Ben & Jerry's stock as an endowment. It is led by employee based community action teams that distribute grants to grassroots nonprofit organizations.
Ben & Jerry's Values
From the very beginning, Ben & Jerry's has held that businesses have a responsibility to the environment (in general) and to their surrounding communities. This attitude is seen in how they do business in several ways:
- Ben & Jerry's buys their brownies from Greyston Bakery, a bakery committed to providing jobs for those who might otherwise be unemployed. In addition, Greyston bakery helps support those who are living in poverty in its surrounding community, Yonkers, New York.
- They are Fair Trade Certified, meaning that they do not buy ingredients in countries where others are being exploited for their labor.
- Opposing rBHG (bovine growth hormone), Ben & Jerry's buys all of its milk and cream from farmers who do not use the growth hormone in their cows.
- They use their funds, celebrity status and day to day business operations to fight global warming, get actively involved in local environmental causes and promote peace.
A Snapshot of the Ben & Jerry's Foundation
So what type of programs does the Ben & Jerry's Foundation support? In order to qualify for funding, organizations must:
- Be grassroots in nature and "constituent led", meaning a local organization led by plain old neighborhood folks
- Lead to change. . .think in terms of the well know expression: "not a hand out but a hand up"
- Be creative. . .think about your local problem and find a way to address it that hasn't been done before
- Lead to long term change. . .Ben & Jerry's is not as likely to fund handing out blankets to homeless folks, as they might be to help fund a job training program.
- Have a clear short term and long term vision by outlining underlying causes and then seeking to address them
Types of Grants and Restrictions
The foundation is very careful to make mention that they do not fund anything besides grassroots, 501(c)(3) organizations. They also do not fund social service agencies. They do not fund organizations that are faith based or religious. They offer two types of grants every year. They offer full grants that can range up to $15,000 and they also offer smaller grants throughout the year to smaller projects that are, "infused with hope."
Applying for a Grant from Ben & Jerry's
The most important step to applying for a grant is making sure that your project meets their funding criteria. The reality is that in the funding world, there are a whole slew of foundations that have money for funding. However, many people don't receive grants because they present projects that are not within the foundation's funding priorities. The bottom line is that if you want a grant from Ben & Jerry's, you need to make sure that your program is grassroots and addresses a social problem in a new and creative way that will lead to societal change. Once you are sure that you meet these qualifications, you can follow these steps:
- Submit a letter of interest: Tell Ben & Jerry's a little about your program and what you're doing. They review them on an ongoing basis throughout the year.
- Get invited: After your letter of interest, Ben & Jerry's will send you a grant application. Although they use the common grant application form, they will not consider unsolicited proposals. Once you receive an invitation from them, you have up to a year to get your proposals in.
- Send your application to:
Ben & Jerry's Foundation
30 Community Drive
So. Burlington, VT 05403-6828
You can visit the Foundation's website an read their application guidelines at: Ben & Jerry's Foundation.