Ben & Jerry's Foundation: Grants for K-12 Education

OVERVIEW: The Ben & Jerry’s Foundation supports community action, economic justice and nonprofit capacity building in Vermont. Nationally, the foundation supports grassroots organizing for social change.

IP TAKE: Nationally, the foundation supports grassroots organizing for social change with grants of up to $25,000 to organizations whose operating budgets do not exceed $500,000. This funder runs an open, on-line application system with two funding cycles each year.

PROFILE: Based in South Burlington, Vermont, Ben & Jerrry’s Foundation is the philanthropic arm of the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream company. It was founded in 1985 with co-founder Ben Cohen’s gift of 50,000 company shares and the ice cream company’s decision to commit 7.5% of its pretax profits philanthropy. The foundation aims to engage its employees in social change, to give back to the Vermont communities in which its employees live and work and to support social and environmental justice nationally. It pursues these goals through two funding programs—one supporting organizations in Vermont, and the other supporting grassroots organizing for social change across the United States.

Ben and Jerry’s Vermont funding program maintains three separate initiatives: community action, economic justice and capacity building, all of which have supported K-12 initiatives and populations. The foundation’s small community action grants support local non-profit programs, celebrations and service initiatives. Economic justice grants are directed toward nonprofit organizations that address “the economic, social and environmental impacts of poverty.” One economic justice grantee, Salvation Farms, manages agricultural surplus as a means of eliminating hunger in Vermont. The capacity building program supports one nonprofit each year and aims to broaden its recipients’ reach and functioning. One capacity building recipient, the Vermont Farm to School Network, has used funding to increase the number of Vermont schools engaged in its food education and healthy meals programs.     

Rather than focusing on specific causes or issues, Ben and Jerry’s national Grassroots Organizing for Social Change program directs funding toward organizations that are constituent-led and focused on community outreach as a means of achieving goals. In Bridgeport, Connecticut, Ben & Jerry’s has supported Connecticut Students for a DREAM, an organization that supports undocumented students and their families.

In Vermont, Ben & Jerry’s community action grants are awarded in amounts of up to $2,000. Economic justice grants are maximized at $20,000, and capacity building program recipients generally receive grants of $30,00 per year for three consecutive years. For its national program, the foundation’s social change grants are awarded in amounts up to $25,000 to organizations with operating budgets that do not exceed $500,000. A list of grantees is provided on the foundation website, as are guidelines and eligibility requirements for each funding line. The foundation runs spring and fall grant application cycles each year.  

This foundation maintains an open, on-line application program.

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