In everything we do, the Ben & Jerry's Foundation strives to apply our mission and values, including with our investment policies and our relationships with employees.
Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Inc. was founded on a belief in “linked prosperity”. It meant that as the company grew and prospered the benefits would go not just to shareholders but also to employees and the community. In 1985 the company undertook a public stock offering to support its ongoing growth. The Ben & Jerry’s Foundation was created at the same time, with an initial gift from Ben of 50,000 shares and an unprecedented decision of the company’s Board of Directors to commit 7 ½% of the company’s annual pretax profits to philanthropy.
When the Foundation was started, it was with a belief that the company and the Foundation were distinct. The company’s role was to generate profits that the Foundation gave away. In 1991 the Foundation and company staff held a retreat with experts in social change work and philanthropy to think about the Foundation’s strategies and effectiveness. The message from the retreat was that a real opportunity was being missed by not involving employees in the Foundation’s work. What better way to communicate the company’s progressive values than by empowering employees to participate in decision-making?
This led to a complete redesign of the grantmaking process to include employees directly in grants decisions. Through the creation of Community Action Teams at each site and employee members on the Employee Advisory Committee, decision-making was placed in employees’ hands.
In 2000 the company was acquired by Unilever, a global company with over 400 brands (www.unilever.com). Unilever continues to support the Foundation through an annual grant that takes into account Ben & Jerry’s ice cream sales. For 2009 this amounted to $2 million. The Foundation is deeply grateful to Unilever for this ongoing support.
The history of the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation has been and continues to be one of steadfast dedication to involving employees, giving back to Vermont communities and supporting progressive social justice work.
Rebecca Golden :: Director of Programs
Becca has been with the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation since 1992 and has served as Director since 1994 when she guided the Foundation’s transition to employee-led grantmaking programs. Becca enjoys cross-country skiing, hiking, dancing, gardening, and cooking and is passionate about the interconnectedness of food systems, social justice and environmental stewardship. She is the mother of two young children and loves spending time with her family and friends in her small Vermont village, where she founded and chairs the school garden committee and serves as Chair of the local school board. She also serves on the Steering Committee of the Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Funders, a national funders’ affinity group.
Lisa Pendolino :: Managing Director
Lisa has worked for the Foundation since 1999 and often tells people that she has one of the best jobs in corporate America. Lisa loves her job and thrives on the hope that is embodied in every grant request and is at the core of the mission of the Foundation. Foundation travels have taken her to Cuba and the World Social Forums in Brazil and Venezuela, and showed her grassroots advocacy and organizing from a different perspective. She is a member of her local school board and school garden committee in the Lake Champlain Islands of Vermont, where she gardens, sails and lives as simply as she can with her husband, two young kids and teenage stepson.
Dana Jeffery :: Administrative and Grants Management Coordinator
Dana joined the Foundation staff in 2010 after serving on the Employee Grant Making Committee for 5 years. Dana hails originally from Australia and has lived in the states for 12 years. Prior to joining the Foundation, she worked at the Ben & Jerry's Waterbury plant initially as a production worker and then as a Senior Tour Host. A love of snowboarding is what brought Dana to Vermont and a love of Vermont is what has kept her here. She is the mother of one young daughter.
Jerry Greenfield :: President
Jerry Greenfield is the co-founder of the company. With a background in biology and a graduate certificate on making ice cream from a Penn State correspondence course, Jerry took charge of the operations side of the business and made the first batches of ice cream. He also made sure it was fun to work at Ben & Jerry's. His famous words "If its not fun why do it" were memorialized on a bumper sticker you still see driving around Vermont and the other parts of the country. Like Ben, he wanted to make great ice cream, treat employees really well, and give back to the community. He is the first and only President of the Foundation. He is also on the board of the Institute for Sustainable Communities, an organization that provides people all over the world with the tools they need to be actively involved in creating civil societies and environmentally sustainable communities.
Jeff Furman :: Trustee
Jeff Furman, is famous for having written the first business plan to help Ben & Jerry secure a bank loan. Jeff came up with a plan that a New York pizza parlor had used and substituted "cone" for "slice". Ben & Jerry's got the loan. Jeff was the first member of the company board and continues to serve in that capacity. He played a key role in helping the company think about innovation in its social mission, such as with PartnerShops, scoop shops operated by nonprofits. He has served on the Foundation board since its inception in 1985. His work with nonprofits includes Social Ventures, an Ithaca-based nonprofit concerned with school equity and poverty and The Funders Network on Trade and Globalization.
Liz Bankowski :: Trustee
Liz Bankowski remembers the call inviting her to join the company's board of directors. Being a very big fan of the company, she responded, "Yeah!" Upon joining the board, she made the observation that while the company staffed the quality and financial parts of its three part mission, that which was deemed by all as the most important, the social mission, was not staffed. In typical Ben & Jerry's fashion she was immediately given that job and became one of very few executives focused on corporate social responsibility. Liz has been a trustee of the Foundation since 1994. In addition to consulting on corporate social responsibility she is on the board of The Windham Foundation and The High Meadows Fund organizations working to support the economic and environmental sustainability of Vermont’s small towns.
Anuradha Mittal :: Trustee
Anuradha Mittal, founder and executive director of the Oakland Institute, is an internationally renowned expert on trade, development, human rights and agriculture issues. She joined the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation board of trustees in 2012 and fits this responsibility in amongst her work on several boards and advisory committees including the International Forum on Globalization and the independent board of the Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Inc. Anuradha is the author of numerous books and articles and is the recipient of several awards and recognitions, including being named the Most Valuable Thinker in 2008 by the Nation magazine.
As a matter of policy, the cash assets of the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation have never been invested in the stock market. Instead, these funds have been invested in Certificate of Deposits in community banks and credit unions. We target institutions that primarily serve economically distressed communities and provide credit, capital and financial services not available from mainstream financial institutions. Some examples include the Legacy Bank in Milwaukee and Shore Bank. To learn more about this type of investing visit www.cdfi.org or www.cdbanks.org.
Click here to find past lists of grantees from our National Grassroots Grant program, our Vermont Capacity Building Grant program, our National Small Grant program, our National Movement Building Grant program, and our Community Action Teams Grant program.
Grassroots Organization: A community-based or neighborhood based organization with leadership and governance that includes constituents. Local, constituent-based and historically disenfranchised are words that often describe the leadership and membership of grassroots organizations. Specifically, we look for groups that are working to help themselves, help their own communities, and help others like themselves through self-empowering, community organizing efforts.
Progressive Social Change: Social change addresses the root causes of problems; social service addresses the consequences of those problems. Social change addresses whole communities, systems and institutions; social service aids and assists individuals.
Root Cause: Underlying factors that create community problems and make those problems likely to persist even though services may be in place to help individuals and families meet immediate needs.
Grassroots Community Organizing Strategies: Activism from the ground up as opposed to top-down. It includes but is not limited to, leadership development, constituent empowerment, popular education, outreach, power analysis, mobilizing constituents and allies, coalition building and direct action.
Employee Advisory Committee: A non-management employee committee, comprised of nine members representing the company’s three Vermont sites, that recommends grants under the National Grassroots Grants Program, the National Movement Building Grants Program and the Vermont Capacity Building Grant Program.
Community Action Teams: Teams of non-management employees at each of the company’s three Vermont sites that make small, local grants and undertake community service projects. CATs fund an array of community programs - social services organizations, cultural, recreational, or arts programs and community celebrations.
Employee Match Program: The Foundation supports the generosity of Ben & Jerry’s employees through a dollar for dollar match program of up to $2000 a year.