Created in 1985, the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation is a left-progressive organization that provides grants to nonprofits with a presence in Vermont and to nonprofit organizations that support left-of-center causes, including environmentalist policy. It is the corporate philanthropic arm of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream.
The Ben & Jerry’s Foundation was created in 1985 after its parent company, Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Inc., funded the foundation with 50,000 shares from a public stock offering. The company’s board of directors also committed to supporting the Foundation by pledging 7.5% of Ben & Jerry’s annual pre-tax profits to the Foundation. 
In the early 1990s, the Foundation’s philanthropic strategy evolved to include employees in the decision-making and grantmaking process through the creation of employee-led Community Action Teams. In 1998, the Foundation also established a Matching Gift Program for Ben & Jerry’s employees. 
In 2000, Ben & Jerry’s was acquired by Unilever, an international conglomerate with hundreds of brands. Since the company’s acquisition, the Foundation has not received 7.5% of pretax profits. Instead, Ben & Jerry’s supports the Foundation with a fluctuating annual allocation that corresponds to Ben & Jerry’s overall ice cream sales. In 2015, this allocation allotted $2.8 million to the Foundation. 
The Ben & Jerry’s Foundation supplies a number of grants each year to Vermont-based left-progressive organizations, as well as organizations that operate across the United States. The employee-led Vermont Community Action Team Grant Program allocates monthly general support grants that are typically under $2,000 to community-based nonprofits in Vermont. 
The Vermont Economic Justice Grant Program supports organizations addressing the impact of poverty in the state. The program grants up to $20,000 to nonprofits based in Vermont. Grantees are chosen by a team made up of Ben & Jerry’s employees from across the company’s three sites in Vermont. 
The Foundation’s Vermont Capacity Building Grant Program allocates a multi-year grant to one Vermont-based nonprofit each year. The grant allocates a maximum of $30,000 per year, for no more than three years, to an organization working to “further social justice, protect the environment, or support family farms and local food systems.” 
The Grassroots Organizing for Social Change Grant Program awards a one-year grant up to $30,000 to organizations based outside of Vermont but within the United States.  The program has supported a number of left-of-center causes and organizations. In 2019, recipients included the left-of-center Dakota Rural Action; the Progressive Maryland Education Fund; and Rogue Climate, a left-progressive organization advocating for the passage of left-of-center energy legislation in Oregon.  Each of the recipients received over $15,000.  In 2018, the Workers Center for Racial Justice and the left-of-center Alliance of Families for Justice each received over $20,000. 
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Foundation suspended new applicants for the Vermont Capacity Building Grant Program and the Grassroots Organizing for Social Change Grant Program to focus on addressing the emerging needs of the pandemic. 
Grant requests for the Vermont Economic Justice and Vermont Community Action Team programs were not disrupted, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, though the Vermont Community Action Team guidelines specified that grants would address immediate community needs related to the pandemic, such as access to housing, food, and healthcare. 
The organization’s tax return for 2018 lists more than $3.6 million in total revenue and more than $3.4 million in total expenses.  The Foundation has reported more than $3 million in total revenue each year since 2016, including $3.2 million in total revenue in 2016 and $3.4 million in 2017.  
The Foundation is led by managing director Lisa Pendolino, who has worked for the Foundation since 1999.