Many businesses are excited about making a positive impact on the world—when the opportunity presents itself. But at Frontier Co-op, part of their mission is to create those opportunities.
For those efforts, Frontier was recently honored at the National Philanthropy Day Luncheon, hosted by the Eastern Iowa Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Frontier Co-op was named the 2019 Outstanding Large Organization for the impact they’ve had on communities around the world.
“It’s an important part of our mission to do great things in the communities in which we work,” said Tony Bedard, Frontier’s CEO. That includes here in Iowa, where Frontier is headquartered, but also communities across the US, and the villages, towns and cities in more than 50 countries where Frontier products are sourced.
Their Well Earth sustainable sourcing program, for example, creates true partnerships with growers around the world, offering training, equipment and support as they pursue organic and Fair Trade certifications. Well Earth also has a social giving component through which Frontier is able to help meet the unique needs of their sourcing partners’ communities, whether that means building dental clinics or education infrastructure, or helping them dig wells to more easily access clean drinking water.
Annually, the Co-op gives back approximately 4% of its pre-tax profits to causes and organizations that share their values. As Frontier grew from a two-person operation to a cooperative with international reach, they developed a robust and diverse set of philanthropic initiatives, including charitable programs for each of their brands.
The Simply Organic Giving Fund, established in 2001, has provided more than $1.5 million for a wide range of projects that support organic agricultural development and grower communities. Grants from this fund have helped ‘grow’ farmers for years, helping to expand organic agricultural practices and education in communities across the US. Beginning in 2018, the fund shifted its focus to address food insecurity, granting to organizations that are working to find innovative ways to provide access to healthy, organic foods to communities in need.
Aura Cacia, Frontier’s brand of natural and organic personal care products and essential oils, established the Aura Cacia Positive Change Project in 2016 to help women and girls improve their lives. To date, this project has provided over $750,000 to organizations that provide tools, resources and support to disadvantaged women and girls who are working to become more stable and self-sufficient. The Positive Change Project has supported women’s shelters in St. Cloud, Tulsa, Miami, Sacramento, and right here in Cedar Rapids.
One of the Co-op’s primary funding streams is the Frontier Co-op Giving Fund, which is housed at the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation and funded primarily through uncashed patronage checks. Established in 2000, this fund has granted millions to a wide variety of social, educational and environmental causes. Grants from this fund have supported local fundraisers, national education efforts, and even international disaster relief.
“We have always believed we have a responsibility to people and planet,” Tony said. “Doing well by doing good is fundamental to our success and who we are.”
Frontier’s efforts also go beyond financial gifts. While employee gifts to charitable organizations are matched, the Co-op also provides paid time off for employees that volunteer in their community.
Frontier is also committed to doing their part in helping break down barriers to employment faced by many in the corridor, from childcare to transportation. In this vein, an apprenticeship program, started in 2018 in partnership with two Cedar Rapids-based nonprofits, provides a path to employment for immigrants, women in need, people facing homelessness and the formerly incarcerated. Nearly 20 people have achieved full-time employment through this program already.
“We’re honored to partner with organizations like Frontier,” said Michelle Beisker, Senior Vice President of Development at the Community Foundation. “They recognize the importance of giving back, and they are a wonderful example of how impactful a single organization can be.”
Frontier was nominated for the AFP award by the Community Foundation, Catherine McAuley Center, Willis Dady, and Indian Creek Nature Center.
Read on to learn how Frontier Co-op has supported charitable organizations by making grants through the Community Foundation.