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Austin Community Foundation (ACF) works with individuals, families and companies of all sizes to create charitable giving programs that can make a positive impact in Central Texas and beyond. One philanthropic tool for corporate giving that ACF has seen growing interest in is a donor-advised fund (DAF), into which a business can donate cash or non-cash assets, receive an immediate tax benefit, and then use the funds to direct grants out of the DAF to qualified charities over time.

Whole Foods Market, a homegrown Austin company, is a great example of how a business can use a traditional tool, such as a DAF, in innovative ways to make a greater impact in the world. For 40 years, Whole Foods Market has been the world’s leading natural and organic foods retailer. In 2020, the company partnered with ACF for a unique opportunity to leverage its relationships with certain suppliers to advance the important philanthropic work of Whole Planet Foundation, Whole Kids Foundation and Whole Cities Foundation.

Turning business development relationships into philanthropic capital
Child in a garden

Credit: Whole Kids Foundation

In launching the DAF project, Whole Foods Market is capitalizing on its existing work supporting promising, high quality suppliers in growing their brands, while also securing future funding to support the growth of its three operating foundations.

The grocer has high quality standards and is particular about which products and which suppliers it brings into its stores. As a result, when Whole Foods Market begins working with suppliers, many of those suppliers are small and only able to serve a handful of stores. To help suppliers scale to serve more stores and customers, Whole Foods Market occasionally makes loans to or invests in promising companies. Of particular interest to Whole Foods Market are suppliers with new and unique products that appeal to customers and meet rigorous quality standards.

By partnering with ACF, Whole Foods Market is now working with some of these same suppliers to donate equity into the DAF until an event, such as an IPO or acquisition of the supplier, turns those equity holdings into cash. When that happens, Whole Foods Market will direct those monies from the DAF to the three charitable operating foundations, or potentially to other qualified charitable causes. As of the end of March 2021, Whole Foods Market has worked with more than a dozen such business partners to donate equity into the DAF. Health and wellness shot company Vive Organic is one of the supplier donor partners, and Next Level Burger which operates 100% plant-based burger joints inside six Whole Foods Market Stores is a store-in-store donor partner.

Partnering for greater impact

Whole Foods Market was founded with the purpose to nourish people and the planet. As a company that values giving back, Whole Foods Market sought to create a program that had measurable impact and reflected company values.

By establishing a DAF at ACF, a trusted philanthropic leader in Central Texas, Whole Foods Market is able to support and grow the work of the company’s three charitable operating foundations:

  • Whole Kids Foundation: Dedicated to improving children’s’ nutrition, provides grant and education support to schools in the US, UK and Canada.
  • Whole Cities Foundation: Provides grants to non-profits focusing on healthy food access projects like urban farms, mobile markets, and community gardens which provide fresh, affordable produce close to home.
  • Whole Planet Foundation: Empowers the world’s poorest people across 78 countries with microcredit to create or expand a home-based business and lift themselves and their families out of poverty.

Whole Foods Market has committed more than $50 million to its operating foundations who have been supporting local and global communities since 2005. As the company continues to make donations into its DAF as well as to facilitate equity donations from suppliers and partners, the Whole Foods Market DAF that is administered by ACF will continue to grow and maximize Whole Foods Markets charitable resources and impact.

“Through the future proceeds received from the Whole Foods Market donor-advised fund, our three foundations will continue to be able to support strategic programs to help children develop healthier diets, make healthy food accessible for everyone, and fund poverty alleviation across the globe,” Nona Evans, Executive Director, Foundation Program Management, said.


Learn more about charitable giving options available through Austin Community Foundation. >