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Frequently asked questions

What exactly is a not-for-profit Benefit Company? Why did you choose this model?

While a business’ legal purpose is solely to generate profit for its owners and shareholders, a Benefit Company pursues the “Triple Bottom Line” of People, Planet and Profit. A not-for-profit Benefit Company operating as a not-for-profit cycles its profits fully back into its mission, but won’t qualify for tax exempt status and therefore doesn’t use the legal distinction of ‘nonprofit’. Benefit companies differ from traditional corporations and LLCs with regard to their purpose, accountability and transparency. The purpose is to create a general public benefit, which is defined as "a material positive impact on society and the environment, taken as a whole, from the business and operations of the company.” An Oregon Benefit Company considers its impact on society and the environment in the business decision-making process, in addition to earning a profit. This mission is legally implicated in the company’s Articles of Organization, and the company will adopt a Third-Party Standard. A "Community Cafe" is a typically volunteer-run eatery or coffee shop with donation-based options, supported by sales profits, community donations and sometimes grant funding. Versions of this idea exist across the country and around the world. You can explore some examples of nonprofit and mission-driven coffee shops here, and read an article about community cafes here. So, why did we choose this structure for the cafe? 501c3 nonprofits and fiscally sponsored entities are limited in their ability to earn profit and sometimes forced to compete for grant funding against other worthy efforts. Choosing a Public Benefit Company structure allows for consistent fundraising to support our mission through food, beverage, and merchandise sales, catering and space sharing. Since we are a not-for-profit business, but not a tax-exempt 501c3 nonprofit organization, we use the sales profit generated by the cafe and private donations to support our mission and leave grant funding to organizations with tax exemption. We feel this structure offers us the greatest opportunity to sustainably support our mission of reducing the burden of hunger and investing in local food security.

Can you really run a restaurant that gives away food for free? How does that work?

Yeah, we can! This has been an idea for awhile—check out Sisters of the Road, who have been open since 1979—and there are some great examples of ideas similar to ours operating in Oregon and around the world. Ardent Coffee in Portland is a community driven, volunteer run and donation based coffee shop that turns 100% of profit over to International Justice Mission to work toward ending slavery in our lifetime. Stone Soup PDX is a non-profit foodservice training enterprise also based in Portland, providing professional development & hands-on culinary expertise to people at risk of homelessness. Food For Lane County operates the Dining Room, where “guests eat for free in an atmosphere of dignity and respect”. We combined aspects of these different ideas to create a model we think will work well for Eugene’s own community cafe: a wholesome plant-based menu with donation-based and free options, a job training employment program for youth, and an approach to addressing food security that is community driven and focused on quality and dignity. Continuing our free meal distributions through a community cafe will allow us to use the same high quality ingredients we’re already using for our menu in free meals, instead of relying on donated ingredients from various sources. We want to be better than ‘charity’—we want to bring delicious food, full of nutrients, to the people in a dignified manner. In the words of sociologist and author Dr. Eve L. Ewing, “When we enact—even briefly, even on one block—a world where everybody eats, what we are really doing is rendering the impossible possible.” As we’ve seen more popular restaurants in Eugene stepping up for the community in 2020 to organize free meals during the pandemic and wildfires, our belief that Eugene is ready for a community cafe has solidified. Please donate or share our GoFundMe and help us make this happen!