Ford Foundation

Ford Foundation
Ford Foundation
Founded January 15, 1936 (1936-01-15)
Founder Edsel Ford and Henry Ford
Area served
United States, Africa, Latin America, Middle East, Asia
Method Grants, Funding
Key people
Irene Hirano Inouye: Board of Trustees Chair, Darren Walker: President[1]
Endowment $12.4 billion USD[2]
Mission Advance human welfare
New York headquarters

The Ford Foundation is a New York headquartered, globally oriented private foundation with the mission of advancing human welfare.[3][4][5][6] Created in 1936[7] by Edsel Ford and Henry Ford, it was originally funded by a US$25,000 gift from Edsel Ford.[4] By 1947, after the death of the two founders, the foundation owned 90 percent of the non-voting shares of the Ford Motor Company. (The Ford family retained the voting shares.)[8] Between 1955 and 1974, the foundation sold its Ford Motor Company holdings and now plays no role in the automobile company. For years, the foundation was the largest, and one of the most influential foundations in the world, with global reach and special interests in economic empowerment, education, human rights, democracy, the creative arts, and Third World development.

The foundation makes grants through its headquarters and ten international field offices.[9] For fiscal year 2014, it reported assets of US$12.4 billion and approved US$507.9 million in grants.[2][10]


The foundation was established January 15, 1936,[4] in Michigan by Edsel Ford (president of the Ford Motor Company) and two other executives "to receive and administer funds for scientific, educational and charitable purposes, all for the public welfare." [11] During its early years, the foundation operated in Michigan under the leadership of Ford family members and their associates and supported the Henry Ford Hospital and the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village, among other organizations.

After the deaths of Edsel Ford in 1943 and Henry Ford in 1947, the presidency of the foundation fell to Edsel's eldest son, Henry Ford II. It quickly became clear that the foundation would become the largest philanthropy in the world. The board of trustees then commissioned the Gaither Study Committee to chart the foundation's future. The committee, headed by California attorney H. Rowan Gaither, recommended that the foundation become an international philanthropy dedicated to the advancement of human welfare and "urged the foundation to focus on solving humankind's most pressing problems, whatever they might be, rather than work in any particular field...." The board embraced the recommendations in 1949.[4]

The board of directors decided to diversify the foundation's portfolio and gradually divested itself of its substantial Ford Motor Company stock between 1955 and 1974.[4] This divestiture allowed Ford Motor to become a public company.

In 2012, stating that it is not a research library, the foundation transferred its archives from New York City to the Rockefeller Archive Center in Sleepy Hollow, New York.[12]

Major grants and initiatives

Based on recommendations made by the Gaither Study Committee and embraced by the foundation's board of trustees in 1949, the foundation expanded its grant making to include support for higher education, the arts, economic development, civil rights, and the environment, among other areas.

In 1951, the foundation made its first grant to support the development of the public broadcasting system, then known as National Educational Television (NET), which went on the air in 1952.[13] These grants continued, and in 1969 the foundation gave US$1 million to the Children's Television Workshop to help create and launch Sesame Street.[14] The Corporation for Public Broadcasting replaced NET with the Public Broadcasting Service on October 5, 1970.[15]

The foundation's first international field office opened in 1952 in New Delhi, India.

Throughout the 1950s, the foundation provided arts and humanities fellowships that supported the work of figures like Josef Albers, James Baldwin, Saul Bellow, Herbert Blau, E. E. Cummings, Flannery O'Connor, Jacob Lawrence, Maurice Valency, Robert Lowell, and Margaret Mead. In 1961, Kofi Annan received an educational grant from the foundation to finish his studies at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota.[16]

Under its "Program for Playwrights", the foundation helped to support writers in professional regional theaters such as San Francisco's Actor's Workshop and offered similar help to Houston's Alley Theatre and Washington's Arena Stage.[17]

In 1968, the foundation began disbursing US$12 million to persuade law schools to make "law school clinics" part of their curriculum. Clinics were intended to give practical experience in law practice while providing pro bono representation to the poor. Many people, however, charge that the clinics have been used instead by professors to engage in political activism. Critics cite the financial involvement of the foundation as the turning point when these clinics began to change from giving practical experience to engaging in advocacy.[18]

In 1967 and 1968, the foundation provided financial support for decentralization and community control of public schools in New York City. Decentralization in Ocean Hill–Brownsville led to the firing of some white teachers and administrators, which provoked a city-wide teachers' strike led by the United Federation of Teachers.[19]

Beginning in the late 1960s and continuing through the 1970s, the foundation expanded into civil rights litigation, granting $18 million to civil rights litigation groups.[20] The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund was incorporated in 1967 with a US$2.2 million grant from the foundation.[20] In the same year, the foundation also funded the establishment of the Southwest Council of La Raza, the predecessor of the National Council of La Raza. In 1972, the foundation provided a three-year US$1.2 million grant to the Native American Rights Fund.[20] The same year, the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund opened with funding from numerous organizations, including the foundation.[20][21] In 1974, the foundation contributed funds to the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project[22] and the Latino Institute.

In 1976, the foundation helped launch the Grameen Bank, which offers small loans to the rural poor of Bangladesh. The Grameen Bank and its founder Muhammad Yunus were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for pioneering micro-credit.[23]

In 1987, the foundation began making grants to fight the AIDS epidemic[24] and in 2010 made grant disbursements totalling US$29,512,312.[25]

In 1994, American author and former philosophy professor Christina Hoff Sommers alleged that the Ford Foundation funded "gender feminism", ideology that abandoned the feminist quest for equity in favor of a gender war against men.[26] Spanish judge Francisco Serrano Castro made similar claims in his 2012 book The Dictatorship of Gender.[27]

In 2001, the foundation launched the International Fellowships Program (IFP) with a 12-year, $280 million grant, the largest in its history. IFP is entering its concluding phase. The final cohort has been selected, and the program will conclude in 2013. Fellows represent historically disadvantaged groups from outside the United States. IFP has identified nearly 4,350 emerging leaders. More than 80 percent have completed their studies and are now serving their home communities.[28]

In 2003, the foundation was critiqued by U.S. news service Jewish Telegraphic Agency, among others, for supporting Palestinian nongovernmental organizations that were accused of promoting antisemitism at the 2001 World Conference Against Racism. Under pressure by several members of Congress, chief among them Rep. Jerrold Nadler, the foundation apologized and then prohibited the promotion of "violence, terrorism, bigotry or the destruction of any state" among its grantees. This move itself sparked protest among university provosts and various non-profit groups on free speech issues.[29]

The foundation's partnership with the New Israel Fund, which began in 2003, was frequently criticized regarding its choice of mostly liberal grantees and causes. This criticism came to light after the 2001 Durban Conference, where some nongovernmental organizations funded by the foundation backed resolutions equating Israeli policies as apartheid, and later, against those groups which support the delegitimization of Israel. In response, the foundation adopted stricter criteria for funding.[30]

In 2005, Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox began a probe of the foundation that ultimately backfired. Though the foundation is headquartered in New York City, it is chartered in Michigan, giving that state some jurisdiction. Cox focused on its governance, potential conflicts of interest among board members, and what he viewed as its poor record of giving to charities in Michigan. Between 1998 and 2002, the foundation gave Michigan charities about US$2.5 million per year, far less than many other charities its size. The foundation countered that an extensive review and report by the Gaither Study Committee in 1949 had recommended that the foundation broaden its scope beyond Michigan to national and international grant-making. The report was endorsed by the foundation's board of trustees, and they subsequently voted to move the foundation to New York City in 1953.[4][31][32]

For many years, the foundation topped annual lists compiled by the Foundation Center of United States foundations with the most assets and the highest annual giving; however, the foundation has fallen a few places in those lists in recent years, especially with the establishment of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000. As of May 4, 2013, the foundation was second in terms of assets[2] and tenth in terms of annual grant giving.[33]

In April 2011, the foundation announced that it will cease its funding for programs in Israel as of 2013. It has provided US$40 million to nongovernmental organizations in Israel since 2003 exclusively through the New Israel Fund (NIF), in the areas of advancing civil and human rights, helping Arab citizens in Israel gain equality and promoting Israeli-Palestinian peace. The grants from the foundation are roughly a third of NIF's donor-advised giving, which totals about US$15 million a year.[30]

Relationship with the United States

The foundation was accused of being funded by the United States government.[34][35] John J. McCloy, the foundation's chairman from 1958–1965, knowingly employed numerous agents and, based on the premise that a relationship with the CIA was inevitable, set up a three-person committee responsible for dealing with its requests.[36][37]

Ford Foundation Building

Completed in 1968 by the firm of Roche-Dinkeloo, the Ford Foundation Building was the first large-scale architectural building in the country to devote a substantial portion of its space to horticultural pursuits. Its well-known atrium was designed with the notion of having urban greenspace accessible to all and is an example of the application in architecture of environmental psychology. The building was recognized in 1968 by the Architectural Record as "a new kind of urban space". This design concept was used by others for many of the indoor shopping malls and skyscrapers built in subsequent decades. The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the building a landmark in the mid-1990s.


Source: History of Ford Foundation[38]

See also


  1. "Leadership: Officers". Ford Foundation. Retrieved 2014-05-14.
  2. 1 2 3 "The Ford Foundation Financial Statements As of December 31, 2014 and 2013" (PDF). Ford Foundation. 12 June 2015. Retrieved 2015-10-28.
  3. "The Ford Foundation (Grants)". Urban Ministry: TechMission. Retrieved 26 May 2013.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "History: Overview". Ford Foundation. Retrieved 2014-05-14.
  5. Walsh, Evelyn C.; Atwater, Verne S. (9 August 2012). "A Memoir of the Ford Foundation: The Early Years". The Foundation Center: Philanthropy News Digest. Retrieved 2014-05-14.
  6. "Development Studies: Foundations & Philanthropies". Wellesley College. Retrieved 2014-05-14.
  7. Dietrich II, William S. (Fall 2011). "In the American grain: The amazing story of Henry Ford". Pittsburgh Quarterly. Retrieved 2014-05-14.
  8. "The Ford Foundation History". Funding Universe. Retrieved 2014-05-14.
  9. "Regions". Ford Foundation. Retrieved 2014-05-14.
  10. "Grants". Ford Foundation. Retrieved 2014-05-14.
  11. Bak, Richard (3 July 2003). Henry and Edsel: The Creation of the Ford Empire. p. 217. ISBN 978-0471234876.
  12. "Rockefeller Archive Center to House Ford Foundation Records" (Press release). Rockefeller Archive Center. 9 April 2012. Retrieved 2014-05-14.
  13. Behrens, Steve (16 May 2005). "Ford outlays seek to broaden 'public media'". Current. Retrieved 2014-05-14.
  14. "Sesame Street: Company Credits". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2014-05-14.
  15. "Ford Foundation". Association of Public Television Stations. Retrieved 2014-05-14.
  16. "Kofi Annan". Roosevelt Institute. Retrieved 2014-05-14.
  17. Fowler, Keith Franklin (1969). "A History of the San Francisco Actor's Workshop". I–II. Yale School of Drama Doctor of Fine Arts Dissertations, Robert B. Haas Family Arts Library: 830.
  18. MacDonald, Heather (11 January 2006). "Clinical, Cynical". Wall Street Journal. p. A14. Retrieved 2014-05-14.
  19. Podair, Jerald E. (6 October 2001). "The Ocean Hill-Brownsville Crisis: New York's Antigone" (PDF). Like Strangers: Blacks, Whites and New York City's Ocean Hill-Brownsville Crisis. Gotham Center. Retrieved 2014-05-14.
  20. 1 2 3 4 Schindler, Steven. "Case 36: Social Movements and Civil Rights Litigation", Ford Foundation 1967" (PDF). Center for Strategic Philanthropy & Civil Society, Sanford School of Public Policy. Retrieved 2014-05-14.
  21. "Four Decades of Protecting Latino Civil Rights". Latino Justice. Retrieved 2014-05-14.
  22. Acosta, Teresa Palomo. "Southwest Voter Registration Education Project". Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved 2014-05-14.
  23. "The Nobel Peace Prize for 2006" (Press release). Norwegian Nobel Committee. 13 October 2006. Retrieved 2014-05-14.
  24. Hamilton, Sarah (21 June 2011). "30 years of AIDS – Looking back at the Philanthropic Response". Funders Concerned About AIDS. Retrieved 2014-05-14.
  25. "U.S. Philanthropic Support to Address HIV/AIDS in 2010". Funders Concerned About AIDS. November 2011. pp. 29, 41. Retrieved 2014-05-14.
  26. Sommers, Christina Hoff (1994). Who Stole Feminism? How Women Have Betrayed Women. Simon & Schuster. pp. 53, 82. ISBN 0-671-79424-8.
  27. Castro, Francisco Serrano. La dictadura de género. Grupo Almuzara. ISBN 978-84-15338-81-9.
  28. "Individuals Seeking Fellowships". Ford Foundation. Retrieved 2014-05-14.
  29. Sherman, Scott (5 June 2006). "Target Ford". The Nation. Retrieved 2014-05-14.
  30. 1 2 Guttman, Nathan (6 April 2011). "Ford Foundation, Big Funder of Israeli NGOs, Pulling Out". The Jewish Daily Forward. Retrieved 2014-05-14.
  31. "Michigan Attorney General Looks Into Policies of Ford Foundation". Philanthropy News Digest. 11 April 2006. Retrieved 2014-05-14.
  32. "Ford Foundation website press release". 2005-12-02. Archived from the original on 2007-09-05. Retrieved 2007-11-20.
  33. "Top 100 U.S. Foundations by Total Giving". Foundation Center. 26 April 2014. Retrieved 2014-05-11.
  34. Roland, Naomi Verbong (3 July 2013). "Funding Transatlantic Exchange between the Arts and Politics". Transatlanitc Perspectives. Retrieved 2014-05-14.
  35. Epstein, Jason (20 April 1967). The CIA and the Intellectuals. New York Review of Books. Retrieved 2014-05-14.
  36. Saunders, Frances Stonor (1 April 2001). The cultural cold war: the CIA and the world of arts and letters. New York: New Press. pp. 138–139. ISBN 978-1565846647. Farfield was by no means exceptional in its incestuous character. This was the nature of power in America at this time. The system of private patronage was the pre-eminent model of how small, homogenous groups came to defend America's—and, by definition, their own—interests. Serving at the top of the pile was every self-respecting WASP's ambition. The prize was a trusteeship on either the Ford Foundation or the Rockefeller Foundation, both of which were conscious instruments of covert US policy, with directors and officers who were closely connected to, or even members of American intelligence.
  37. Saunders 2001, p. 141.
  38. "Presidents". Ford Foundation. Retrieved 2014-05-14.

Further reading

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