The Ford Foundation is a New York-headquartered, globally oriented private foundation with the mission of advancing human welfare. Created in 1936 by Edsel Ford and Henry Ford, it was originally funded by a US$25,000 gift from Edsel Ford. By 1947, after the death of the two founders, the foundation owned 90% of the non-voting shares of the Ford Motor Company. (The Ford family retained the voting shares.) 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.
|Founded||January 15, 1936|
|United States, Africa, Latin America, Middle East, Asia|
|Endowment||$12.4 billion USD|
|Mission||Advance human welfare|
The foundation was established January 15, 1936, 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."  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.
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. This divestiture allowed Ford Motor to become a public company.
Major grants and initiativesEdit
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. 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. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting replaced NET with the Public Broadcasting Service on October 5, 1970.
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.
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.
In 1968, the foundation began disbursing $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. Conservative critic Heather Mac Donald contends that the financial involvement of the foundation instead changed the clinics' focus from giving students practical experience to engaging in leftwing advocacy.
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 citywide teachers' strike led by the United Federation of Teachers.
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. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund was incorporated in 1967 with a US$2.2 million grant from the foundation. 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. The same year, the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund opened with funding from numerous organizations, including the foundation. In 1974, the foundation contributed funds to the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project 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.
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. Spanish judge Francisco Serrano Castro made similar claims in his 2012 book The Dictatorship of Gender.
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.
In 2003, the foundation was critiqued by US 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.
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.
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.
For many years, the foundation topped annual lists compiled by the Foundation Center of US foundations with the most assets and the highest annual giving. 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 and tenth in terms of annual grant giving.
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.
Relationship with the United StatesEdit
The foundation was accused of being funded by the US government. 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.
Ford Foundation BuildingEdit
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.
- Edsel Ford (founder) 1936-1943
- Henry Ford II 1943-1950
- Paul G. Hoffman 1950-1953
- H. Rowan Gaither 1953-1956
- Henry T. Heald 1956-1965
- McGeorge Bundy 1966-1979
- Franklin Thomas 1979-1996
- Susan Berresford 1996-2007
- Luis Ubiñas 2008-2013
- Darren Walker 2013-
Source: History of Ford Foundation
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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.
- Saunders 2001, p. 141.
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- David Ransom, The Trojan Horse: A Radical Look at Foreign Aid, pub. 1975, pp. 93-116; "Ford Country: Building an Elite for Indonesia"[permanent dead link]
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- Napoleon, Davi. Chelsea on the Edge: The Adventures of an American Theater The Ford Foundation gave the Chelsea Theater a grant in the early 1970s that enabled the theater to do groundbreaking multimedia work. The funding was abruptly halted after three years, an event that along with decreased funding from the National Endowment for the Arts helped precipitate the theater's collapse. This is a history that explores the on-stage and backstage dramas at the Chelsea, with special attention to how theaters are funded.