As one of the largest philanthropies in the world, the Ford Foundation makes grants and investments that serve the public good and support visionary leaders on the frontlines of social change. These grants and investments, all funded through our endowment, advance issues like human rights and sustainable development while helping to reimagine philanthropy for the 21st century.

In 1936, Edsel Ford, son of Henry Ford, the founder of the Ford Motor Company, established the Ford Foundation with an initial gift of $25,000. When he and his father died, they left the foundation with the equivalent of $4 billion. That original investment has since grown, now sitting at around $16 billion. It’s a figure that changes depending on the management of the endowment. This is what makes the foundation different from a charity, which relies on donations and contributions for fundraising. We instead use the returns from our endowment’s investments to provide support for organizations driving social change on a global scale.

We spend more than the 5% required by U.S. tax code in the funds we allocate to these organizations. Our endowment continues to be invested responsibly and managed by our investment staff and board to ensure Ford can further its legacy of supporting organizations changing the world.

For more information, please visit: How we make grants

This is part of the Ford Explainer series, which details how the foundation is working to reimagine philanthropy.

Other videos in this series

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How mission-related investments work

Every year, the Ford Foundation distributes 5% of its endowment to grants and program-related investments. The rest of the endowment is invested to generate the funds that will help support organizations in need for years to come. In an effort to reimagine philanthropy, these mission-related investments are designed to generate both social and financial returns.

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How the Ford Foundation’s grantmaking works

Every year, the Ford Foundation makes around 1,400 grants to organizations fighting injustice around the globe. Our program teams identify and assess each organization, and then grants are made and monitored as part of the foundation’s aim to tackle inequality and reimagine philanthropy.

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How program-related investments disrupt inequality

Along with our grantmaking, the foundation makes loans and equity investments that advance equality around the world. These program-related investments benefit organizations deemed too risky by traditional investors. These investments, which are eventually paid back, are then reinvested in new projects designed to create social change.