Ford Foundation trustees set policies relating to grant making, geographic focus, spending, investment, management, governance, and professional standards, and they oversee internal and independent audits. They also set the compensation and review the performance of the president and all foundation officers.
Our Board of Trustees is currently composed of 16 members, including the president. Nominated by a trustee committee and appointed by the full board, trustees may serve up to two six-year terms. The board, board committees, and individual trustees are evaluated on a regular basis by our Executive Committee.
Foundation trustees bring a vast range of knowledge and experience to the task of governing the foundation. Over the years, trustees have hailed from five continents, and they have extensive experience in the worlds of higher education, business, law, government, technology, health care, nonprofit management, the arts, and the civic sector.
The trustees select the president, who implements board policies and oversees foundation programs and operations on a day-to-day basis. The trustees and the president, along with other senior staff, share the responsibility of representing the foundation in the public sphere. The president continually reexamines our work, looking for opportunities to hone our strategies and improve our effectiveness. The president meets with people around the world to help deepen the foundation's grasp of different perspectives on how to solve problems. In addition to overseeing operations, the president works to communicate what we have learned to a broad array of audiences and strives to strengthen the philanthropic sector's performance, legal compliance, and transparency.
The board's oversight of grant making
Our Board of Trustees determines the substantive areas and geographic focus of the foundation's grant making. Within the budget approved by the board, the foundation makes about 1,400 grants throughout the year. The board has delegated authority for approving these grants to the president and senior staff. However, all trustees serve on one of the board's three program committees, which help design program strategy. Membership on the committees rotates so that trustees serving 12 years become steeped in the work of all three program areas and contribute to their development and assessment. The trustees review approved grants at their regular board meetings, which take place three times a year. At those meetings, and during annual board visits to grantees worldwide, trustees meet grant recipients and learn about their work.
The Ford Foundation places high value on the independence of our board members. We require that a majority of our trustees be independent, that all trustees serving on the Audit Committee and the Nominating and Governance Committee be independent, and that trustees on the Audit Committee satisfy additional standards of independence. When the staff proposes that the foundation fund an organization with which a trustee, or the spouse, domestic partner, or child of a trustee, is affiliated as an officer, director, trustee, or employee, that grant must be reviewed and approved by the Audit Committee. The grant action document—which is reviewed and approved by management before submission to the Audit Committee—discloses the nature of the trustee affiliation and confirms that the trustee played no role in the initiation or negotiation of the grant.
The Audit Committee assists the Board of Trustees with respect to financial reporting, internal control, and audits, and also supports the foundation’s process for monitoring its compliance with laws and regulations, the Trustee Code of Ethics, the Conflict of Interest Policy for Trustees and Officers, and the Whistleblower Policy. The Audit Committee appoints and manages the outside auditor. The committee also sets the officers’ compensation.
The Executive Committee works with the foundation’s executive officers and acts for the board between board meetings. Trustee committees dedicated to specific topics meet regularly and guide foundation activities throughout the year.
The Finance Committee works to ensure that the board is fulfilling its oversight responsibilities. The committee makes recommendations on long-range financial plans, and also reviews and monitors the foundation’s spending policy and budget, including program and management appropriations and capital spending.
The Investment Committee is responsible for formulating overall investment policies, subject to approval by the Board of Trustees, and establishing investment guidelines. The committee monitors the management of the portfolio for compliance with the investment policies and guidelines and for meeting performance objectives over time.
The Nominating and Governance Committee helps identify and recommend candidates for board membership; helps review, develop, and enhance trustee orientation programs; and reviews the foundation's governance policies and procedures.
The Program Committees give the trustees an opportunity to deepen their knowledge of an area of the foundation’s overall program and to contribute to program development and assessment. There are three Program Committees: Democracy, Rights, and Justice; Economic Opportunity and Markets; and Education, Creativity, and Free Expression.