What is the BUILD initiative? What is its goal?

The Ford Foundation launched its Building Institutions and Networks (BUILD) initiative in 2015 to support the long-term capacity of select grantee partners around the world in their efforts to dismantle inequality. By providing grantees with highly flexible five-year grants combined with customized support for institutional strengthening, BUILD aims to strengthen the ability of civil society organizations to innovate, take risks, and plan for long-term social change. Ultimately, the Ford Foundation hopes that efforts like BUILD will help shift power dynamics in the philanthropic sector, by fostering relationships between grantmakers and grantees that are rooted in trust, candor, and partnership.

Why are you renewing the BUILD program? And why now?

We launched BUILD with the hypothesis that nonprofits would thrive with longer, larger, and more flexible grants. This has not only been proven—it has exceeded our expectations. In a survey of 130 BUILD grantees, more than 85 percent said that BUILD support has helped them strengthen their work to become more effective, and two thirds report that they have leveraged their BUILD grants to procure funding from other sources.

Today, as the world faces a confluence of crises, nonprofits and the critical services they provide have never been more essential, and yet they have never been more in jeopardy. A recent survey of nonprofits across 122 countries found that 73 percent have seen a decline in contributions in the last year, while 40 percent reported increased costs, staff disruptions and disruptions to the people they served. What’s more, half say they expect to see revenue decline by more than 20 percent this year.

By extending BUILD with an additional $1 billion commitment, we are building on the foundation of trust and true partnership we’ve developed with our grantees at a critical juncture for social justice organizations—and for philanthropy.

What changes are you making to the program?

The core essentials are still the same: combining five years of general operating support with additional resources for institutional strengthening. We have also learned a great deal over the past five years, and will be applying a clearer focus on building resilience among grantees, and strengthening connections across BUILD grantees in different regions. We’ll also enlist other donors to amplify the impact of BUILD support. We will continue to update our website with details about the BUILD approach as we go along.

Who is eligible for a BUILD grant?

At this time, BUILD grants are limited to a subset of current Ford grantees spanning each of Ford’s program areas and regions.

If we were a BUILD grantee in the first phase of the program, can we receive a renewal of our BUILD grant?

Yes, in some cases, Ford may renew BUILD grants. Grants will be evaluated for renewal on a case-by-case basis at the discretion of grant making teams. It’s important to note that we anticipate that the majority of current BUILD grantees will continue to receive grants from the Ford Foundation even if they are not renewed by the BUILD program.

Why not provide BUILD support to all grantees?

Even though the Foundation's BUILD support is significant, it is limited, and unfortunately at this time we can award BUILD grants only to a subset of our grantee partners. BUILD is only one piece of our grant making toolkit. Across all of our program areas and regions, we aim to support the long-term sustainability of grantees by providing multi-year general support grants and paying indirect costs associated with projects. Additionally, we offer all grantees opportunities for training and workshops, connections to organizations facing similar challenges, and introductions to other funders and experts.

When does the renewed program begin?

Funding for the next round of BUILD grants begins in 2022. Decisions on grants will take place on a rolling basis and follow the same schedule as Ford’s overall grant making.

How are you defining “resilience?”

We are defining resilience as “the ability to respond effectively to change and adapt successfully to new and unforeseen circumstances while staying true to mission. At their best, resilient nonprofits respond to disruptions as tipping points, rather than tragedies, finding new opportunities to learn, grow, evolve, and, ultimately, better serve their communities.” (Scearce & Wang 2020).

Will you continue to evaluate the long-term impact of the BUILD program?

Yes. Learn more about the evaluation here.

Where can I find more information about BUILD?

Extensive information about the program, including evaluation reports and grantee stories, can be found here.