A fundamental challenge facing every society is to create political, economic and social systems that promote peace, human welfare and the sustainability of the environment on which life depends. We believe that the best way to meet this challenge is to encourage initiatives by those living and working closest to where problems are located; to promote collaboration among the nonprofit, government and business sectors; and to ensure participation by men and women from diverse communities and at all levels of society. In our experience, such activities help build common understanding, enhance excellence, enable people to improve their lives and reinforce their commitment to society.
The Ford Foundation is one source of support for these activities. We work mainly by making grants or loans that build knowledge and strengthen organizations and networks. Since our financial resources are modest in comparison with societal needs, we focus on a limited number of problem areas and program strategies within our broad goals.
Founded in 1936, the foundation operated as a local philanthropy in the state of Michigan until 1950, when it expanded to become a national and international foundation. Since its inception it has been an independent, nonprofit, nongovernmental organization. It has provided more than $12 billion for grants, projects and loans. These funds derive from an investment portfolio that began with gifts and bequests of Ford Motor Company stock by Henry and Edsel Ford. The foundation no longer owns Ford Motor Company stock, and its diversified portfolio is managed to provide a perpetual source of support for the foundation’s programs and operations.
Perhaps most significant, the foundation declared its intention to focus on solving humankind’s most pressing problems, whatever they might be, rather than to work in any particular field, which was the more traditional and accepted approach for foundations.