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Office of the Vice Chancellor for Institutional Advancement

featured foundation

The Ford Foundation



This fall we feature the Ford Foundation, whose president, Luis A. Ubiñas, recently announced a comprehensive set of new program strategies. The strategies, according to Mr. Ubiñas, are “aimed at creating fairness for people everywhere.” The programs address eight significant social justice issues and are grounded in the Foundation’s mission and history. The new priorities are scheduled to go into full effect in October, when the foundation begins its 2010 fiscal year. To learn more about Ford’s new programming, please see the section below, “Eight New Issues.”


The foundation's mission is to serve as a resource for innovative people and institutions worldwide. Its goals are to: strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement. The foundation will be focusing on eight core issues: 1) Access to Education; 2) Democratic and Accountable Government; 3) Economic Fairness and Opportunity; 4) Social Justice; 5) Freedom of Expression; 6) Natural Resources and Sustainable Development; and 8) Human Rights.

Created with gifts and bequests by Edsel and Henry Ford, the foundation is an independent, nonprofit, nongovernmental organization, with its own board, and is entirely separate from the Ford Motor Company. The trustees of the foundation set policy and delegate authority to the president and senior staff for the foundation's grant making and operations. Program officers in the United States, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America explore opportunities to pursue the foundation's goals, formulate strategies and recommend proposals for funding.


Year ended 9/30/08:
Assets: $11,184,655,197
Total giving: $528,823,692

Giving activities include:
$526,224,801 for 2,815 grants (high: $8,000,000; low: $9,500; average: $10,000-$2,000,000)
$704,813 for 280 grants to individuals (high: $52,522)
$1,894,078 for employee matching gifts
$2,641,393 for 4 foundation-administered programs
$23,347,961 for 14 loans/program-related investments

Information regarding the economic crisis:
The Ford Foundation has announced that it will honor all outstanding commitments to its grantees and will increase the percentage of its endowment that is paid out in grants in 2009 and 2010. The foundation closed its offices in Russia and Vietnam in an effort to reduce costs.

Source: The Foundation Center


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. The Foundation’s Board of Trustees is currently composed of 15 members, including the president. Nominated by a trustee committee and appointed by the full board, trustees generally serve two six-year terms.

Luis A. Ubiñas became the ninth president of the Ford Foundation in January 2008. He succeeds Susan V. Berresford, who served the Foundation for 38 years, the last 12 as president.

Mr. Ubiñas was previously a Director at McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm, where he worked for 18 years. Based in San Francisco, he led McKinsey's Media Practice on the West Coast of the United States, advising Fortune 100 media, telecommunications and technology companies on major strategic and operating challenges. Mr. Ubiñas has a distinguished record of leadership in the nonprofit sector, devoting much of his personal time and energy to working with nonprofits to accomplish their missions.

Mr. Ubiñas earned an AB (magna cum laude in Government) at Harvard College. As an undergraduate, he also studied at the Institute of Latin American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin and earned a certificate in Latin American Studies from Harvard. He holds an MBA from Harvard Business School, where he graduated as a Baker Scholar.



Democratic and Accountable Government
This program seeks to support efforts that help people become participants in the decisions that have an impact on their lives. This is done primarily by supporting robust and inclusive civic organizations that bring diverse people together and give them a voice in the democratic process. The program has 5 focus areas.

Economic Fairness
This program seeks to make markets and public systems and policies work better for low-income families and help them access the opportunities and tools they need to climb out of poverty and achieve economic security. The program has 8 focus areas.

Educational Opportunity and Scholarship
Under this program, the Foundation supports education reform that improves the life chances of young people from marginalized groups by expanding access, improving quality and boosting student outcomes. The program has 3 focus areas.

Freedom of Expression
The program seeks to promote the right of all people to connect more deeply with others and find meaningful ways to participate. The Foundation’s work offers space for creative expression, helps all people access opportunities for expression and supports efforts to ensure that media systems and policies are open and equitable. The program has 4 focus areas.

Human Rights
This program seeks to strengthen the organizations and mechanisms that enforce human rights and monitor the policies and practices of institutions that affect the well-being of individual citizens. The program has 7 focus areas.

Sexuality and Reproductive Health and Rights
This program is directed toward strengthening sexual and reproductive health rights and encouraging comprehensive sexuality education and evidence-based public discourse on sexuality. The program has 4 focus areas.

Social Justice Philanthropy
The Foundation’s work focuses on strengthening the role and effectiveness of philanthropy around the world on issues of fairness, equity and justice. This program directs its support at Mobilizing Philanthropic Resources for Social Justice.

Sustainable Development
The program supports the development of natural resource policies and programs that give poor communities more control over these resources and a stronger voice in decision making on land use and development. The program has 2 focus areas.


The Foundation’s 10 offices in Africa, Asia, and Latin America enable staff to address problems by supporting those living and working closest to them. Ford generally remains in locations outside the United States for an extended period, making grants to people who are running innovative programs in their own communities. Some of their offices make grants in just one country, and others work in several countries.

The Andean Region and the Southern Cone of Latin America
Eastern Africa
India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka
Mexico and Central America
Middle East and North Africa
Southern Africa
West Africa


for more information

Additional information about the Ford Foundation can be found on their website.

If you are interested in exploring potential funding opportunities from the Ford Foundation, you may contact Janelle Weatherford, Associate Director, Foundation Relations. (jwthford at illinois dot edu).


Source: The Ford Foundation website, unless otherwise noted.

Interested in viewing previously featured foundations?

Visit the following pages to learn more about these foundations and their programs. Please note that links contained within these profiles were current as of the date that the foundation was featured.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (Fall 2008)

W.K. Kellogg Foundation (Spring 2009)