Until this presidential campaign, charitable foundations were synonymous with good works. But that was before the Donald J. Trump foundation was caught illegally funneling money to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who days later decided against investigating fraud complaints against Trump University. His foundation was slammed again when it was reported that the Trump Foundation paid in excess of $200,000 to settle lawsuits filed against Trump’s businesses.
And although there is no evidence of such a blatant quid pro quo cases with the Clinton Foundation, Hillary Clinton has caught her fair share of flak for meeting with international leaders who donated money to her family foundation when she was secretary of state.
It’s enough to give the word “foundation” a bad name. But as a Ford dealer, I am very proud of the Ford Foundation, an 80-year-old organization that has given away billions of dollars to improve the lives of those in the United States and abroad. Started with a $25,000 endowment from Edsel Ford, son of Ford founder Henry Ford, the foundation now has more than $10 billion in assets and hands out more than $500 million a year.
Over the last eight decades, the foundation supported a myriad of anti-poverty and social justice programs around the globe. From pushing for civil rights in the U.S. to ending apartheid in Africa, the foundation has been at the forefront of fighting inequality. The NAACP, the Mexican Legal Defense and National Fund, the Native American Rights Fund and the Ms. Foundation are just a few of the groups that received foundation grants.
The foundation invested in urban projects such as public housing and transportation, rebuilding New Orleans after Katrina and it gave $125 million to Detroit when the embattled city was facing bankruptcy.
In Latin America, the foundation established the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program for poor families. In return for their monthly payments, families must abide to certain stipulations such as keeping their children in school and making sure they receive preventative health care. In South America, the foundation works with communities to make sure their land rights are protected, the poor are not exploited and they can continue to be good stewards of their property.
Closer to home, the foundation helped create Head Start, was an early investor in the Public Broadcast System and now wants to make sure high speed internet access is available and affordable for all Americans. The Foundation recently announced it will donate $2 million and a professional development staff to help raise money to build a memorial in downtown Montgomery Alabama that will commemorate the sites of 363 lynchings in that state. The names of lynching victims and the dates they were killed will be part of the $20 million museum and memorial.
Although I applaud the the Ford Foundation, as a Ford dealer I certainly can’t take any credit for what the foundation has done over the years. The foundation takes no outside money—not even from the Ford family or Ford dealers.
After the initial $25,000 investment from Edsel Ford, he and Henry Ford II continued to endow the foundation with substantial sums until the 1950s when they retired from the company and the foundation. Now a cadre of financial analysts occupies a floor of the landmark building that houses the Ford Foundation in downtown Manhattan. They make sure that the $10 billion plus endowment generates enough interest to pay out $500 million a year to worthy causes. An independent board—there are no longer Ford family members on it—oversees how and where the money will be disbursed.
Although Sunrise Ford is not affiliated with the foundation, I do hope that at one time the dealership may have contributed a very, very small share of the foundation’s initial investment.
Sunrise Ford was founded in 1932, probably around the time Edsel Ford started thinking about establishing a legacy in his family’s name. Hopefully some of the money from the sale of Ford cars and trucks in St. Lucie County during those early year trickled into the foundation.
During this contentious presidential race when the Trump and Clinton foundations are being barraged with insults from opposing sides, I’d like to think the Ford Foundation is an example of the right way to run a foundation—quietly, efficiently and scandal free. So the next time you hear the arrogant, fear mongering rants of a presidential candidate, try to ignore the rhetoric and think of something pleasant—like the Ford Foundation—an organization that really is in the business of doing good works.