"An important shift for American philanthropy"

In this op-ed, Tom Watson, president of CauseWired and a columnist for The Chronicle of Philanthropy, explains why Ford's commitment to general operating support matters to the broader landscape of funding for social change. The foundation's move is "a clear recognition that organizations do the heavy lifting—often over the course of decades—in fighting social ills, conquering disease, and forging new policy," he writes. "It’s a mature and serious nod to the general realization that making progress on problems like inequality, poverty, disease, and climate change is more like a tugboat shifting an ocean liner across a busy harbor than a speedboat racing to the finish line."

Published in The Chronicle of Philanthropy | July 16, 2015
Smart Donors Are Putting Nonprofits Back in Charge
By Tom Watson

So far, this has been a summer of political campaigning and stunning social change: hateful flags coming down, rainbow flags going up—and deeper meaningful conversations in the United States about the forces that still divide us.

Among those voices has been that of Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation and keeper of its $12-billion-plus endowment, who announced last month that the second-largest philanthropy in the nation will focus much of its grant making on inequality, aiming to use its capital to create a "social-justice infrastructure." This fits our changing times like a glove.

But so does Mr. Walker’s other major strategic shift: doubling Ford’s commitment to unrestricted grants for nonprofit operating support.

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The Ford Foundation is an independent, nonprofit grant-making organization. For more than 80 years it has worked with courageous people on the frontlines of social change worldwide, guided by its mission to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement. With headquarters in New York, the foundation has offices in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.