Ford Motor Company Fund & Community Services: Grants for K-12 Education

OVERVIEW: Ford Motor Company Fund & Community Services—the philanthropic initiative overseen by Ford Motor Company—focuses on three areas of support on both the local and national level: Education, community life, and driving safety. In the realm of K-12 education, the fund particularly seeks to create partnerships to support public school districts, programs that serve large communities/entire cities, and roadmaps for keeping underserved students in school.

IP TAKE: The good news: Ford Motor Company Fund & Community Services makes a substantial annual commitment in support of education, there is a straightforward LOI process and, and there are no geographic limitations to its giving. The bad news: getting that funding is still going to be highly competitive.

PROFILE: Ford Motor Company Fund & Community Services (called the Ford Fund for short) is the philanthropic arm of the Ford Motor Company. The fund supports non-profit organizations in three targeted areas: education, community life, and driving safety. Across all of these areas, the fund prioritizes organizations and programs “that promote diversity and inclusion.”

In one recent year, the Ford Fund distributed $26.3 million; $8.5 million of that cash went towards education, which for the Ford Fund spans kindergarten through post-secondary education.

The Ford Fund is refreshingly unlike many philanthropic arms of major corporations in that the act of applying for support is simple and inclusive. The fund has a straightforward online LOI application that is available year-round, and there are no geographic limitations to the fund’s support.

Note that the act of applying is simple and inclusive; successfully garnering a grant from the Ford Fund is a far bigger hurdle. Yes, it’s an open application process (so long as you’re a 501(c)(3) and not a private K-12 school). But the Ford Fund thinks big—it gives big bucks, looks for a big scope, and often seeks partners who are already fairly big deals on the scene. The fund states as much by declaring that it “seeks to build relationships with organizations that have a well-defined sense of purpose, a demonstrated commitment to maximizing available resources, and a reputation for meeting objectives and delivering high-quality programs and services.”

An example of this high-profile collaboration is the Ford Fund’s relationship with the United Auto Workers (UAW), which has resulted in a permanent partnership called the UAW-Ford National Programs Center. In October 2014 the Ford Fund announced a $200,000 grant in partnership with UAW to support arts, music, and athletics in Detroit Public Schools.

Good news for the rest of those seeking K-12 education funding: that $200,000 to Detroit Public Schools was the first portion of an additional $1 million the Ford Fund intends to dedicate to education initiatives—“new scholarships, grants and career outreach programs that Ford’s philanthropic arm is launching. . . to further its commitment to education.”

The bad news, as it were, is that those seeking K-12 funding are competing with post-secondary institutions for both the old pot plus that new cash. 

Some of the most successful K-12 education support earned from the Ford Fund has been for programs that worked on a large scale to serve an entire school district, city, region—or was even applicable nationally. For instance, since 2010 the Ford Fund has supported the League of United Latin American Citizens with over $1 million to help keep Latino youth in high school. The Ford Fund has also established a relationship with the Academies of Nashville to improve that region’s public school systems. The organization was one of 13 recipients of $800,000 worth of grants the Ford Fund made to the middle-Tennessee region in 2014.

So by all means, hone your K-12 program to be mindful of the Ford Fund’s mission and scope, and use the online application portal that the fund makes available to you. But also be advised that like many other grantors, finding a parallel way to connect with the Ford Fund will certainly give you an extra leg up.

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