The Edward E. Ford Foundation: Grants for K-12 Education

OVERVIEW: The Edward E. Ford Foundation supports independent, private secondary schools (grades 9-12) as well as state and regional associations of the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) throughout the country, with a particular focus on advancing best practices in teaching and learning. 

IP TAKE: This foundation has a narrow focus in its support—independent, private U.S. high schools. It is specifically modeled to encourage collaboration as well as fundraising for matching funds, and requires award recipients to raise at least the grant's equivalent from other funding sources.

PROFILE: The Edward E. Ford Foundation was established in 1957 to support independent secondary schools—in other words, private U.S. 9th-12th grade schools that are members of the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS). Underlying this focus is a desire to support motivated and well-trained graduates, ensure school choice for parents, and provide support to schools whose funding base is generally more narrow than that of other educational institutions. 

More specifically, Ford's mission is to strengthen, support, and challenge independent schools "by supporting and disseminating best practice, by supporting efforts to develop and implement models of sustainability, and by encouraging collaboration with other institutions," and the foundation has distributed more than $100 million in grants since its inception.

That emphasis on collaboration is particularly important, as the Edward E. Ford Foundation sees its grants as encouraging collaboration in fundraising as well as teaching. It has given out approximately $2.5 million annually in recent years, but for any grant awarded you are expected to raise matching funds in at least a 1:1 ratio. So if the foundation grants a gift of $50,000 (its standard amount), a school must raise at least $50,000 from other new sources (not already established annual givers) to match it. In some instances, the ratio can be even tougher (expecting a school to raise double the foundation’s gift, for instance).

In addition to complete listings of grant recipients, the foundation’s website keeps a detailed section dedicated to innovative projects it seeks to highlight. In recent years, awards have been allocated for a wide array of projects, initiatives, and causes. Just a small sampling of recent grants include funding for student fellowships, staff expansion, curriculum and professional development, equipment purchases, improvements in STEM programming, a technology-based collaboration and information sharing platform for teachers, support for students from low-income communities, and a health and wellness program. 

Beyond the matching funds requirement mentioned above, there are a number of eligibility and application policies to thoroughly review before applying. Applications are reviewed three times a year and should be submitted before the deadlines of September 15, March 1 or April 1, but before your proposal will be acknowledged and reviewed, you must be placed on the foundation's agenda by having the head of the school make a phone call to Ford's Executive Director. Choose your opportunity wisely, since you’re only allowed to be on the foundation’s agenda every four years. If you make it deeper into the process, the head of the school will be required to meet with the foundation in Brooklyn, New York. 

For NAIS state and regional associations, the application is similar in some (but not all) respects, and Ford's policies are outlined on the same page as that for schools. The foundation also gives out Educational Leadership Grants in the $250,000 range (also of the matching funds construct), but consideration for these grants is by invitation only.

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