Ford Foundation Gives $7 Million to ACLU Endowment Campaign

June 28, 1999 12:00 am

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NEW YORK–In a display of substantial confidence in and dedication to key areas of the American Civil Liberties Union’s program, the Ford Foundation has contributed $7 million to its endowment fund, the Trust for the Bill of Rights, the largest gift the ACLU has received to date.

The $7 million from the Foundation, together with other significant commitments, has enabled the ACLU to surpass its initial goal of raising $25 million for its first-ever endowment six months ahead of schedule.

The Foundation said that the contribution is the second largest endowment gift it has given in the past decade and among the largest ever in its history of giving.

“The Ford Foundation has long supported the ACLU’s essential role in protecting individual rights and fighting discrimination,” said Susan Berresford, the Foundation’s President. “This gift will help ensure that future generations will continue to benefit from the ACLU’s important work.”

As a litigant in virtually every important Supreme Court case involving civil liberties, the ACLU has been central to the development of democratic ideals in America. But the fight, according to Ira Glasser, Executive Director of the national ACLU, is far from over.

“The ACLU has had no better partner and friend than the Ford Foundation,” Glasser said. “The Trust for the Bill of Rights was created to allow us to continue our defense of the Bill of Rights, eradicate invidious discrimination and protect individual civil liberties into the next century. It is fitting that the largest single gift to this effort, and in fact the largest gift ever to the ACLU, should come from Ford.”

The gift will continue to support the ACLU’s work on behalf of reproductive rights, voting rights and against discrimination based on race, gender, national origin or immigration status.

Glasser noted that the endowment gift would not preclude the ACLU from applying for other grants from the Foundation in the future.

In making its gift, the Ford Foundation has issued a challenge to the ACLU and its supporters to raise $2 for each $1 donated by the Foundation. With the fulfillment of this $14 million challenge and completion of a “second-phase” campaign, the Trust will total more than $40 million.

“This is an unprecedented challenge and opportunity for us,” said Glasser. “When we first explored the possibility of building a $25 million endowment, we weren’t even sure it could be done. Now the Ford Foundation has not only ensured that we will meet our goal, but is challenging us to raise our sights even higher.”

At the time the ACLU publicly launched its endowment campaign in May 1997, it had already raised more than $10 million towards its December 1999 goal of $25 million.

The Ford Foundation, established in 1936, is a private, nonprofit institution that serves 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.

Headquartered in New York City, the ACLU has 53 staffed affiliates in major cities, more than 300 chapters nationwide, and a legislative office in Washington, D.C. The ACLU Foundation (ACLUF) is the national tax-deductible, 501(c)(3) arm of the ACLU. Its combined annual budget is approximately $45 million.

The bulk of the annual budget is raised by contributions from individual members — 275,000 strong — plus grants from foundations. Eighty percent of the budget directly supports litigation, legislation and public education programs. Fund raising costs average twelve percent of total expenses, and management and administration account for an additional 8 percent. This level of efficiency consistently ranks the ACLU and ACLUF among the nation’s best-run charitable organizations, with high approval ratings from industry watchdog groups.

Ira Glasser has been Executive Director of the national ACLU since 1978; Nadine Strossen was elected president of the National Board in 1991. Founded in 1920 by Roger Baldwin, Crystal Eastman, Albert DeSilver, Jane Addams, Felix Frankfurter, Helen Keller and Arthur Garfield Hayes, the ACLU celebrated its 75th anniversary in 1995.

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