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Ford Foundation Takes Historic, Unprecedented Action to Increase Grantmaking for Nonprofits by $1 Billion with Proceeds of Offering of Social Bonds in Response to COVID-19

June 15, 2020 2:41 PM | Philanthropy Delaware (Administrator)

(June 11, 2020 by Ford Foundation) - In response to the existential threat caused by Covid-19 to nonprofit organizations, the Ford Foundation and its Board of Trustees today announced the intent to offer for sale $1 billion of taxable Social Bonds, the net proceeds of which will be used for grantmaking to help sustain and strengthen mission-critical social justice and creative expression organizations. Ford will be the first nonprofit foundation in history to offer a labeled Social Bond in the U.S. taxable corporate bond market. The net proceeds of the bond sale will enable the foundation to pay out more than 10 percent of the value of its total endowment in 2020 and 2021, which is double the level of grantmaking required by law.

The Ford Foundation joins the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in a collective effort to increase their annual grantmaking. The five foundations anticipate over $1.7 billion of increased funding above normal payouts over approximately two years.

The Ford Foundation's Social Bonds, Series 2020 (taxable), will be underwritten by joint lead managers Wells Fargo Securities and Morgan Stanley. There will also be a group of diverse co-managers who will participate in the offering. Wells Fargo Securities is additionally serving as the Lead Sustainability Structuring Agent related to the Social Bond designation. The foundation's Social Bonds have been assigned Aaa/AAA credit ratings from Moody's Investors Service and Standard & Poor's, respectively. Sustainalytics has provided a Second Party Opinion on the alignment of the foundation's Social Bond Framework with the International Capital Market Association's Social Bond Principles.

"We are facing a once-in-a-century crisis, and we must respond in unprecedented ways to sustain organizations that are advancing the fight against inequality at a time when the need is more pressing than ever," said Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation. "The nonprofit sector will be fundamentally upended and diminished by the economic fallout from Covid-19. The proceeds of the Social Bond sale will support and stabilize social justice, human services, arts, and cultural organizations who must be essential voices in influencing the recovery and reimagining a new normal that is more just and inclusive."

"The market is increasingly focused on socially responsible investing, and the Ford Foundation's bond offering is an excellent opportunity for investors to put money to work in a high-quality credit with an impactful mission," said Sally Bednar, Managing Director at Wells Fargo Securities. "Wells Fargo is honored to bring this ground-breaking financing to market, particularly as it reflects our company's dedication to supporting organizations that support underserved communities."

Use of Proceeds

The foundation's primary goal will be to fortify and strengthen key organizations that are advancing the fight against inequality at a time when communities who are most vulnerable have been hit hardest by the pandemic. Offering multi-year, general operating support — which is a signature of the kind of grants Ford provides — to these organizations will help build resilience, durability, and sustainability now and in the future.

Social justice and nonprofit organizations play a vital role in organizing and advocating on behalf of these communities, but they are already experiencing significant harm from the economic repercussions of Covid-19.

According to a Nonprofit Finance Fund survey in 2019, only 25% of nonprofits have at least six months of cash reserves on hand. In a recent survey by the Charities Aid Foundation of America, 73% of nonprofits said they have already seen a decline in contributions, and half said they expect to see revenue decline by more than 20% over the next year, while the need for services is expected to increase due to the coronavirus pandemic. Also, economists and fundraising experts predict that the drop in charitable giving will likely be more significant than that of the Great Recession in 2008, and recovery will likely take longer.

Although an unconventional idea, after reviewing financial analysis and various scenarios, Ford Foundation trustees endorsed the issuance of the social impact bond as an innovative solution that achieved both objectives of increasing resources for grants and not taking capital out of the endowment at a critical time of market volatility.

Other Information

The offering of the Social Bonds is not being registered under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, in reliance on the exemption from registration contained in Section 3(a)(4) thereof. The offering is being made only by means of an offering memorandum.

For a copy of the preliminary and final offering memorandum, when available, contact: Sally Bednar, Managing Director, Wells Fargo Securities, Sally.bednar@wellsfargo.com (212) 214-2821 and Eric Wild, Managing Director, Morgan Stanley, Eric.wild@morganstanley.com (212) 761-9032.

This announcement does not constitute an offer to sell or the solicitation by any person of an offer to buy, the social Bonds, nor shall there be any sale of the Social Bonds by any person in any jurisdiction in which it is unlawful to make such offer, solicitation or sale.


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