Environmental Public Interest Law Centers: Ford Foundation, 1970

Center for Strategic Philanthropy and Civil Society (Duke)



Case Study Sector


In the late 1960s, the Ford Foundation experimented with a new strategy to effect public policy change—funding public interest law centers. The Foundation directed this strategy at environmental policy and resource conservation in 1970 when it gave a conditional grant to the newly incorporated Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) for $410,000 and later gave similar grants to EDF, the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, and the Southern California Center for Law in the Public Interest. In the ensuing years, NRDC staff members have advocated for environmental protection on virtually every public policy issue at the federal, state, and local level. NRDC has been at least partially responsible for the passage of the Clean Water Act of 1971, the removal of lead from gasoline, and the increased energy efficiency of home appliances.



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More on time, value, and time limits

February 19, 2018

A new report applies a theory of time and value in philanthropy to three real cases, to see how a foundation could decide whether to operate with a limited life, based on the amount and kind of value it hopes to create.


Oct 05

Rip Rapson
President and CEO
The Kresge Foundation