John Bernstein

Vice President, Chief Operating Officer and Treasurer | Ford Foundation

John W. Bernstein is the Chief Operating Officer, Vice President, and Treasurer of the Ford Foundation, a New York based, private social justice foundation working to impact the drivers of inequality world-wide.

The foundation makes grants through its headquarters and ten international regional offices located throughout the “global south”. It has assets of more than $13 billion and an operating budget of over $700 annually. John oversees all areas of operations and finance globally, including directing the foundation’s financial operations, information technology, grants management, information management, facilities management, business continuity and risk management, global operations, and all related capital projects.

Before joining the foundation in 2015, John served as founding President of the New York-based Leon Levy Foundation, dedicated to the arts and humanities, human rights and civil liberties, understanding the ancient world, and neuroscience research. As the foundation’s first president, he oversaw its creation in 2004 and established financial planning, analysis, and internal control processes, working closely with trustees to set and review goals for all areas of the foundation’s philanthropy and administration, including its governance, financial management, and grant making.

Earlier in his career, John served as Vice President for Finance and then as Senior Vice President for Institutional Development at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx, where he remained for 13 years. The Garden, a National Historic Landmark, is one of the leading botanical gardens in the world and a major New York City cultural institution. John began his nonprofit career working in systems analysis and design at the New York Public Library.

John holds an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and also did his undergraduate work at the university, where he earned a combined degree in computer science, economics, and the history and sociology of science. He is the longtime President of the Ping Chong + Company theater group and also serves in various leadership capacities with the Foundation Financial Officers Group. John serves as a Trustee of the Leon Levy Foundation and as a member of the Board, the Executive Committee, and as Chair of the Investment Committee for the New York Botanical Garden.


In 2016, five foundations—Ford, Hewlett, MacArthur, Open Society, and Packard—came together with The Bridgespan Group to explore the underlying challenge of insufficient cost recovery: project- More