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Disability Inclusive Grantmaking is the mission of DFN: inclusion of disability in grantmaking programs and inclusion of people with disabilities in grantmaking organizations.

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DFN Annual Report

April 2002 – March 2003

The past year has been a difficult one for the entire philanthropic community. While the Disability Funders Network (DFN) has not escaped the setbacks suffered by the rest of the sector, we have nevertheless continued to expand our membership and increase our communications with and services to our members and the field. Following are highlights of our activities and growth during the past year.


Web Site Development

DFN’s Web site was unveiled at its annual meeting at the Council on Foundations (COF) conference on May 1, 2001. Since then, www.disabilityfunders.org has continued to expand the information and resources it offers both grantmakers and grantseekers. The Web site is now the major focus of our communications initiative and is one of the primary vehicles through which we deliver information and resources. Its dual purpose is to communicate organizational information online and serve as a model of accessibility for the philanthropic community.

The site, which was featured in Foundation News and Commentary, contains membership information and a wide range of other resources, including:

  • Archived issues of DFN E-News, our online newsletter;
  • All of DFN’s resources and tools on disability funding in downloadable format;
  • Other general grantmaking resources of specific interest to disability funders;
  • General disability information for funders and grantseekers;
  • Foundation information for applicants;
  • Downloadable information on how to construct accessible Web sites;
  • Links to member organizations, government resources, disability news services and sources of information about local disability organizations in various parts of the country,
  • As a service to grantseekers, we have recently posted a new DFN publication, Disability Grantseekers Guide to Foundation and Corporate Funding.

New and Updated Publications

DFN was asked by the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) national project administrator to assist with an employment initiative mandated by the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act (TWWIIA). In response, DFN developed a Disability Grantseekers Guide to Foundation and Corporate Funding. While the guide is specifically targeted to meet the needs of nonprofits seeking funding for employment programs, it is designed to be useful to organizations operating across a wide range of program areas, consistent with DFN’s goal of illustrating the cross-cutting nature of disability funding. The guide is posted on the SSA employment initiative Web site, www.yourtickettowork.com, along with other funding resources in a master publication called Ticket to Work Employment Network Capitalization Resource Directory. DFN also has a stand-alone version of the foundation/corporate grantseeking guide posted on its Web site for no-cost download.

We have also updated the format of our online newsletter, DFN E-News, which surveys a broad range of general, disability and philanthropic publications, to provide our members with up-to-date news and information affecting the field.

Education and Awareness for Grantmakers

California Demonstration Project: Employment and Healthcare for People with Disabilities

For the past three years, DFN has been operating a project supported by The California Endowment to educate funders about the potential impact of the Ticket to Work and Work Incentive Opportunities Act (TWWIIA) on healthcare and employment for people with disabilities. Under TWWIIA, nonprofits can be authorized as “Employment Networks” and receive payments from SSA for employment and placement services. However, because the payments from SSA are “outcome-based,” the new Employment Networks (ENs) need seed funding to support their operations until they have enough successful placements to become self-supporting. For small to middle-sized nonprofits without cash cushions, foundation funding can be the key factor that enables them to take advantage of this opportunity.

Allowing a broad range of private, nonprofit and for-profit organizations to provide employment services previously delivered by the states is important for a number of reasons. Not only does it give disabled Social Security beneficiaries more choice in where and how they receive services, but it also enables nonprofits to develop a new funding stream that, once successfully tapped, can continue indefinitely. Moreover, it provides a much needed opportunity for encouraging innovative solutions to the challenge of delivering these employment-and-placement services to people with significant disabilities.

In addition to a California-wide educational effort, DFN is working with grantmakers, federal and state officials, and disability groups to create public/private partnerships leading to state-focused demonstration projects that spotlight the crucial role for private funders and corporations in implementing the law.

Emergency Preparedness

A program launched during the year, Emergency Preparedness for People with Disabilities: What Grantmakers Need to Know, gives foundations and corporate giving programs the information they need to include people with disabilities in their efforts to address emergency preparedness and conduct disaster grantmaking. Funded by The New York Community Trust and the Milbank Foundation for Rehabilitation, this project includes information on

  1. grantmaking for emergency preparedness, disaster response and long-term recovery;
  2. convening community groups to gather information and address preparation, response and recovery;
  3. raising foundation and corporate awareness of including people with disabilities in emergency preparedness issues; and
  4. including people with disabilities in funders’ own internal disaster planning as well as the planning-related advice they offer their grantees and applicants.

Outcomes include workshops for corporate, community and private/independent grantmakers and a guide for all those audiences that addresses the issues listed above. To produce these materials, DFN is working with experts in the field of emergency preparedness for people with disabilities and is holding a series of meetings with disability experts, funders and first responders. In the coming year, DFN will develop the informational material into accessible, easy-to-use formats. An article on DFN’s emergency preparedness project appeared in a recent issue of Foundation News and Commentary.

Conferences and Workshops

Over the last year, DFN continued its successful strategy of collaboration with other affinity groups and regional associations of grantmakers to emphasize the centrality of disability issues to a wide range of funding areas. Examples of educational workshops and presentations that include disability issues in broader program and administrative topics include

  • A session at the Grantmakers in Aging conference exploring the extent to which funding in the aging field incorporates disability concerns,
  • A workshop at the Grantmakers without Borders Conference on “Human Rights Funding for People with Disabilities” and
  • A session at the Council on Foundations Annual Conference in Dallas, Texas, about how to make sure that foundation Web sites pay attention to and reach out to cross-cultural audiences — including people with disabilities.

William Diaz Impact Award

DFN inaugurated the William Diaz Impact Award for Disability Grantmaking at the 2003 Council on Foundations Annual Meeting. Bill Diaz, a former Ford Foundation trustee and program officer, was a longtime member of DFN’s board of directors. Diagnosed with a brain tumor in 1991, Bill died on May 18, 2002. The Diaz Award was established to recognize Bill’s commitment to the expansion of disability funding and to honor his family’s wishes that DFN’s contribution in his name should further the goals of the network.

The award honors grantmakers who have had a positive impact on the disability community and whose work encourages foundations to be more inclusive of disability, especially in minority communities. In so doing, the Diaz Award powerfully communicates the DFN message of incorporating disability issues into the programs and priorities of grantmaking institutions. We hope that someday the award program will become as effective an ambassador of disability funding in foundation boardrooms as was Bill himself.

The first inaugural award was presented to Dr. Nelson Colón, President of the Puerto Rico Community Foundation, because of his collaborative work with Bill in funding economic development for Puerto Ricans with disabilities. Dr. Diaz and Dr. Colón were both founding directors of the Puerto Rico Community Foundation, which has its own Bill Diaz Fund. In subsequent years, the Diaz Award winner will be selected by a competitive, refereed process.

Membership Development

DFN achieved a substantial growth in membership in the past year, attracting 26 new members. Our paid membership now totals 104, representing 85 organizations, 45 of which are foundations. Including complementary and exchange members, our total membership is 150.


In keeping with DFN’s commitment to collaboration, we partner with other affinity groups and regional associations in almost all of our grantmaker education activities. Each year, we expand our circle of collaborators, which now includes the eight other identity-based groups belonging to the Joint Affinity Groups (JAG)(1): Grantmakers in Aging; Funders Concerned About AIDS; Grantmakers in Health; Funders for Smart Growth and Livable Communities; Neighborhood Funders Group; Grantmakers without Borders; Grantmakers in the Arts; Grantmakers for Children, Youth and Families; Grantmakers in Film and Video; Grantmakers for Education; the Technology Affinity Group; and The Communications Network.

(1) The other partners in JAG are Asian American and Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy, Association of Black Foundation Executives, Funders for Lesbian and Gay Issues, Hispanics in Philanthropy, Jewish Funders Network, National Network of Grantmakers, Native Americans in Philanthropy, Women and Philanthropy, and Women’s Funding Network. [return to citation 1]