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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.

Disability Funders Network Survey of Disability Funding at Community Foundations

In 2001, the Disability Funders Network (DFN) conducted an extensive survey of foundations in California to document how that state’s grantmakers understood and addressed disability issues. A major finding from that study was that community foundations and other public foundations had notably higher levels of awareness, greater inclusion of disabled people in their own organizations, are more likely to include disability in their mission statements and program priorities, and have more sophisticated and extensive disability screening processes in place than do independent, family and corporate funders (www.disabilityfunders.org/ca-execrec.html).

In October 2006, with the help of the community foundation staff at the Council on Foundations (COF), DFN conducted another survey — much less extensive in terms of the number of questions, but national in scope. Over 50 foundations responded to a brief online survey distributed via the COF community foundation listserv. We thank those of you who responded and hope that you and others will find the following findings of interest.

Survey Findings

Of the 52 foundation representatives responding to the survey, over 65 percent give more than three grants to disability-related issues each year. Over 40 percent give more than five, and 17 percent give over 10 grants. For over half of these foundations, the combined dollar total of the grants is $15,000 or more, and just under 10 percent give over $100,000 to disability issues.

Almost 60 percent have donor-designated or donor-advised funds focused on people with disabilities. Over 55 percent of those foundations have funds that are designed for people with specific disabilities, and 40 percent have funds covering the general disability population. Nearly 35 percent have funds that are not specifically designated for people with disabilities but which have been used for disability issues like special education.

Almost 58 percent include disability in their questions to grantseekers about the diversity of the population they serve at least some of the time, and over 17 percent do this all of the time (perhaps reflecting a knowledge that people with disabilities comprise 20 percent of the population of the United States). Similarly, 17 percent of the respondents always ask grantees if their programs and/or buildings are accessible to people with disabilities, while approximately 42 percent ask about architectural accessibility some of the time.

Most respondents (45 out of 52) were interested in receiving information about a broad range of disability issues.

  • Over 70 percent of those responding wanted information on how to respond to the high poverty and unemployment rate of people with disabilities. (Two thirds of people with disabilities who want to work are unemployed — an alarming statistic that has not budged even after the passage of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act [ADA].)
  • Over 64 percent wanted information on how to refer to and speak about people with disabilities.
  • Sixty percent were interested in how to help students with disabilities transition from high school to careers, college or community living.
  • More than 55 percent wanted to know more about how to include young people with disabilities in youth development and leadership initiatives.
  • Others had an interest in a variety of access issues: how to make Web sites and written materials accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired; ensuring that new construction complies with the ADA and physical access rules; and inclusion of people with disabilities in emergency preparedness/disaster relief initiatives and health/dental care programs.

Even though it is clear from this and the 2001 survey that community foundations are active in disability funding, many community foundations are reluctant to join all the affinity groups corresponding to broad grantmaking portfolios. Therefore, DFN is offering a special membership rate to community foundations.

While our normal new member rate for grantmaking institutions is $500, DFN is offering a special $200 rate to community foundations. If your institution cannot join at this time, you can also join DFN at the $150 individual grantmaker rate. A membership application form (MS Word format) is available elsewhere on this site at www.disabilityfunders.org/appn0907.doc.

While you are on our site, you can also find information about disability and employment, how to include people with disabilities in foundation emergency preparedness and disaster relief initiatives, how to make your Web site and printed material accessible, and a number of other items of interest. Information about poverty and disability, transition from high school for young people with disabilities, and youth leadership initiatives will be added soon. Other information is available on the members-only section of our site.

We welcome your questions, and would be delighted to welcome you as a new member of DFN. For general information or for a copy of the all questions in the survey and their response rates, contact Kim Hutchinson, executive director, at khutchinson@disabilityfunders.org, or by phone at 703-795-9646.