Philanthropists overall play a major role in making the world a better place. In this space, however, few philanthropists have yet significantly used their resources to move the needle. Many philanthropies have refused to even consider funding the disability sector even as they fund or study issues and programs that disproportionately impact people with disabilities (i.e. Annie E. Casey and Child Welfare, and RWJ and Health). This may be because the ground was not yet laid to show cost-effective bipartisan solutions that can be good for both people with disabilities and America overall.

Tree growing from coins

Still, even those who do not provide funding in this sector can make a tremendous positive difference if they request that their grantees explore ways of becoming more inclusive of people with disabilities. For example, if foundations that support religious groups were to ask their grantees that discriminate against people with disabilities to end those practices as a condition of future funding, significant progress could be made relatively quickly. This would not threaten the success of any of their grantees as the ADA standards exempts groups that find including someone with a disability would cause undue hardship, risk safety or fundamentally alter the nature or operation of the business.

Sample Questions for Philanthropists to Ask Non-Profits Before Funding Them:

  • Does your organization have policies and/or programs that support meaningful inclusion of people with disabilities at all levels?  If yes, please describe; if not, please indicate efforts underway to develop them.
  • Does your organization have a disability advisory committee / inclusion committee?  If so, please describe; if not, please indicate efforts underway to develop one
  • Will the program or project include people with disabilities? Will ALL people with any kind of disability be welcomed to participate?  If not, why not?  If so, how do you plan to identify, reach, and welcome them?
  • Do other programs in your organization include people with disabilities?  Please discuss, including if they are served in a segregated way, or if they are included in with the general population.
  • Describe the accessibility of your offices to people with physical disabilities.
  • Describe the accessibility of your website to people with hearing and vision impairments.
  • Do you employ individuals who have disabilities?  If so, what are their jobs?  Do they receive the same compensation and benefits as all other employees in like positions?  If not, please describe all remedial efforts underway.
  • Please describe how you educate your Board of Directors or Trustees and other stakeholders and leaders about serving and partnering with people with disabilities.
  • Please give us any other relevant information you have on how you include people with disabilities in your organization and in the services you provide.