Transparency Talk

Category: "Disabilities" (3 posts)

Hole in the Road to Transparency: People with Disabilities Often Excluded By Foundations & Nonprofits
October 17, 2019

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Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi

Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi is founder & president of RespectAbility, a nonprofit that fights stigmas and advances opportunities for people with disabilities.

Philanthropic transparency is vital. But there’s a major challenge – people with disabilities are being excluded from philanthropy and nonprofits every day.

RespectAbility, a nonprofit disability organization, did a major study of close to 1,000 people in the social sector. The report, “Disability in Philanthropy & Nonprofits: A Study on the Inclusion and Exclusion of the 1-in-5 People Who Live with a Disability and What You Can Do to Make Things Better,” found that while the vast majority of foundations and nonprofits want to include people with disabilities, they don’t know what they don’t know. Hence their practices do not align with their values and they are discriminating against people with disabilities.

For example, only 59 percent of foundations and nonprofits say their events are always held in physically accessible spaces, which means that people who use wheelchairs are shut out from participating. Only 30 percent say they have a process in place to allow people with disabilities to request necessary accommodations (like a sign language interpreter or allergy-free foods) on event registration forms. And only 14 percent say their organizations use captions on web videos to ensure people who are deaf or hard of hearing can access the content (although free rough captions can be automatically generated on YouTube). Thus, people with disabilities do not have the access and accommodations they need to fully participate in the public good these groups are doing.

Take the case study of the Ford Foundation. In a 2014 keynote address at the annual conference of the Council on Foundations, Ford’s President Darren Walker announced a major game-changing initiative on equity. He gave a passionate speech about equity and lifting up the most marginalized of people. Yet he did it in a way that was not accessible to people with disabilities. Ford released a tweet about the new initiative that was not screen reader accessible to people who are blind or have low vision. That tweet directed people to a website that also was not accessible to people with vision impairments. Some tweets went to a video that had no captions – so no one who was deaf or hard of hearing could gain the information. And Ford’s grant application software was not even remotely accessible (and still is not fully accessible today).

“Only 59 percent of foundations and nonprofits say their events are always held in physically accessible spaces.”

I, and other disability activists, reached out to Mr. Walker about these barriers. Thankfully, he listened deeply, understood what was at stake and took concrete action. Indeed, in his annual open letter he wrote: “The Ford Foundation does not have a person with visible disabilities on our leadership team; takes no affirmative effort to hire people with disabilities; does not consider them in our strategy; and does not even provide those with physical disabilities with adequate access to our website, events, social media, or building. Our 50-year-old headquarters is currently not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) – landmark legislation that celebrated its 26th anniversary this summer. It should go without saying: all of this is at odds with our mission.”

In the time since then, Darren Walker, Noorain Khan and others at the Ford Foundation have taken step after step to ensure that they no longer discriminate against people with disabilities. Their transition, while not yet complete, is nothing short of spectacular. Not only that, Ford, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and other foundations have now recruited a significant number of major foundations to join them in a cohort to move these issues forward.

But here’s the thing – you don’t need to be a big and well-funded foundation to make the changes needed. Most of them can be done for little or no money. If your foundation wants to offer transparency, accessibility, equity and accountability there are specific steps you can take. These include:

  1. Commit publicly to the inclusion of people with disabilities. The message that all people, including those with disabilities, are of equal value must be communicated publicly and repeatedly by top leaders verbally and on your website.
  2. Ensure people with disabilities are included in decision making positions, not just for issues related to them but for all issues. Organizations are at their best when they welcome, respect, and include people of all backgrounds. Indeed, problems are best solved by working with people who have experienced them first hand and know solutions that work. Just like issues that impact people of different racial, ethnic, or other backgrounds, people with disabilities should be involved in solving issues that impact them.
  3. Foster an inclusive environment with your language and practices. What we say makes a difference. Avoid saying things like “wheelchair-bound,” “confined to a wheelchair,” “wheelchair person,” or “suffers from.” Do say “someone uses a wheelchair.” 
  4. Have an inclusion point person or committee. Add an inclusion statement to your website and event invitations, and train your human resources staff to respond to requests for disability accommodations. Consider including diversity, including disability, as a performance metric for all departments and employees.  
  5. Include people with disabilities in your marketing. For example, photos on your organization’s website and your publications should include individuals with visible disabilities. 
  6. Make your website, online resources and social media accessible. Set up your website and social media for use by screen readers and for people who need captions. Ensure that all photos have alt text, and that all videos have captions. Ensure that your business cards, documents and presentations are accessible. 
  7. Ensure the accessibility of your office and events. All of the following must be accessible: invitation/notification of event, facilities, communications and staff/volunteers.
  8. Include disability in diversity data and ask your grantees to do the same. Demonstrate that your organization prioritizes diversity, equity and inclusion by walking the walk (or rolling the roll in the case of wheelchair users) on disability inclusion.
  9. Promote a disability lens among grantees and partners. Ask your grantees and partners about meaningful and inclusive policies and/or programs; public commitments on website and materials; employing people with disabilities at all levels; inviting people to request accommodations; physical accessibility of office and programs; website accessibility; video captioning; and internal and external educational efforts. Help them to look at intersectional data and impacts.
  10. Disability impacts people of all races, genders, and backgrounds and making a difference is much easier than you think.

RespectAbility is offering a free online series to train foundation and nonprofit leaders in the nuts and bolts of how to be inclusive of people with disabilities. You can free resources here:   https://www.respectability.org/inclusive-philanthropy/ and sign up for the series here: https://www.respectability.org/accessibility-webinars/

--Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi

Opening Up Emerging Knowledge: New Shared Learning from IssueLab
May 23, 2019

Janet Camarena is the director of transparency initiatives at Candid.

This post is part of the Glasspockets’ #OpenForGood series in partnership with the Fund for Shared Insight. The series explores new tools, promising practices, and inspiring examples showing how some foundations are opening up the knowledge that they are learning for the benefit of the larger philanthropic sector. Contribute your comments on each post and share the series using #OpenForGood.

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Though it’s hard to believe, we are already almost halfway through 2019! Given that midpoints are often a time to reflect and take stock, it seemed good timing to mine the knowledge that the field has shared in IssueLab to see some examples of a few of the reports and lessons learned that our GlassPockets foundations have shared over the last six months. Scanning the recent titles, some themes immediately jumped out at me that seemed to be a focus of research across the field, such as racial and gender equity, global trends, and impact measurement.

This is also a good reminder that IssueLab helps make your knowledge discoverable. Though I’m highlighting seven recent publications here, I only had to visit one website to find and freely download them. Acting as a “collective brain” for the field, IssueLab organizes the social sector’s knowledge so we can all have a virtual filing cabinet that makes this knowledge readily available. If it’s been a while since you uploaded your knowledge to IssueLab, you can add any of your publications to our growing library here. It’s a great way to make your knowledge discoverable, mitigate the knowledge fragmentation in the field, and make your foundation live up to being #OpenForGood.

And, speaking of #OpenForGood, our inaugural awards designed to encourage more knowledge sharing across the field will be announced at the upcoming GEO Learning Conference during lunch on May 29th. If you will be at GEO, join us to learn who the #OpenForGood knowledge sharing champions will be! And remember, if you’ve learned something, share something!

Opening Up Evaluations & Grantee Reports

“It’s a refreshing reinvention of the traditional grantee report, placing priority on collecting and sharing the kinds of information that will be helpful to other practitioners, rather than just the data that the funder might need.”

Foundations pilot initiatives all the time, but do they share what they learned from them once the evaluation is all said and done? And what about all the potentially helpful data filed away in grantee reports? This first cluster of new reports opens up this kind of knowledge:

  • Creative City (published by Animating Democracy, Funded by the Barr and Boston Foundations, April 2019) The Creative City pilot program, created by the New England Foundation for the Arts in partnership with the Barr Foundation, supported artists of all disciplines for art in Boston that would serve to drive public imagination and community engagement. Artists, funders, and administrators alike will find much to learn from this report about how to rethink arts in the context of people and place. One compelling example is the Lemonade Stand installation, created by artists Elisa H. Hamilton and Silvia Lopez Chavez, which made the rounds of many Boston neighborhoods, and attracted many people with its bright yellow kiosk glow. Though it looked on the surface like a lemonade stand, it was actually an art installation inviting the community to connect by exchanging stories about how they turned lemons into lemonade.
  • Giving Refugees A Voice: Independent Evaluation (MacroScope London, Funded by the C&A Foundation, March 2018-February 2019) The C&A Foundation supported the Giving Refugees a Voice initiative, designed to improve working conditions for Syrian and other refugees in the Turkish apparel sector using social media monitoring technology. The pilot initiative used social media monitoring technology to analyze the public Facebook posts of millions of refugees associated with the apparel sector in Turkey. The purpose of this analysis was to galvanize brands, employers, and others to take actions and make changes that would directly improve the working conditions for Syrian people in Turkey. This impact report forthrightly reveals that though the social media efforts were an innovative way to document the scale of the Syrians working informally in the Turkish apparel industry, the pilot fell short of its goals as there was no evidence that the social media analysis led to improved working conditions. Rather than keep such a negative outcome quiet, the C&A Foundation publicly released its findings and also created a blog summary about them earlier this year outlining the results, what they learned from them, and what would be helpful for stakeholders and partners to know in an easy-to-read outline.
  • Grantee Learnings: Disability (Published by Ian Potter Foundation, December 2018) The information documented in this publication has been taken from the final reports of disability-serving grantees, which were submitted to The Ian Potter Foundation following the completion of their projects. The Ian Potter Foundation routinely shares out grantee learnings for each of its portfolios as a way to support shared learning among its existing and future grantees, and this is the most recent of these. The report is easily arranged so that other disability services providers can benefit from the hard-won lessons learned of their peers when it comes to likely areas of shared challenges such as staffing, program planning, working with parents and partners, scaling, evaluation measurement, and technology use. It’s a refreshing reinvention of the traditional grantee report, placing priority on collecting and sharing the kinds of information that will be helpful to other practitioners, rather than just the data that the funder might need.

Lessons Learned from Scholarship & Fellowship Funding

Donors looking to make a difference using scholarships and student aid to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion have two new excellent sources of knowledge available to them:

  • Delivering on the Promise: An Impact Evaluation of the Gates Millennium Scholars Program (Published by American Institutes for Research, Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, May 2019) This report shares findings from an impact evaluation of the Gates Millennium Scholars (GMS) program and reflects on findings from implementation evaluations conducted on the program since its inaugural year. The GMS program is an effort designed to improve higher education access and opportunity for high achieving low-income students of color by reducing the cost of entry. The program also seeks to develop a new and diverse generation of leaders to serve America by encouraging leadership participation, civic engagement, and the pursuit of graduate education and careers in seven fields in which minorities are underrepresented—computer science, engineering, mathematics, science, education, library science, and public health. It discusses the extent to which the program has made an impact, and offers concluding thoughts on how the Foundation can maximize its investment in the higher education arena. A central argument of this report is that philanthropic activities like the GMS program can indeed play a crucial role in improving academic outcomes for high-achieving, disadvantaged students.
  • Promoting Gender Equity: Lessons From Ford’s International Fellows Program (Published by IIE Center for Academic Mobility Research & Impact, Funded by Ford Foundation, January 2019) As part of its mission to provide higher education access to marginalized communities, the Ford Foundation International Fellowships Program (IFP) sought to address gender inequality by providing graduate fellowships to nearly 2,150 women—50% of the IFP fellow population—from 22 countries in the developing world. This brief explores how international fellowship programs like IFP can advance educational, social, and economic equity for women. In addition to discussing the approach, the program took in providing educational access and opportunity to women. The brief looks at two stories of alumnae who have not only benefitted from the fellowship themselves, but who are working to advance gender equity in their home communities and countries. Activists, advocates, and practitioners can draw upon the strategies and stories that follow to better understand the meaning of gender equity and advance their own efforts to achieve social justice for women and girls worldwide.

Sharing Knowledge about the Social Sector

Foundations invest in knowledge creation to better understand the ecosystem of the social sector, as well as to address critical knowledge gaps they see in the fields in which they work. Thanks to these titles being added to IssueLab, we can all learn from them too! Here’s a couple of recent titles added to IssueLab that shed new and needed light on the fields of philanthropy and nonprofits:

  • Philanthropy in China (Published by Asian Venture Philanthropy Network, Funded by The Rockefeller Foundation, April 2019) Philanthropy is now a global growth industry, but philanthropic transparency norms in other parts of the world are often lacking, so knowledge can be scarce. Philanthropy in China today is expanding and evolving rapidly, so filling in these knowledge gaps is even more pressing. This report presents an overview of the philanthropy ecosystem in China by reviewing existing knowledge and drawing insights from influential practitioners. It also provides an analysis of the key trends, opportunities as well as a set of recommendations for funders and resource providers who are inspired to catalyze a more vibrant and impactful philanthropy ecosystem in China.
  • Race to Lead: Women of Color in the Nonprofit Sector (Published by the Building Movement Project, Funded by New York Community Trust, Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, Community Resource Exchange, New York Foundation, Meyer Memorial Trust, Center for Nonprofit Excellence at the United Way of Central New Mexico, North Carolina Center for Nonprofits, Russ Finkelstein, February 2019) This report is part of the Race to Lead series by the Building Movement Project, seeking to understand why there are still relatively so few leaders of color in the nonprofit sector. Using data taken from a national survey of more than 4,000 people, and supplemented by numerous focus groups around the country, this latest report reveals that women of color encounter systemic obstacles to their advancement over and above the barriers faced by white women and men of color. Another key finding in the report is that education and training are not enough to correct systemic inequities—women of color with high levels of education are more likely to be in administrative roles and are more likely to report frustrations about inadequate and inequitable salaries. Building Movement Project’s call to action focuses on systems change, organizational change, and individual support for women of color in the sector.

Is this reminding you that you have new knowledge to share? Great—I can’t wait to see what you will #OpenForGood!

--Janet Camarena

The Value Added of Engagement
January 23, 2014

(Jay Ruderman is the president of the Ruderman Family Foundation. You can engage with him on Twitter and/or follow the foundation to learn more about inclusion. This post originally appeared on the Foundation Center's GrantCraft blog.)

Jay-Ruderman-press-headshot-150There are over 500,000,000 users on Twitter--and I am one of them.

As president of a family foundation, I spend my day managing the foundation’s operations and staff, working with partners in the philanthropic and organizational world, and searching for new, innovative projects to invest in. Our foundation advocates for and advances the full inclusion of people with disabilities into the Jewish community. Our focus is on creating lasting change, and I work tirelessly in pursuit of creating a fair and flourishing community.

I speak at conferences, conduct interviews with journalists, meet with legislators, and do whatever is necessary to push the issue of inclusion onto the agenda. Like you, I have a very full schedule filled with meetings, phone calls, site visits, and still more meetings.

And then I started tweeting.

Most of my philanthropic friends and foundation colleagues do not use social media, for a variety of reasons. I myself was unsure of how effective Twitter could be in helping to change the status quo. But I embarked on this experiment six months ago to see if I can build community around the issues the foundation advocates for. I understood that it takes time to build an audience and find one’s voice online. Change does not happen overnight.

Tweeting allows me to see who the players and influencers in this field are. Connecting with them allows us to share experiences and knowledge.

Of utmost importance was having a Twitter strategy in place. I knew in advance who the influencers I wanted to engage were, how to connect with them, and what type of content to push out. Certainly I had much to learn: how to engage, how to effectively use the platform, when and how to post and how to conduct conversations. Through trial and error I have learned, and the early results are encouraging--there has been a definite increase in the number of conversations, retweets and mentions. (Notice I didn’t mention number of followers--that’s not a metric I’m using to measure success). Additionally, my tweeting has brought increased exposure for our foundation’s official account, and we have seen a marked upswing in traffic to our blog.

So far, so good.

People ask me why I tweet--especially those who think Twitter is where people post about their morning coffee! I see Twitter as an integral tool to furthering our mission. Here’s why:

  • Tweeting allows me to see who the players and influencers in this field are. Connecting with them allows us to share experiences and knowledge.
  • Twitter is helping to position our foundation as a thought leader in the inclusion arena.
  • It allows me to advocate for the rights of people with disabilities and raise awareness of the issue.
  • By showcasing the wonderful work being done by our partners and grantees, we advance their individual missions and contribute to “grantmaking beyond the buck.”
  • Social media opens my eyes to other projects out there, the latest news and trends, and that allows us to have a finger on the pulse and assists us in becoming a smarter funder.

Jay-Ruderman-Tweet

The central reason why I tweet is because people like to connect to other people. Putting a face on our foundation’s activities helps create a more intimate conversation and can bring more people into the fold. People connect to my passion, my sense of urgency to create sustainable change, and, as president, I have a unique voice on the issue that people want to hear.

Funding innovative projects is not enough--we want to move the needle. The value of social media is the ability to reach the masses, meet people where they are hanging out and engage them. I want to tap into the energy and passion young people have for issues of social justice and encourage them to become involved, advocate and be at the forefront of change in society. I want to use my newfound connections to urge organizational leaders to make their communities more inclusive.

When I look back in a year or two, I hope to have raised awareness and to have caused more people in the Jewish community to realize the importance of the issue. This will go a long way to realizing our foundation’s mission, one tweet at a time.

-- Jay Ruderman

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About Transparency Talk

  • Transparency Talk, the Glasspockets blog, is a platform for candid and constructive conversation about foundation transparency and accountability. In this space, Foundation Center highlights strategies, findings, and best practices on the web and in foundations–illuminating the importance of having "glass pockets."

    The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect the views of the Foundation Center.

    Questions and comments may be
    directed to:

    Janet Camarena
    Director, Transparency Initiatives
    Foundation Center

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