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Our Theory of Change

This is an abridged version of the Presidents’ Council of the Disability & Philanthropy Forum (formerly the Presidents’ Council on Disability Inclusion in Philanthropy) approach to achieving its long-term vision of disability inclusion in philanthropy. Click here to read the full Theory of Change.


If the philanthropic sector is to advance social justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion, then we must recognize that disability is a key element in our work. The Presidents’ Council of the Disability & Philanthropy Forum is committed to advancing disability inclusion in philanthropy. As foundations, we must engage philanthropy on a learning journey that centers the perspectives of disabled people, and we must deepen our understanding of disability as a natural part of the human experience. We believe that by being accountable for integrating disability within our foundations and collectively sharing our learnings, we can influence the philanthropic sector to move toward a future of inclusion and equity for all.

We are committed to sharing our learning with other foundations as we work collectively to move our sector to a disability-inclusive future. Together, we created a theory of change to guide the Presidents’ Council and the philanthropic sector as a whole. In creating a culture of inclusion, we are focused on learning and engagement, narrative change, operational change, disability participation, and disability grantmaking.

A graphically designed logic model. To the left is a circle indicating the cycle of a Council Culture of Inclusion surrounded by a series of steps including Learning & Engagement, Narrative Change, Operations Change, Disability Participation, and Disability Grantmaking. Connected to the circle is a box with steps indicating Collective Influence, which includes Communicate Urgency, Model Best Practices, Create Accountability, and Ongoing Peer Learning Network. The box is pointing to a larger circle indicating the cycle of a Disability-Inclusive Philanthropic Sector, including Disability Grantmaking, Culture of Inclusion, and Disability Participation.

Learning & Engagement

We are committed to embarking on a disability inclusion learning journey. Essential to our learning and action is engagement with disability issues and disabled people — in the community, within each foundation, and in the philanthropic sector. 

Narrative Change

When we talk about disability, we must recognize that disability cuts across class, gender identity, sexuality, race, and ethnicity. Far too often disability is simply looked at through the traditional charity  model that assumes people with disabilities need our care and are to be pitied. The disability rights and disability justice movements teach us that a more appropriate social model must emphasize “Nothing about us without us.” Philanthropy has a role to play in changing the narrative to insist that the voices and leadership of people with disabilities must be centered, because disability intersects with all other identities and issues.

Operations Change

We recognize that before we ask others to do the work of inclusion, we must demonstrate that we are living our values. We will begin with operational changes to remove barriers to inclusion in our facilities, employment policies, events, processes, policies, and activities. We commit to seeking expertise in the disability community to guide us on our intentional and ongoing journey.

Disability Participation

We seek outcomes in participation by listening to the community and incorporating disability community leadership from both inside and outside our foundations. . When we have people with disabilities at the table as employees and board members, our foundations will begin to represent the broad perspectives, knowledge, and adaptability of our population and we will become more innovative and equitable as a result.

Disability Grantmaking

We seek outcomes in grantmaking because disability issues and organizations have been significantly underfunded. We will incorporate a disability lens to examine our grantmaking programs, policies, and practices to determine how they can be more inclusive of people with disabilities. And we will establish foundation-wide goals for disability grantmaking consistent with the mission and purposes of our philanthropy.


While we are at different stages of the disability inclusion learning journey, we will work together in a way that recognizes where each of us are on our journey. Using our collective influence, we are challenging philanthropy to be more inclusive, guided by the core disability rights principle of “nothing about us without us.” We envision a philanthropic sector that embraces a culture of inclusion and the leadership of disabled people both through grantmaking support, and by inviting people with disabilities into our organizations as employees, board leaders, and consultants.

Click here for the complete Theory of Change in PDF format.