October 4, 2023
Dear Colleagues and Friends,
As members, friends, and supporters of the Disability & Philanthropy Forum, I want you to be among the first to know that I have decided to retire as of July 1, 2024.
This was not an easy decision, but the time is right for me and my family. I am confident that the Forum is well-prepared for a leadership transition building on our new strategic plan, a growing expert staff, and increasingly diversified sources of support. My excitement about embarking on this next life chapter is tempered only by the recognition that I am among the privileged few who have this opportunity, especially among disabled people.
Next year marks the tenth anniversary of my personal disability inclusion journey, which you can read about in my blog post. Building the Forum has truly been an honor, and an unparalleled opportunity to combine my personal and professional passions for disability inclusion, rights, and justice.
As you may know, the Disability & Philanthropy Forum began as a team of three consultants to the Ford and Robert Wood Johnson foundations in 2019-2020. In 2022, we became a fiscally sponsored project of relationship Proteus Fund, and in March 2023 our team grew to six (soon to be seven) disabled professionals. Despite — or perhaps fueled by — the pandemic lockdown, generous funding and leadership enabled us to accelerate the vision of creating a disability-focused philanthropic network in less than three years. Our programs have reached thousands of individuals, and we have more than 80 signatories to the Disability Inclusion Pledge.
It is truly a pleasure to work with my colleagues, and I am confident that the powerful team of Gail Fuller, Sarah Napoli, Noor Al-Ahmadi, Olivia Williams, and Emily Ladau will successfully collaborate with you to bring our vision to reality. I look forward to working closely with them to accomplish our ambitious agenda for the next nine months.
I am working with our co-chairs Rich Besser, CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Ryan Easterly, Executive Director of the WITH Foundation, on a transition plan. They will work with our Governance Committee to complete a national search. You can expect an announcement about an executive search firm and a process in early 2024.
Thank you so much for your commitment to disability inclusion, and please don’t hesitate to contact me or the team if we can be of service on your disability inclusion journey.
Emily Harris, Executive Director
Disability & Philanthropy Forum