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Foundation Giving for Disability Key Findings

Priorities and Trends Report

Stack of 10 dollar bills in white, with one green penny.
Only 1 penny of every 10 grantmaking dollars goes to disability rights and social justice.

About the Report

One in four adult Americans and an estimated 1 billion people globally experience disability, but foundation funding for disability only represents approximately two cents of every foundation dollar awarded.

Foundation Giving for Disability: Priorities and Trends offers a first-ever, detailed examination of how U.S. foundations focus their support for disability communities. It serves as a resource for understanding the scale and priorities of current support and provides a baseline for measuring changes in funding going forward.

Key Findings

Foundations provide relatively little giving focused on disability. 

In 2019, three out of four funders (75%) included in Candid’s Foundation 1000 data set made at least one grant focused on disability. Yet, these funders’ 8,605 disability-related grants totaling $755.1 million represented just 2% of the $37.2 billion in total giving reported by the Foundation 1000.

Icon of four connected gender-neutral figures, in front of the United States and a mid-blue circle. One and a bit is filled green, the rest are dark blue.

Share of adult Americans currently experiencing disability (26%).

Icon of two cents in green, with the cent symbol in the middle of each.

Share of every Foundation 1000 grant dollar focused on disability in 2019 (2¢).

Icon of a dotted outlined cent, with the symbol in the middle. Set up as a pie chart, with ten percent filled in purple.

Share of every Foundation 1000 grant dollar focused on disability rights and social justice in 2019 (0.1¢).

Most foundation funding is consistent with the medical and charity models of disability, focusing on services and supports.

This support often focuses on the assumption that disability needs to be fixed or cured, rather than seeking to eliminate systemic barriers and abolish discrimination toward disabled people. It is also rooted in the assumption that disabled people are unable to participate in decision-making about their own care needs and well-being.

While much of this support may fail to recognize that many disabled people are not seeking to eradicate disability, some service and support grants do recognize disability as a facet of identity and contribute to inclusion and power building.

Within disability services and supports, some grants advance disability inclusion by building disabled peoples’ individual power and access.

Examples of recent grants that leverage individual power and access with the aim of ensuring the full participation of people with disabilities in society include awards to: 

  • Commission, create, and perform contemporary dance that is developed through the collaboration of dancers with and without physical disabilities.
  • Provide support for people with developmental disabilities in their efforts to make choices about their lives and participate in community life.

Foundation support for disability rights and social justice that follows a “social model” of disability is a tiny portion of overall Foundation 1000 funding.

The social model of disability asserts that society places physical and attitudinal barriers in front of people with disabilities, preventing them from full participation. In 2019, the Foundation 1000 directed just 6.4% of its domestic and global disability giving for efforts to advance systems-level social change for disabled people, or 0.1% of total Foundation 1000 giving.

Activity focus of Foundation 1000 giving for disability in 2019.

Pie chart, with a legend. 6 percent filled purple for Disability Rights and Social Justice. 94 percent filled green for Disability Services and Supports.

Examples of philanthropic support for disability rights and social justice that aims to challenge systemic ableism and support disabled people ’s access and legal rights include: 

  • Advancing the rights of persons with psychosocial disabilities in areas of legal capacity, community living, freedom from torture and ill treatment, political participation, and access to justice.
  • Supporting civil rights advocacy by community residents with disabilities.

Top disability funders account for a disproportionate share of disability rights and social justice giving.

While 758 of the Foundation 1000 grantmakers made at least one grant focused on disability, only 83 gave for disability rights and social justice, either in the United States or globally. In 2019, the top 10 funders alone provided more than four out of five grant dollars (84%) for disability rights and social justice.

Share of Foundation 1000 funders making at least one grant focused on disability in 2019.

Circle graphic with 75 percent in the center. Outer ring filled 75 percent in green, and 25 percent in dark blue.

Share of Foundation 1000 funders making at least one U.S.-focused grant for disability rights and social justice in 2019.

Circle graphic with 8 percent in the center. Outer ring filled 8 percent in mid-blue, and 92 percent in dark blue.

Most foundation funding for disability focuses on the United States.

In 2019, 90% of disability-focused giving by the Foundation 1000 addressed domestic priorities, while only 10% prioritized disability in other countries or globally. However, global giving was far more likely than domestic giving to prioritize disability rights and social justice (28% versus 4%).

Human services and health are top priorities in domestic giving for disability services and supports.

Issue focus of Foundation 1000 domestic giving for disability services and supports in 2019.

Long description below.

Horizontal bar graph, with 10 areas of issue focus. Presented as scaled percentage bars in mid-blue, and amount labels in dark blue. Human services, 32 percent. Health, 30 percent. Education, 17 percent. Mental and Behavioral health, 10 percent. Substance Use Services, 9 percent. Housing, 4 percent. Adaptive Sports and Recreation, 4 percent. Arts, Culture, and Media access, 3 percent. Employment and Economic Opportunity, 2 percent. Animal Companions and Animal Therapy, 2 percent.

Disability funding rarely focuses on intersecting identities, including race, gender, and sexuality.

In 2019, only 5% of domestic-focused and global funding for disability by the Foundation 1000 specified racial and ethnic minorities, 3% focused on women and girls, and less than 1% specified LGBTQ people with disabilities. This suggests that most disability funders have placed limited intentional focus on recognizing that disability cuts across all identity groups and that systems of oppression reinforce and amplify one another.