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Foundations Pledge More Than $3 Million to Launch Disability-Focused Philanthropy-Serving Organization

Chicago, IL (March 8, 2022) – In their ongoing commitment to disability inclusion, the Ford and Robert Wood Johnson foundations have contributed two-year grants — totaling more than $3 million — to the Proteus Fund for the Disability & Philanthropy Forum, an emerging philanthropy-serving organization. The grants will support the work needed to create a disability-focused organization that provides the philanthropic sector with the tools it needs to center the perspectives of disabled people while engaging in a collective learning journey.

“Three years into a collective journey with sixteen other foundations to center disability in our work, I am pleased to support the evolution of the Disability & Philanthropy Forum,” said Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation. “Led by people with disabilities, the Forum is positioned to challenge us and help move the philanthropic sector forward on a learning journey that embraces disability inclusion, rights, and justice.” 

The Disability & Philanthropy Forum is fiscally sponsored by the Proteus Fund, an organization that connects philanthropy to the front lines of social justice. Led by executive director Emily Harris, the Disability & Philanthropy Forum seeks to expand philanthropic investment in disability inclusion, rights and justice, and increase leadership of disabled people within the philanthropic sector. The Forum engages and educates all who work, serve, and lead philanthropic organizations on a collective learning journey to ensure that people with disabilities are actively engaged in creating a more equitable, inclusive future for all. 

“It is imperative that those of us working in philanthropy not view disability inclusion as a niche funding area,” said Richard Besser, MD, President and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “The simple fact is, we cannot achieve true equity without disability inclusion. Building a future rooted in justice and inclusion for all must include people with disabilities. As funders, we can help achieve this future by working to advance disability inclusion in all that we do.”

The Forum was created by the Presidents’ Council on Disability Inclusion in Philanthropy, which is composed of 17 foundations — including the Ford and Robert Wood Johnson foundations. The Council foundation members are committed to advancing disability-inclusive practices within their own operations, grantmaking, and throughout the philanthropic sector.

“The ability to support and work closely with the Forum in this way is very exciting for Proteus Fund. We were early signatories to the Forum’s Disability Inclusion Pledge and have a deep commitment to disability justice and building an inclusive and representative democracy,” said Paul Di Donato, President and CEO of the Proteus Fund. “Philanthropy and social change movements must do better at engaging the disability community and incorporating disability justice in their work.”

About Disability & Philanthropy Forum

The Disability & Philanthropy Forum is an emerging philanthropy-serving organization created by the Presidents’ Council on Disability Inclusion in Philanthropy. Central to the Forum’s mission is expanding philanthropic commitment to disability rights and justice by centering the leadership of the disability community–essential tenets of achieving a more equitable, inclusive future for all.

Media Contact: Gail Fuller,, 407-917-6864

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