History of the Disability & Philanthropy Forum

How the Journey to Disability Inclusion Began

In June 2016, the Ford Foundation announced FordForward, an initiative intended to focus on disrupting inequality. Immediately noticing the absence of the disability community among the marginalized populations named in the plan, disabled advocates called upon the Ford Foundation to take action to fill this gap. Following this strong response from the disability community, Ford Foundation president Darren Walker openly addressed the vital need for philanthropy to recognize disability rights and justice as essential tenets of achieving a more equitable, inclusive future for all.

Making a Commitment to Disability Inclusion

Aligning with the core disability inclusion principle of “nothing about us, without us,” the Ford Foundation sought guidance and partnership of people with disabilities as they rallied other foundations to engage. In March 2019, Darren Walker and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation president Dr. Richard Besser joined together as co-chairs of the Presidents’ Council on Disability Inclusion in Philanthropy, a group of 17 foundation CEOs that have made a collective commitment to elevate disability inclusion within philanthropy, and to advance it within their own foundations’ work. Part of this commitment includes the Disability Inclusion Fund, a $20 million five-year participatory collaborative fund that supports U.S. groups run by and for disabled people to lead transformational change.

In a powerful call to action in The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Walker and Dr. Besser urged colleagues to join them: “We believe philanthropy can help spur a cultural shift, going beyond compliance and access and aiming squarely at true equity in collaboration with movement leaders. We welcome our colleagues across philanthropy to join us by taking a closer look at how their own foundations can be more open to people with disabilities in both their grant making and their operations.”

Serving the Philanthropic Sector

A key component of the Presidents’ Council’s efforts was the creation of the Disability & Philanthropy Forum. In the years since its launch, the Disability & Philanthropy Forum has grown to house a robust library of resources to support philanthropy’s ongoing learning journey about disability. Today, we are proud to be an emerging philanthropy-serving organization, fiscally sponsored by Proteus Fund. Central to our mission is expanding philanthropic commitment to disability rights and justice by centering the leadership of the disability community. We invite you to join us on the learning journey as we shift toward a truly disability-inclusive philanthropic sector–together.