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Insights Into Inclusive Philanthropy – Wellspring Philanthropic Fund

This interview with Myroslava Tataryn, disability rights program officer for the International Human Rights Program at Wellspring Philanthropic Fund, is part of a series about disability-inclusive grantmaking.

The following Q&A has been lightly edited for clarity.

Why did your organization choose to center disability inclusion in your grantmaking initiatives?

Disability inclusion has long been a priority for Wellspring Philanthropic Fund. From the beginning, our leadership has recognized the often-overlooked importance of seeing disability rights, and the rights of all marginalized communities, as human rights.

What steps does your organization take to ensure all of your grantmaking is fully disability inclusive?

One key way that Wellspring Philanthropic Fund centers disability inclusion is by giving the area of disability rights its own budget and a full-time program officer (that’s me!). Having a program officer dedicated to disability is important for two main reasons: First, to manage Wellspring’s specific line of disability rights-focused grantmaking initiatives and to manage broader relationships within the disability rights field. Second, having a staff member dedicated to disability rights ensures that Wellspring has a resource for the rest of our programs, helping them better understand how they can include a disability rights perspective in our other areas of work. After all, people with disabilities are present in all of the other populations and movements that we care about. So, we’re always looking at how our work can intersect, and finding ways to collaborate. For instance, every Wednesday, we have lunch talks during which different funding programs present, or have their grantees present, and we can apply what we learn to our work to ensure it’s truly inclusive and intersectional.

As your organization focuses on disability-inclusive grantmaking, how are you also incorporating disability-inclusive principles internally?

Our disability inclusion efforts are a work in progress and we’re on a learning journey. As an example, as we expand our offices, there’s a focus on going beyond just complying with the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act when it comes to the accessibility of our facilities.

What recommendations do you have for other grantmaking organizations to get buy-in from all levels of the organization to participate in disability-inclusive grantmaking?

Having staff who are knowledgeable on disability rights and inclusion and can serve as a reference point is key, especially because the field is always evolving. That said, it’s important to note that the skill sets for running a disability rights grantmaking program are different than the skill sets needed for inclusive internal hiring or implementing physical or digital accessibility. Rather than trying to have one point person on everything about disability, bring in experts with backgrounds in different areas of inclusion to support the work.